Frenchmen, officers and men of the French Army:
On Sept. 3, 1939, the British government without cause or reason declared war upon Germany. Those responsible for this war unfortunately succeeded at that time in instigating the French government to join the declaration of war.
For Germany this constituted an unbearable provocation. The German government had never made any claims on her which might have caused her offense. The German people, who then had to face this aggression while sacrificing the blood of its sons, never felt any hatred for France.
Nevertheless, this war started in this fashion and involved a great many families of the two countries in grief and sorrow.
After the crumbling of the Anglo-French front which, after the flight of the British to Dunkerque, developed into a catastrophe, France asked Germany for an armistice. Under the armistice Germany asked nothing which might be incompatible with the honor of the French Army. Precautions, however, had to be taken in order to prevent the fight from being started again in the interests of the British war-mongers by means of paid agents.
Germany had no intention whatsoever of humiliating France or of infringing on the integrity of the French Empire. She hoped by a subsequent reasonable peace to achieve an atmosphere of mutual understanding in Europe.
Since that time, Great Britain and now also the United States have sought to set foot again on French soil in order to continue the war, as suits their interests, on French territory.
After several attempts had come to a lamentable end, the Anglo-American attack was launched against the colonists of North and West Africa.
Having regard to the weakness of the French forces in those parts the enemy would find it an easier ground for operations than in the west, where the country is protected by Germany.
The German government has known for twenty-four hours that plans of these operations provide that the next attack will be made against Corsica, in order to occupy that island, and against the south coast of France.
In these circumstances I felt compelled to order the German Army immediately to march through the unoccupied zone-and this is now being done-and to march to the point aimed at by the Anglo-American landing troops.
The German Army does not come as an enemy of the French people nor of its soldiers, nor does it intend to govern these territories. It has a single aim-to repel together with its allies any landing attempt by the Anglo-American forces.
Marshal Petain and his government are entirely free and are in the position to fulfill their duty as in the past. From now on nothing stands in the way of realization of their requests, made earlier, to come to Versailles to govern France from there.
The German forces have been ordered to see to it that the French people are inconvenienced as little as possible.
The French people must, however, bear in mind that by the attitude of their government in 1939 the German people were thrown into a grievous war which threw hundreds of thousands of families into peril and grief.
The German government no less than its soldiers has every wish within bounds of what is possible not only to protect the frontiers of France jointly with the French Army but also before all to assist in preserving in the future the African possessions of European nations against acts of brigandage.
Only where blind fanaticism or agents in the pay of Britain oppose the advance of our troops will the decision be left to the force of arms.
Numerous Frenchmen will, on the other hand, show an understandable desire to be delivered from occupation, but they should all know that the German soldier, too, would prefer to live and work peacefully in his own country by the side of his wife and his children in his paternal home.
The sooner this power, which in the past so often has plundered France and which in this moment is again trying to rob her, will be annihilated, the sooner the wishes of Frenchmen of the occupied zone and of the German soldiers will find together their realization.
All particular questions are regulated and will find their solution in agreement with French authorities.