01/03/06 - myth of french resistance

In today's excerpt - some comments on the myth of the French resistance during World War II:

"... the (post-war) legitimacy of constituted authorities was cast into question. The local administrations in France, Norway and the Benelux countries had not covered themselves in glory. On the contrary, they had on the whole performed with alacrity the occupiers' bidding. ... The Nazis administered France with just 1,500 of their own people ... (and) assigned a mere 6,000 German civil and military police to ensure the compliance of a nation of 35 million ...

"... in many places, there was in 1945 little of which to be proud and much about which to feel embarrassed and more than a little guilty. As we have seen, most Europeans experienced the war passively—defeated and occupied by one set of foreigners and then liberated by another. The only source of collective national pride were the armed partisan rsistance movements that had fought the invader—which is why it was in western Europe, where real resistance had actually least in evidence that the myth of Resistance mattered most.

"The punishment of collaborators (real and imagined collaborators) began before the fighting ended. In France, some 10,000 people were killed in 'extra-judicial' proceedings. Other forms of revenge were widespread, however. Accusations against women, for what French-speaking cynics were already calling 'collaboration horizontale' were very common ... all over France, there were scenes of women stripped and shaved in public squares, often on the day of local liberation. ... Wreaking revenge on fallen women was one way to overcome the discomforting memory of personal and collective powerlessness."


Tony Judt


Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945


Penguin Group


Copyright Tony Judt 2005


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