Au revoir les enfants

Background Information

The movie is autobiographical. Louis Malle hesitated to document  these painful events until late in life. The film ends in January 1944.

Second World War (1939-1945)
The "French Campaign" lasted only two weeks during which the German army occupied Northern France. The German occupation of France lasted from 1940 to 1944. The Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. The German army capitulated in May 1945. The Japanese capitulated in August 1945, after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Marshal Pétain
In June 1940 marshal Philippe Pétain (at age 84) signed an armistice with Germany and formed a (puppet) French government in Vichy, in central France. At the end of the war, Marshal Pétain was condemned to death by the French, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. He had been honored as a member of the French Academy in 1929. That honor was taken back in 1945.

Leon Blum
Politician and writer, leader of the Socialist Party. Leader of the so-called "Popular Front" in 1936. He was deported to Germany in 1943, but survived and became the leader of the socialist government in 1946.

The Resistance
Name given to groups of clandestine resistance against the German occupation in several European countries. The movement transmitted information to the Allies, they sabotaged rail roads and factories and sometimes helped refugees.

A few comments of a social nature


In the boarding school, the children are addressed by their family names and "vous" (Usted in Spanish).


The children say "vous" to their mother.


The S.T.O. (Service du travail obligatoire) was a "Mandatory Labor Service" created in 1943 in occupied France to supply Germany with laborers.


The following statement can be heard in the film: "Jews and Communists are more dangerous than Germans."


Frenchmen who worked for the Vichy government were criticized by some as "collabos" (collaborators).

Website designed and maintained by Barbara Vigano, Prof. emeritus of French, Mt. San Antonio College