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Patriots, Expatriates and Others,
This review is from: Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation (Hardcover)
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The title is imprecise: The geographical scope is wider than Paris, and the featured Americans had stronger ties to France than to the U.S. That is why they stayed there after the French army's collapse and the division of the country between a German-occupied zone and the territory of the collaborationist Vichy regime. Leaving would have entailed the sacrifice of extensive business interests or close personal friendships or humanitarian enterprises.
Americans in Paris follows the fortunes of about half a dozen of these Franco-Americans. They are not a representative sample. Except for a few who show up only in vignettes, all have been the subjects of other books. They include industrialist and efficiency expert Charles Bedaux, the aristocratic de Chambrun family (père an American citizen in his own mind, mère and fils in reality), Dr. Sumner Jackson of the American Hospital in Paris, and Sylvia Beach, proprietress of the original Shakespeare and Company, Paris's leading English language bookstore. I suspect that octogenarian Charles Anderson, a minor business functionary married to a French woman, is more typical. He gets only a passage near the end of the book, and that passage aims to score points against American racism rather than illuminate the experience of living in wartime Paris.
The advantage of the atypical main characters is that they have fascinating, and very different, stories. On one side is Dr. Jackson, who used his hospital position to help downed Allied airmen escape from the Germans. More ambivalent are the Chambruns, who worked to keep the American Hospital and American Library out of Nazi hands but showed no sympathy for the Resistance and were on good terms with Pierre Laval, whose daughter Chambrun fils had married. M. Bedaux alternately fought with and sought to profit from both Vichy and Berlin. At the end of his life, he was facing treason charges in the United States; the post-war French government awarded him a posthumous knighthood of the Legion of Honor. Sylvia Beach, fiercely anti-Nazi but intent on keeping her bookstore running, kept her head down.
Because the author's sources are, for the most part, his subjects themselves or their family and friends, all look at least a little bit heroic. Because all but Miss Beach were comparatively affluent, their sufferings were doubtless less than those of a Charles Anderson. There is room for a more comprehensive study of expatriate Americans' "life and death under Nazi occupation". This one, nevertheless, fills part of the niche quite admirably.
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Initial post: Jun 26, 2011 10:12:49 AM PDT
Magickal Merlin says:
Sylvia Beach could have carried papers between Gertrude Stein and Albert Einstein,from Paris back to Princeton.Gertrude Stein and her partner,Alice Toklas,were concerned about the dangers of extreme nationalism and xenophobia.Most of the European nations had a history of 'Judeophobism',a fear of jewish control.Stein and Toklas were concerned Charles Lindbergh would become involved with politics.Lindbergh was a christian isolationist,who favored big business,especially the expanding interest in global air travel.The irony of which is that Colonel Lindbergh ,during the last decade of his life,supported environmental causes and cooperation with the native peoples of the non-christian world.He foresaw the destruction of woodlands caused by global airports and the need to preserve forests from complete decline.Check out www.charlesalindberghjr.com
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