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Occupation The Ordeal of France - Ian Ousby

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by merdiolu, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    British journalist and historian Ian Ousby brings German occupation of France into light with his book Occupation - The Ordeal of France. From daily living of ordinary French people to the general occupation policies he does not miss much. Looking to the root causes of defeat and collapse of French Third Republic he goes back to WW1 Western Front and especially Verdun for its symbolism. The battle and myth created by defensive sucess in Battle of Verdun symbolizes damage suffered by France and how much it divided , shaped disastarously and created dangerous assumptions in post war France along with Great Deppression. 24 years later France paid them dearly. Philippe Petain was made by Verdun he says. He gained his reputation as father , savior , defender of French nation in 1940 and created Vichy image in these lines because of Verdun. Sure of German victory and new world order and a sense of losing self esteem and identity in aftermath of shocking 1940 defeat most Frenchmen actually even if not collaborated with their enemy ( and collobarators were quite a few also due to short tem self interest , settling old scores and getting power to themselves in new order plus idelological commitment to Nazi and Vichy right wing ideologies ) stayed silent , pretended that they are not invaded and ignored presence of occupation forces and tried to get along with their lives with day to day survival. "I ignore them" said a Parisien when he pointed Wehrmacht troops doing some sight seeing in Champs Elyses. Grumbling , complaining and resistance started way in 1941 after resistance of Britain ( French generals were so confident in 1940 debacle that Britain would also be invaded that French Commander in Chief Maxime Weygand said "Britain will his neck wrung in two weeks like a chicken" which Churchill replied 18 months later in a speech "Some chicken some neck !") , German invasion of Soviet Union ( French communists suddenly turned their forced cordiality with Nazis into limitless hostility against them which fit their ideology ) , and with German defeats in every front so confidence of German victory dissapeared plus Germans quitting their initial "correct" behaviour against French people and began to act more and more as arrogant conquerers and exploitation began ruthlessly. In this atmosphare while antipathy of French against Germans and Vichy collaborators grew. Still due to German reprisals and again concerns of daily survival and a sense of losing national identity a real resistance began only in 1941-42 era in small incidents then grew slowly. There was no unified resisting front , Germans and Vichy exploited this weakened structure. Towards the end of occupation most collaborators while pinning their fate more and more with Germans and obeying their every order against hatred of every Frenchmen , regular French people still bowed their heads and obeyed Vichy and Petain self claimed father of France up until Liberation. French were quite hypocritical in betraying people seeked asylum in their borders and Jews even if they are French citizens. After all they were not "true Frenchmen but a foreign element caused distruption and decay in morality of France and French culture" as Vichy claimed and delivered them to Nazis. At the end even before Liberation a civil war between Resistance groups now acting in harmony and more or less cooperative and right wing colloboration Milice militia under German command began and went on for months even after Allies cleaned most of France in 1944.
     
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Good review of the book's subject, but have you read it, and if so what are your opinions on the rest of us looking into a copy?
     
  3. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    Yes I did read it. Very informative. Reactions of a modern society under this collapse and then this oppressive regime with help of collaboration always seemed interesting to me. People denounced everybody and each other all the time. And not just because of self interest , money etc. (though that was a huge motivation also due to awful state of French economy , German requistioning and exploitation of everything value ) but because of silly slight offences , settling personal accounts or even worse actually believing denouncing , spying , working with Nazis was a patriotic thing to do. So many unsigned denounciation letters were picked up by Gestapo and Vichy police with starting line "It is my duty to inform you...." or "I would like to take your attention to...." Societys moral fabric came apart nobody was safe. These parts about how Frenchmen despite organized and cooparetive resistance later on set upon one another , that atmosphare of fear , legal state organs help and cooperation with Nazi occupiers always fascinated me. Vichy despite its propaganda and rheotic about creating a new visionary , Catholic , moral France was nothing but a German puppet and its leaders some of them believing this idelogy more than others were nothing but oppurtunists and exploiters. Very interesting stuff. I mean UK was also hit by consequences of WW1 but when WW2 started the leaders , its legal/political state structure and society as whole pulled itself up much more decisively if sluggishly. I sincerely recommed this book to everyone interested.
     
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  4. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Nothing new in the review and rather scolar. It's much more complicated than that. Some Vichy admirers hated the Germans, some Communists liked Petain, some Resistants did not like de Gaulle.... Not all communists waited until Barbarossa to side with the Resistance, in fact many were Spanish refugees and had been hunted by the Germans and the French for years. Other switched sides when they realized they had been betrayed by Petain. So saying the French did this and that isn't exactly true, it would be more accurate to say "some" did. it's all a matter of grey shades rahter than black and white.
    As to the asylum seekers they were mostly refugees from Spain in 1936-39, then Austrians, Czechs and Germans fleeing Hitelr. They were de facto Germans in 1938-39 (or lost their nationality) and were interned in September 1939. They were arrested as foreigners whose country was at war. It is true that these poor people were fleeing the Nazis , but those who are to blame are not so much those who interned them , before Vichy even existed, but those who handed them over to the Nazis in 1941-42 and those who gave orders to do so.
     

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