Did most French people change their opinion about who contributed most to the defeat of Nazi Germany? It seems implausible, but I have found many sources citing this image:

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The title translates to: Survey in France: "in your opinion, which country contributed most to the defeat of Germany in 1945?" With the options from top to bottom: the USSR, the USA, or the UK. The image claims that in 1945, 57% of French respondents thought the USSR contributed the most. In 1994 and 2004 opinion shifted to thinking the USA contributed the most with 49% and 58% of respondents giving that answer, respectively.

If this is true, is it uniquely French or do other countries follow a similar pattern in change of opinion?

  • 3
    Can we get the translation of the text in the image?
    – BradC
    Dec 19, 2017 at 18:06
  • 3
    From the French perspective, and who played the biggest role in the actual invasion and liberation of Nazi-occupied France, is there a reason why you think this is "implausible?" Dec 19, 2017 at 18:32
  • 5
    It's implausible because most French probably believe that France defeated Germany.
    – user4012
    Dec 19, 2017 at 18:43
  • 7
    The French in 1941 probably had been watching the Eastern Front from 1941 until 1944, waiting for significant German defeats. The end then came fairly quick, between June 6th 1944 when the Western Allies landed in Normandy, until around December 1944. Nowadays they just remember from school that they were freed by the US in 1944. So maybe that's a normal thing that the view changed over time.
    – jjack
    Dec 19, 2017 at 22:37
  • 4
    @user4012 In one sense France did contribute rather more than either GB or USA. US saw one in every 300 of its population killed, Britain one in every 100. France was one in every 69. That figure for the USSR was, hold your breath, one in every 7 - nearly 30 million people, many of them deliberately slaughtered during occupation by the Nazis, many from starvation. However, on behalf of my own country I would fail if I did not point out that we were the only ones in at the very start, who were still in at the very end. Britain was at war for longer than any of the other participants.
    – WS2
    Dec 20, 2017 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


In short, yes the information presented in that graphic is well sourced and appears generally reliable.

The creator of the graphic is Olivier Berruyer who is French political blogger. His source is IFOP, a well established French polling company, with a history dating back to 1938. Olivier includes in his blog an image of a 1944 newspaper containing the summary of the poll.

Opinion polling in 1944 was not as sophisticated as today, and one should treat the exact values with a little skeptisim - France in 1944 was not the easiest place to poll, however this question was asked twice, once in Paris, and then countrywide (including regions that had been under Vichy) with the same general result. Most French people in 1944 believed that Russia had contributed most to the defeat of Germany.

When the same question was put again in 1994, most French people believed that the USA had contributed most.

There is a small subtlety in the original poll, It found that in 1945, most French people believed that the USA had contributed most to the liberation of France. It also notes that it the UK, in 2015, a majority feel that the UK contributed most.

To explain this change, first note that in 1945 the events of the war were recent and ongoing. French people were not answering from their knowledge of history, but their knowledge of current affairs. The massive loss of life on the Eastern Front was well known. France was allied to the USSR and people tend interpret the actions of allies more favourably.

In 1994, the war was history, and History as taught in schools tends to focus on what is of most interest: the history of our own country. It is no surprise that schools should do this, in fact it is almost inevitable, but it can lead to distortions. French people see world war 2 through the prism of French history, and therefore the key events of the war are seen to be the occupation and subsequent liberation of France. Many people also get their historical knowledge from popular culture and films, which being made in Hollywood tell the story of America's involvement in the war. So now when asked "Which country contributed most to the defeat of Germany", people actually answer the question "Which country contributed most to the liberation of France?", and so give the same answer that they gave in 1945: The USA was the biggest contributor to the liberation of France.

The shift in opinion matches the drop in support for the Communist party in France: 28.3% in 1946 (first party), 25.9% in 1951, 21.3% in 1973, 9.3% in 1993, 4.8% in 2002.

To summarize: The graphic appears to be correct. The reason for the change is the change in the relationship between France and USSR/Russia and the natural focus on French history by French people.

  • @Peter yes, agree, edited.
    – James K
    Dec 20, 2017 at 12:56
  • 2
    A complete answer should include the results of the communist party in France. 28.3% in 1946 (first party), 25.9% in 1951, 21.3% in 1973, 9.3% in 1993, 4.8% in 2002. Not sure which is cause and which is effect, but most certainly related. The PCF (Parti Communiste Français) spent a lot of energy defending the USSR, at least during the cold war.
    – Distic
    Dec 20, 2017 at 13:41
  • @Distic Feel free to add your own answer, but I'll add your figures to my answer.
    – James K
    Dec 20, 2017 at 14:52
  • Your answer is otherwise very complete. It only seems to me that Hollywood/the cold war (Stalin, Budapest... )/the secret german-soviet alliance at the beginning of the war have done a lot more than school (there were a lot of communist teachers in public school at this time). But I cannot prove that, and anyway you speak about those. So I have no reason to write another answer.
    – Distic
    Dec 20, 2017 at 15:13
  • And sorry, I forgot, but the PCF was also first in 1951 (perhaps it is not relevant as 1951 does not appear in the question).
    – Distic
    Dec 20, 2017 at 15:15

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