The Second World War

Total War

In a war that becomes "total", all belligerents concentrate all human means and equipment to achieve final victory. This is what the entrance to this new room means, where, among all the speeches on the necessity of total war, the February 1943 speech made by Joseph Goebbels, head of Nazi propaganda, stands out with unheard-of violence.

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This "airlock" evokes the psychological weapon of propaganda and the conditioning of the masses, which were to become major foundations of total war. The control of information and the propaganda techniques, particularly advanced in totalitarian systems, everywhere play a decisive role. No longer did one fight merely to conquer or defend territory, but rather to impose on others a vision of the world and a way manner of thinking, in a war without remorse.

The design of this room is based on 3 major themes, and one overarching one: in total war the civilian populations are targets and their destruction is carefully planned.

The deportations

The entire left side of the room is first of all devoted to the deportations of "repression".

In Europe more than two million persons were deported to concentration camps in the heart of Nazi Germany. The reasons given: acts of resistance, political activities, opposing – or not – behaviour.

Within this system of concentration camps, set up as early as 1933, it is a matter not of systematically and immediately killing, as in the death camps, but of holding a captive population, forced to work until exhaustion, for the war economy of the IIIrd Reich. The resulting number of victims due to ill-treatment, malnutrition, disease and exhaustion is estimated at nearly 800 000.

In France, repressive deportation affected more than 86 000 people. Approximately 60% survived. More than 8 800 women were deported to concentration camps, mostly (6 600) to Ravensbrück.


The bombings of the cities

The right side of the room is dedicated to the question of massive bombings

During the Second World War, waging war meant, above all, bombing the cities. Strategic and systematic bombardment, a very principle of total war, represents the anonymous version of the destruction of civilian populations. These bombardments can also lead to the sacrifice of civilian populations to achieve — in principle — military objectives.

The case of France illustrates this situation. France received close to 600 000 tons of bombs, one fifth of all bombs poured on Europe. The number of victims of bombardments is estimated at 60 000. From Guernica in 1937 to Dresden in 1945, the crushing of cities under tons of bombs, in contempt of international conventions, meant reaching new thresholds in the violence of blind war. The atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 6 and 9 August 1945, marked the summit of the escalation.



The Battle of Stalingrad brings Soviet and German armies into conflict. It is one of the bloodiest of WWII.

Built around authentic walls from the "Barricade" tractor factory, the central part of the room turns at last to one of the major military turning points in the Second World-War: the battle of Stalingrad. The city of Stalingrad, which bore the name of the Soviet leader, was to become a symbol of total war. For Stalin, as for Hitler, defeat was forbidden. 2 February 1943 surrender of the 6th German army of General Paulus, marked an obvious rupture whose, more psychological than strategic, was to be considerable.


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