France during World War II: From Defeat to Liberation

France during World War II: From Defeat to Liberation

France during World War II: From Defeat to Liberation

France during World War II: From Defeat to Liberation

Synopsis

In this concise, clearly written book, Thomas and Michael Christofferson provide a balanced introduction to every aspect of the French experience during World War II. Synthesizing a wide range of scholarship, the authors integrate political, diplomatic, military, social, cultural, and economic history in this portrait of a nation and a people at war. Here is a chronicle of the battles and campaigns that stained French soil with blood. Here, also, is the full historical context of the war - its origins, realities, and aftermath - in French society. The authors pay particular attention to the key failures of institutional France - especially the officer corps, political elites, and the Catholic Church. They also assess the controversial history of the Vichy regime and the German occupation, in carefully crafted accounts of resistance and collaboration, Vichy's National Revolution, and the fate of France's Jews. Accessible to both students and general readers,France during World War IIdevelops a full understanding of the actors, events, issues, and controversies of a turbulent era.

Excerpt

This is a book about France during the Second World War, a subject that has been discussed and debated passionately by the French for the past sixty years, replacing the French Revolution as the event that most seriously divided the nation into warring factions. Today, however, it seems that the divisive debate on Vichy has reached a point of exhaustion, maybe even a conclusion of sorts. Maurice Papon’s 1998 trial and conviction for crimes against humanity committed during World War II seems to have ended a long, arduous period in which the French judicial system attempted—not always successfully—to bring the remaining French and German violators of human rights to justice. No more trials are in the offing, mainly because no one is left to be tried. The World War II generation is rapidly dying off in France and with it the memory of what occurred during that dark age.

In any case, the issues that divided France during the war are no longer relevant today. The European Union and the economic modernization of the past sixty years have put an end to the “True France” of peasants, folklore, rural values, and the like that produced Vichy’s nostalgic, vicious counterrevolution, better known at the time as the National Revolution. Vichy’s motto, “Work, Family, Fatherland” [Travail, Famille, Patrie] no longer applies to a France in which cohabitation has replaced marriage, the thirty-five-hour week has redefined work, and the broader European community has changed the meaning of the nation state. Vichy’s total failure to impose its vision on France during World War II discredited its ideology, preparing the way for an urban nation with social, political, and economic structures radically different from those of the past. Today, the National Front is the only . . .

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