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“Resisters of the 25th hour”

In French, the expression „Résistants de la 25ème heure“ (resisters of the 25th hour) refers to people who joined the Resistance at the very end of the war. It is a pejorative term which is often used to distinguish between the ‘real’ Resistance fighters of the ‘first hour’ and those of the ‘last hour’.

Were all those who joined the Resistance at a late stage opportunists? It is very difficult to determine the motivations of them all: some may have taken their decision after a long process of maturation; others by following in the footsteps of relatives or friends; still others because they were only reaching adolescence or adulthood at the end of the war.

In any case, also towards the end of the war, the Resistance in France involved a minority of the population – even if its ranks had swelled considerably since 1940 or 1941. It should also be pointed out that many of those who joined in the spring and summer of 1944, during the battles for the liberation of France, were killed in this period, which was the most deadly period of the French Resistance during the entire war.


In Yugoslavia too, many joined the Partisans in the final stages of the war. Often these were soldiers from the regular Croatian army or from other enemy formations whom the Partisans  encouraged to cross over to the other side, for example by offering them amnesty in the summer of 1944 if they joined their ranks before 15 September 1944.

In Germany, important resistance actions took place at a late stage, in particular the plot to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944 where various circles of the Wehrmacht were involved. There have been ongoing controversies on whether this resistance came too late, whether it was only motivated by the prospect of losing the war, or whether it was nonetheless very important for Germany’s future after the defeat of the Nazis. There is no doubt that joining resistance in Germany, at a time when the ‘Third Reich’ was inexorably losing the war, had a different meaning than for the men and women who joined the resistance in countries on the road to liberation, such as France and Yugoslavia.

Finally, we need to distinguish between those who joined the Resistance late and those who falsely claimed, once the war was over, to have been Resistance fighters – which is the true meaning of “resisters of the 25th hour”. But after 1945, this expression was also sometimes used in order to discredit members of the Resistance or even the French Resistance as a whole.


Corine Defrance / Nicolas Moll

Sources / Further reading

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