Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France

By W. D. Halls | Go to book overview

Preface

Fifty years after the ending of the German occupation of France the years 1940-44 continue to absorb the attention not only of historians, but also of the French public as a whole. What has been termed the 'Vichy syndrome' has been reflected in the many thousands of books and articles to which this black period in the history of France has given rise. It has been fuelled by a series of fresh revelations that have come to light, as archives have gradually yielded up their secrets and criminals and suspects such as Klaus Barbie, 'the butcher of Lyons', and Touvier (who, it is alleged, was at one stage protected by high-ranking ecclesiastics), have been caught and arraigned.

The reasons for this continuing interest in the period are many and varied. Perhaps one of the most signficant is the fact that it was the time when France, under a leader once lauded as the saviour of the Republic, Marshal Pètain, came nearest to lapsing into fascism. Indeed, one of the central themes of this book is that Christians, sometimes at odds with their Church, sometimes remaining steadfastly within the fold, were, perhaps unwittingly, one of the most important interest groups in combatting totalitarian tendencies, either in their daily dealings with the regime, in their writings, both clandestine and public, or, in the last resort, with their spiritual or armed resistance. The Churches, both Catholic and Protestant, were the sole institutions that emerged after the French collapse in 1940 if not unscathed, at least still able to function. The Germans feared they might become a bastion of resistance--the 'soutanes noires' were after all part of a world-wide organisation much more venerable and potentially even more numerous and powerful than the Third Reich. They were guilty of a conspiracy--not, however, as were the Nazis, to conquer the world, but to convert it, beginning with France. The Vichy regime, for its part, pinned its hopes on the Church in order to assist in bringing about 'national revival'. Neither fears nor hopes became reality.

There is no one up-to-date work, in French or English, devoted exclusively to an overall conspectus of French Christians during this period. This book essentially traces the stormy history of Catholics and Protestants from about 1938 onwards, first setting Christianity in its prewar context, and then dealing with the immediate collapse of France in

-vii-

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Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Berg French Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • List of Abbreviations x
  • Part I - Christianity in Crisis 1
  • 1 - Introductory 3
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - Christians and Pre-War Politics 15
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - Prelude to Vichy 31
  • Notes 40
  • Part II - Aspirations, Realisations and Disappointments 43
  • 4 - The Man of Destiny 45
  • Notes 65
  • 5 - Christians in Disarray 69
  • Notes 84
  • 6 - The Church: New Laws 87
  • Notes 92
  • Part III - The Scapegoats 93
  • 7 - Christians and Jews--I 95
  • Notes 110
  • 8 - Christians and Jews--Ii 113
  • Notes 124
  • 9 - Christians and Jews: The Aftermath 127
  • Notes 144
  • Part IV - Friends and Foes 149
  • 10 - Christians and the Allies 151
  • Notes 162
  • 11 - Christians, Bombings and 'terrorism' 165
  • Notes 174
  • 12 - Christians and Germans 177
  • Notes 195
  • 13 - Christians and the Resistance 199
  • Notes 220
  • 14 - Vichy, the Church and the Vatican 223
  • Notes 236
  • Part V - The Church and Society 239
  • 15 - The Church and Economic and Social Affairs 241
  • Notes 265
  • 16 - Youth Policy and the Church 269
  • Notes 284
  • 17 - Youth Movements 287
  • Notes 307
  • 18 - Christians and Deportation to Germany 311
  • Notes 334
  • Part VI - Settling the Accounts 339
  • 19 - Christians and the Collaborationists 341
  • Notes 356
  • 20 - 'Epuration' and the Higher Clergy 361
  • Notes 379
  • 21 - Concluding Remarks 383
  • Notes 388
  • Appendix I Before the War: L'Aube and the Catholic Intellectual Press 389
  • Notes 391
  • Appendix II Bishops and Archbishops by Province 393
  • Bibliographical Note 397
  • Select Bibliography 399
  • Index 405
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