Just reading a book about Klaus Barbie and found the whole French resistance politics, infighting, betrayal etc rather interesting.
Anybody have any recommendations for books on the resistance movement as a whole ?
Having spent quite a bit of time over there one way or another I have often wondered how the locals had behaved back in 40-45 in whatever bit I happened to be in..... mostly in Western France/Vendee but recently Montpellier where I happened to be for Remembrance Sunday last year.
What << Occupation >> brought to the fore for me was :
>the physical division of France between German Occupied zone and Vichy ....
>the mechanics of passing across that line....
> the importance of the Rat Lines set up for downed aircrew.....
> the myth perpetrated by De Gaulle on entering Paris in 1944 - 'France has liberated herself'
Amazon review - ( American)
A history of how the French people dealt with the humiliating defeat administered by the Germans in 1940, the occupation that followed, and the end of the Third Republic. Ousby, who has taught history at universities in Britain and the US, first explains why French army and air force seemed so outmatched by the Germans: Although many in number, the troops were poorly led by aged generals who relied on obsolete WW I tactics stressing defense over the offensive. The French forces were no match for a Nazi blitzkrieg featuring massed tanks, armored vehicles, Stuka dive bombers, and swift moving infantry. The government had no choice but to accept humiliating terms of surrender. Harsh reparations were imposed on France, Hitlers revenge for the Treaty of Versailles. General Ptain, the hero of Verdun in WW I, a figurehead father image, was installed in the puppet Vichy government that strictly followed Nazi orders. The Germans plundered Frances food, drink, and art; the French were reduced by drastic rationing to a nation in perpetual need. The feared Gestapo was much in evidence, and Vichy stooges cooperated with the Nazis in rounding up Jews, communists, and dissidents. The rsistants grew in number, and the Germans responded by executing more and more French citizens. A French civil war between Vichy loyalists and underground patriots broke out, adding to the suffering. The rsistants suffered high casualties; their charismatic leader Jean Moulin eventually paid with his life. After the German surrender the nation was transfixed by anger, frustration, and shame. The French focused their violent fury on a variety of individuals and groups viewed as having betrayed France. The haughty, immensely self-assured Charles de Gaulle, head of Free French forces, quickly stepped into the power vacuum left by the war, setting France on a new and increasingly controversial course. A well-written, carefully researched, often fascinating story of the long and little known French ordeal.
The usual suspects ( and they will be along shortly) who love to sneer at the ' Cheese eating surrender monkeys ' etc should take a bit of time to read either of these.....and reflect on this -
In addition to those tortured, shot or disappeared into Kz's like Belsen by the occupiers under their 'Nacht Und Nebel ' policy , a million French men between 18 and 40 were compulsoriy shipped to the Reich to work as 'GastArbeiten' between 1941 and 1944......
In Belsen, there is a memorial wall with inscriptions in 15 languages , commemorating those of all nationalities who died there...the one in French reads:
' Sacred to the memory of the 30,000 French citizens who died in this place. Their only crime was to love their country'
Anyone who chose to be a resistant risked not only their own lives, but those of their entire family and those of their neighbours as well.......
For a fictional treatment of how it might've gone down over here if SeeLowe had taken place - check out 'SS GB' by Len Deighton.....sobering perspective....
Its about half an hour south of Strasbourg, with wire, towers and some huts still in good condition. Inside one of the huts is a big display about the resistance.
In Lorraine (west side of the Vosges mountains) there was a lot of resistance activity resulting in many town being razed, whereas Alsace (east side of the Vosges mountains) seems to have fared ok.
"The men from St Die" is a book written in French and German (I think it was a uni project), that describes in personal accounts the whole towns men (St Die des Vosges) being sent to built the south part of Frankfurt airport (the bit that became the US airbase).
Have a read of this book. It exposes the cosy relationship between the occupied and the occupier in wartime France. It is a gripping, well written story of a truly a shamefull period in French history:
Like Mr D, I'm interested in finding out what really went on, underneath the post victory "glorification". I'm not saying resistance fighters werent brave, but you cant get round the fact that French auxiliaries, government officials/gendarmes etc were instrumental in doing the germans dirty work for them. Or that different resistance groups sometimes betrayed others, so they could step into the gap left behind.
equally though there must have been large numbers of people treading a fine line down the middle just trying to survive.
Dont forget the shamefull way the French Communist party helped the Nazis by organizing strikes, desertion of troops, work slowdowns of vitally needed armaments since Moscow and Berlin were **** buddies in 39-41.
Only after Barbarossa did the French reds suddenly become resistants concerned about France.
The legacy of Petain, Vichy and all that is very much still around.....ten years ago I did a course run by an external company which was entitled 'Negotiating with the French'
.....quite handy overview of the mindset and usual working methods of your opposite number, Jean-Marie...
One of the things they taught then ( dunno if still the case) was that use of the word 'Collaboration' was lilkely to cause a sudden screeching halt to proceedings, confusion, Angst und Weltschmerz - and therefore best avoided....
The Ousby book goes into detail - but if I recall correct, the proportion of French citizens who volunteered to serve in some form of Reich auxillary ( whether Waffen SS Courland Divn, the Milice or whatever ) over those who were recognised as resistants was approximately 3 - 1 ......
Overall, in my view, pretty much 'guilty as charged' - but perhaps understandable - and would the picture here have been that much different?
We'd like to think so.......Richard Ingrams didn't.
D-Day the battle for Normandy. by Antony Beevor. ISBN. 978-0-141-04813-0.
if you can get past the American bias, I.E all Americans are great and all British are rubbish, this is quite a good book. It does say how De Gaulle hijacked the liberation of Paris, so that he could say that Paris was liberated by the French. The book also says that the French people targeted so called collaborators, their crimes could women who slept or even talked to German soldiers, an old woman who cleaned at the offices of a senior German officer or even accusing someone just because they didn't like them.
Check the faces around her.....the one that really pisses me off is the cop far right.....best not to ask what the hell had HE been doing in the past four years ?
In Paris, as Ousby's book makes plain, it was a rigid Kommandantur policy to ensure that the face under the uniform cap that came knocking on your door - with an order for you to report to a railway siding in Fresnes,Eastbound,one-way - was French rather than German.......
It is an oxymoron, just like Scottish Amicable. (Acknowledgements Brian Moore.)
BTW I did once read SS GB by Len Deighton and found it a cracking read. Scary how close we came, how would we have dealt with occupation I wonder?
Wasn't there alot of SAS action in this area? (I know St Dié etc very well thru work by the way v pictoresque.) As I refer to the areas which benefitted from having Allied agents getting things going and giving direct support from Britain...I tend to think there was alot of action in this area as agents were present to drive activity. So...more of conflict/war fighting than resistance. They were pretty much signed up by Allied agents and fought in that way. Not just walking out of their houses and thinking 'I'll blow up a Tiger tank today. Vive la France.' Not disputing their hard work...just saying its not the kind of resistance they coordinated themselves. Others came to do it for them and needed locals to help fight.
Also of course it was a good place for them to hide out due to the terrain there. Very mountainous and access is difficult. Would some have been criminals who were happy to be on the run as well? People who prefer to be outside the system. If they get locked up, it is where they'd be anyway.
I'm not being negative...this is the kind of stuff which is hard to find out.
Indeed there was.
I came across an SAS grave (for 3 guys IIRC) in the forest a few years back, I have some photos somewhere.
St Die, Corcieux and Gerardmer were torched in one go as a reprisal, men shipped off to Mannheim then sent up to Frankfurt, the son of one of them is an aquaintance of mine.
Struthof was a deportation centre, many were shipped onwards. One day they executed 90 odd suspected resistance guys 4 at a time with pistol shots to the neck in a small tiled room, in a hut which is still there. I think 3 SOE girls were topped there also.
I have researched that area quite a bit, a nearby village post office was an SOE dead letter drop, and a few other titbits I discovered.
Also of note is the Lost Battalions episoded with the Japanese American troops at Col de Haut Jacques between St Die and Bruyeres.
"Still not sure why they didnt put more effort into killing the Head of Gestapo in Flame and Citron. Not sure how accurate this was...did he really have a on-on-one shoot out with Head of Gestapo etc??"
Klaus Barbie used to drive around Lyon on his own as a show of bravado. In theory it wouldnt have been difficult to take him out. However given the SS shot 5 "random" civilians when the resistance bombed their favourite bistro (no casualties) I would say the resprisals might have made it unlikely.
I think generally speaking there was quite a dichotomy in French thinking about wartime resistance! Yes there were many who loathed the Germans and some fled to Britain to continue the fight whilst others did form the resistance. However there were many more who actively aided the Germans, the Police & Milice being two prime examples!
My experience of this dichotomy comes from my dealings with a large French Manufacturer in the Pas du Calais. The MD & Owner was a close friend of DeGaulle after the war & received honours & awards for his work in/with the resistance during the war.
However as one of his Managers told me, very quietly, the business boomed during the war as a result of sales to the Germans! It was only due to his cooperation with the occupiers that he could get raw materials to carry on production.