France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

By Julian Jackson | Go to book overview

12
Public Opinion, Vichy,
and the Germans

In the first weeks after the defeat, people responded to the Germans with relief, surprise, and curiosity: relief that the fighting was over; surprise at the restrained behaviour of the Germans; curiosity to see these godlike creatures who had triumphed so decisively. On the heels of the German troops soup kitchens arrived to provide relief to the population. Posters underscored the message: 'Abandoned populations—put your trust in the German soldier.' The word of the moment to describe the conduct of the Germans was 'correct'. In the first weeks in Paris, they carried cameras as often as guns.2 They all seemed young, bronzed, and handsome. One observer wondered if they were a 'beauty chorus reserved for triumphal entries'.3

The terror that the Germans had aroused in anticipation rendered the first encounters strangely reassuring. Women refugees caught up in the Exodus, who had smeared themselves with mustard to burn German soldiers who might rape them, were pleasantly surprised to meet disciplined German soldiers more helpful to them than the haggard French soldiers they had come across as they fled south. Viewed at close quarters the Germans turned out to be human. One witness remembered her amusement, as a little girl, at seeing these odd creatures clumsily trying to eat seafood for the first time. Such incidents made the Germans seem almost vulnerable.4 Léon Werth remarked in his memoir of the Exodus: 'It was the time when they were “correct” which preceded the time when they gave us lessons in manners.'5 This period of correctness was only a moment in the history of the Occupation, but it left traces even after the 'lessons in manners' had begun.

It was part of a conscious German strategy to erase the memory of alleged German atrocities in 1914 which lived on in folk memory. Simone de Beauvoir

1 Burrin, La France à l'heure, 24–38.

2 P. Audiat, Paris pendant la guerre, juin 1940–août 1944 (1946), 27.

3 N. Jucker, Curfew in Paris (1960), 98.

4 Dombrowski, 'Beyond the Battlefield', 204, 247–9.

533 Jours: Récit(1992), 9.

-272-

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France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Maps and Figure xvi
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Introduction: Historians and the Occupation 1
  • Part I - Anticipations 21
  • 1: The Shadow of War: Cultural Anxieties and Modern Nightmares 27
  • 2: Rethinking the Republic: 1890-1934 43
  • 3: Class War/Civil War 65
  • 4: The German Problem 81
  • 5: The Daladier Moment: Prelude to Vichy or Republican Revival? 97
  • 6: The Debacle 112
  • Part II - The Regime: National Revolution and Collaboration 137
  • 7: The National Revolution 142
  • 8: Collaboration 166
  • 9: Collaborationism 190
  • 10: Laval in Power: 1942–1943 213
  • Part III - Vichy, the Germans, and the French People 237
  • 11: Propaganda, Policing, and Administration 246
  • 12: Public Opinion, Vichy, and the Germans 272
  • 13: Intellectuals, Artists, and Entertainers 300
  • 14: Reconstructing Mankind 327
  • 15: Vichy and the Jews 354
  • Part IV - The Resistance 383
  • 16: The Free French 1940-1942 389
  • 17: The Resistance 1940-1942 402
  • 18: De Gaulle and the Resistance 1942 427
  • 19: Power Struggles 1943 447
  • 20: Resistance in Society 475
  • 21: Remaking France 506
  • Part V - Liberation and After 525
  • 22: Towards Liberation: January to June 1944 529
  • 23: Liberations 544
  • 24: A New France? 570
  • Epilogue: Remembering the Occupation 601
  • Appendix: The Camps of Vichy France 633
  • Bibliographical Essay 637
  • Index 647
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