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Churchill

Britain’s wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill, is probably one of the most highly regarded leaders of the 20th century. Among the most exciting documents in the museum’s archives are those in Churchill’s personal file of letters and messages from May and June 1940, when he was directing the Battle of France, the Allied attempt to fend off Hitler’s invasion of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Churchill addressed all the letters featured here to French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, and signed them with his initials, and sometimes the date, and occasionally the time. The trove of letters allows an extraordinary window on the day-by-day, and in many cases, hour-by-hour progress of the newly appointed British prime minister’s approach to the Battle of France. Churchill and Reynaud’s efforts ultimately failed, and the victorious Germans divided France into two zones: an occupied region in the north and west, and a free zone under a puppet government in the country’s south that came to be known as Vichy France.