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Choices in Vichy France: The French Under Nazi Occupationby John F Sweets
Synopses & Reviews
Films like The Sorrow and the Pity and Lacombe Lucien, as well as recent scholarship, have replaced the old Gaullist myth of Nazi-occupied France and "a nation of resisters" with a new myth of "a nation of collaborators." John Sweets's provocative assessment challenges both stereotypes.
From evidence gathered at Clermont-Ferrand, the largest town near Vichy, the Occupation capitol, Sweets found the French far less devoted to Petain than some have argued, and far more supportive of de Gaulle than has been suspected. The New Order was emphatically rejected by most of the French, he concludes, and the numbers involved in the Resistance were larger than has been recognized by previous accounts.
Choices in Vichy France is a compelling work of social history. Drawing on extensive archival research, interviews, and private correspondence, Sweets reconstructs the experiences of the individual men and women in Clermont-Ferrand to understand the dilemmas that Occupation set before them. Sweets found that everything was made difficult and complex by the Occupation; few decisions were simple and many had potentially serious consequences. He concludes that our stereotyped notions of "resistance" and "collaboration" are inadequate to describe the reality of people's behavior under the extreme circumstances of war and occupation.
About the Author -
John F. Sweets is Professor of History at the University of Kansas at Lawrence and the author of The Politics of Resistance in France.
An important revisionist study of the German occupation of France
Overturns stereotypes about "collaboration" and "resistance"
"His research is exemplary...clearly and forcefully written."--Robert O. Paxton
Post-World War II scholarship and films like The Sorrow and the Pity have frequently replaced the old Gaullist notion of widespread resistance, and cultivated the impression that the French may well have been a "nation of collaborators," embracing the dream of a new authoritarian order in France as embodied by the puppet Vichy regime of Marshall Petain, and hindering the network of the French Underground.
From evidence gathered in France, Germany, and England, John F. Sweets has produced an insightful reappraisal of French life during the war at Clermont-Ferrand, the largest town near the occupational capital of Vichy, and the very setting of The Sorrow and the Pity. Having thoroughly examined town archives, records, and manuscripts, the author reconstructs occupational commerce, education, media, and attitudes, maintaining that, contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of French were far from collaborationist. Choices in Vichy France details the effects upon society of war, oppression, internment, rationing, aryanization, and propaganda, painting a portrait of the wartime French that lies somewhere between the extremes of outright resistance and enthusiastic collaborationism. With illustrative examples of what day-to-day life was like in the region for the German, the Jew, the Communist, and the fascist, as well as the French masses, this provocative book opens a remarkably clear window onto an era of history often fraught with misunderstanding and suspicion.
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History and Social Science » Europe » France » World War II