MFL: Guest Speaker Describes Life in Vichy France

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On Friday 13 November, guest speaker Mrs Verkindere-Debon visited Bede’s to speak to A Level French students about her time living under the 1940s Vichy Regime.

Now a retired, decorated teacher of humanities and ex-first secretary of a town called Halluin on the Franco-German border, Mrs Verkindere-Debon gave a fascinating, inspiring talk about life in France under German Occupation during WWII.

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The discussions focused on many different aspects such as the numerous regulations and restrictions imposed by the Vichy Regime, including censorship and propaganda, endemic shortages and the black market, all of which made the occupation increasingly unbearable to the French population.

The pupils proved to be a very captive audience who had carefully prepared some questions in French to ask to Mrs Verkindere-Debon; she herself proved to be a great enthusiastic orator who could answer every single question with panache and juicy anecdotes, despite the fact that she was discussing an extremely sombre period of History!

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Mrs Verkindere-Debon had come with some authentic documents from the period, such as photographs of a wedding on the Franco-Belgium border, an Ausweis (sort of passport of the time) and some rationing tickets.

The pupils had learned about the history of the Vichy Regime in their French lessons with Mrs Ganivet, and they were extremely grateful to Mrs Verkindere-Debon to have brought their knowledge to life.

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Mrs Verkindere-Debon, who was very impressed by the welcoming atmosphere at Bede’s, commented on the insightfulness of the pupils’ questions and the quality of French that they demonstrated.

She said, “What a brilliant audience! I feel like I have been talking to extremely mature young adults!”

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This event was no doubt a fruitful and memorable moment for our Sixth Form students, who can now reflect upon important values such as freedom and democracy at a time when France has, yet again, to face some difficult challenges.

No doubt the pupils will have plenty to write about in their essays on the period in preparation of their public examination next June!

 

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