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France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise Hardcover – February 1, 1997

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 530 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; First edition (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565843231
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565843233
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,333,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

How is it that France, the cradle of European liberty and birthplace of the Declaration of Human Rights, fell so swiftly to German domination in World War II? How is it that so many French willingly collaborated with the occupiers, participating in the murder of Jews and other so-called undesirables? Philippe Burrin, professor of history at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, confronts these troubling questions, looking beyond the usual motivations of "material self-interest" and "ideological convictions or connivance" to paint a complex portrait of French behavior under German rule. Hitler, Burrin writes, chose to allow the French government a certain degree of autonomy under the Vichy state, largely for strategic reasons: by allowing that measure of self-rule, he could free more soldiers for the war against the Soviet Union. For their part, the French leadership reasoned that a compromised self- rule was better than outright submission to the conqueror, even if it meant complying with disagreeable edicts. Some in the government and citizenry even viewed collaboration as an instrument of postwar advantage; as one French report of 1941 put it, "People continue to be delighted that both the Germans and the Russians are suffering heavy losses. They are hoping that eventually France will act as an intermediary for a compromise peace." France emerged from the war less powerful than the collaborationists had hoped, and today soul-searching questions about the nation's behavior during the Hitler years exercise the attention of historians and public intellectuals. Burrin's book is a solid contribution to the literature arising from this ongoing debate. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Burrin, a professor of international history at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, argues that the options faced by the French during the German occupation of WWII were not just between the extremes of collaboration and resistance. Although the Vichy government set the official example by collaborating with the Nazis, most French citizens chose the expedient (and sometimes profitable) path of passive accommodation. The first third of this detailed study traces the history of Vichy France during the first years of the occupation. The rest of the book deals with how the French people (not their government) either accommodated or collaborated. Those who actively resisted the occupiers seem to have been such an insignificant group that they are barely touched on here. According to Burrin, the French found German soldiers cleaner and more polite than they expected. The Germans found the French anti-British, anti-American and anti-Semitic. The major portion of this scholarly study shows how various groups came to terms with the Germans: labor unions, the church, the banks, the military, businessmen, prostitutes, small-time entrepreneurs, petty crooks, the intelligentsia. Also covered is the German propaganda machine and the use it made of regional separatism within France. The artistic community, Burrin suggests, was never as brave in standing up to the occupiers as it liked to pretend, largely because the Germans were quite permissive, except on the subject of the Jews. As for the Jews, his most damning charge is that when the Nazis demanded that adult Jews be shipped east to the camps, the French insisted that the children had to go with them. This is not easy reading, but in its unhurried, academic pace, it packs a punch.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By John Barry Kenyon on July 27, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Is a very scholarly analysis of how French politicians, the armed forces and figures from the serious and popular arts reacted to the various stages of the German occupation. Without doubt, the new standard work on these aspects which reveals how the term "collaboratioon" did not necessarily mean full identification with the Reich's cause. The author's purpose does not include detailed treatment of the Resistance, nor will you find much discussion of the Liberation and its consequences for the collaborators. However, the account of Petain, Laval, Darnard and the rest is riveting if you want to understand all the twists and turns which accompanied the Vichy administration in its four tramatic years.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on August 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
One of the most bizarre and unexpected ironies of modern history was the capitulation, collaboration, and compromises made by the French to the Nazi forces that so quickly overwhelmed them with the blitzkrieg assault against Western Europe in the summer of 1940. In this thoughtful, scholarly, and compelling book, noted historian Phillipe Burrin examines the issues surrounding this otherwise puzzling twist of national fate that so contrasted with the patriotic fervor and courage the French had displayed during the exhausting confrontations of the First World War. The issues are indeed troubling to historians, ranging from the quick and nearly bloodless capitulation to the shocking enthusiastic collaboration in the systematic arrest, torture, and elimination of so-called "enemies of the state" to the compromise of so many of their values, cultural traditions, and social customs. How and why did this happen?
The outlines of that troubled time is fairly easy to determine; from 1940 to 1944 the French adapted in a variety of ways to extraordinary existential situation presented by the fact of total military domination by the Wehrmacht. This work is a definitive study of that period in France, and of the choice made by French citizens in face of the circumstance of Nazi occupation, and the stunning degree to which they indeed collaborated. Of course, not all the French capitulated or cooperated. Some joined a very active and energetic underground resistance movement, one that was effective and energetic right up to D-Day. Others fled as best they could, trying to avoid the hell on earth they feared France would become when dominated by the Nazis.
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21 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Cullen on June 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
Having a fascination with 20th Century European history in general and World War II in particular, I was looking forward to learning about the French experience under Occupation. This book, however, is a tedious and ponderous journey through the author's own meandering thoughts. I read 125 pages and cannot recall any clear facts; everything the author writes is airy and speculative. Granted he writes well and has a masterful understanding of French politics, people and culture during this period. But for anyone looking to understand the colorful forces and figures which contributed to both French Occupation and subsequent Resistance, this is not the book for you. This book might be better suited for a Doctoral student or a French historian...but not for the average student of History.
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9 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Adams on February 9, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The amazing theme of this book is that it really gets to the basic psyche of the French. The old adage of "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing" is the ultimate lesson of this book. There are numerous examples of how the French really aided and abetted the Nazis, with a political landscape of real chaos and a kind of moral relativism which has only gotten worse since WWII. While there were a few courageous members of the resistance who were very active at the beginning of the war, the movement really did not take off until it was obvious that the Nazis were going to lose. But the Vichy army killed thousands of Allied troops who were fighting the Nazis in the French colonies, and they were not forced to do so under the gun. The silly references by the French to their support of the US revolution ignores other more important and recent attacks on the US by their installation of Maximillian in Mexico, their duplicity during the Cold War, their bribery by Saddam, and many other stabs in the back. Their opportunistic support two hundred years ago is really irrelevant to today's world.

For anyone suffering the delusions that the French are a friend of the US, this book will go a long way to setting the record straight.
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