- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (June 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312423594
- ISBN-13: 978-0312423599
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Oxford historian Gildea examines the gamut of French responses to the Nazi occupation of WWII, combining archival research with interviews of some 50 ordinary men and women who survived the war in the Loire Valley. These individuals range over the entire political, religious and social spectrum of France during the occupation. Gildea is especially interested in the creation of postwar narratives about the occupation-attempts to organize memories around such themes as the noble resistance hero confronting the brutal invader or the opposite narrative of pervasive collaboration by the French. Gildea says that after the liberation, right-wing Catholics, Gaullists, the displaced bureaucrats of Vichy, the few surviving Jews and the Communists all competed for control of the occupation's history. In fact, his research shows, events during the war were not as clear-cut as the postliberation myths suggest. Instead, rather than being all heroes or all collaborators, the French had to improvise, playing an intricate (and increasingly dangerous) double game of impressing the Germans as cooperative while carving out as much autonomy as possible as conditions changed. Overall, Gildea sees the French as creative and flexible, with interest groups such as industrial workers or farmers devising strategies and building networks for self-protection. The horizons of people's loyalties shrank from the nation as a whole to the factory, the village or the family. The strength of this book lies in the author's appreciation of the complexity of people's behavior under pressure. Delving behind the postwar stereotypes, Gildea (France Since 1945) reveals the myriad paths ordinary French citizens took to survive the occupation. 16 pages of photos, 5 maps not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Gildea has done a great service...A considerable achievement.” ―The New York Times
“[A] carefully researched and richly nuanced study.” ―The Boston Globe
“Subtle and humane.” ―The New Yorker
“A searching inquiry...Provocative--and timely.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Stunning...In his nuanced and intricate work of historical reconstruction Gildea has grappled heroically with the ambiguity at the heart of history and in the heart of man.” ―The Atlantic Monthly
Top customer reviews
The general belief that the French collaborated with the Germans during the occupation was explored in various shades of grey but never really pinned down in black and white---I'm not sure if by the end of it, I was convinced one way or the other, although that little practical distinction was made between occupied and Vichy France did lend more overall credibility to the general collaboration idea. Endless stories with so much boring personal detail contrasted cooperation with defiance, plenty with privation, acceptance with imposition.
The French were definitely pictured as opportunists, opening their businesses, homes and bodies to avoid the potential of brutal plunder, and all the while covertly cheating their often gullible captors in every way they could. Being stationed in France and away from the harsh battlefront was the creme assignment, and while indulging themselves they often fell unwitting prey to almost anything the French could come up with. On the other hand, the Germans were presented as basically respectful of the French through common ancestry and religion, and honor for their heroic actions during WW1---although the military reasons for being there were never too far below the surface, despite the free-wheeling lifestyle they were experiencing in France.
The concluding chapter wound up being the most interesting part of the book, since it did manage to tie it all together fairly well, considering the amount of detail to work with. I think the book could probably have been half as long and much more appealing if Gildea could just have kept it on track rather than digressing into endless minutiae.
The French retreated in great haste and disorder, not only the army, but also the civilian population that, for decades, had been fed horror stories of what the Germans would do to them. Many just tried to get away as best they could, others, like units of the Gendarmerie, the Orléans fire brigade or other public services were ordered to do so. What with the general disorder that war brings about the result was often utter chaos, on the roads and in the towns. Eventually, France stopped fighting, and the Germans established themselves according to a pattern governed by military considerations: essentially in northern France and along the Atlantic coast, leaving the rest of the country unoccupied for the next two and a half years, until the Allied landing in North Africa forced them to secure their southern flank. Robert Gildea`s book is an account of daily life in the lower Loire valley during those difficult years.
It is still a subject of historical debate to what extent the government constituted by Maréchal Pétain during the last days of the war was a legitimate entity. At the time of the events described in the book the answer depended largely on the political position of the person concerned. In any case, there was a French government and it continued to function. The German military authorities exercized a certain amount of local supervision in accordance with their needs and Berlin continually tried to align the Vichy government to her policies - often with limited success.
The divisions that had plagued France in the 1930s did not melt into a united front of all patriots against the occupying force. Interests - political, economic, or historical - were far too divergent. One of the main twists was that, until Germany attacked the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, one year after the defeat of France, the French communists strictly toed the Moscow party line and supported strongly the German demands on the French economy. Their change of policy in mid-1941 manifested itself in numerous acts of terrorism. In the area Professor Gildea concentrates on, such an act was the assassination of the rather popular local Feldkommandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Hotz. It led, inevitably, to reprisals and the shooting of hostages. The selection of hostages was a particularly thorny matter for all sides, and the roster of potential hostages may well have been an element considered by the attackers who thus sought to achieve both an immediate result and a more far-reaching political advantage.
It is quite obvious that in a situation as it existed in France during those years it was impossible for persons with any sort of authority not to deal with the Germans in one way or another, it was impossible for them not to 'collaborate'. As the author amply illustrates, such people often found themselves in a situation where they would be 'damned if they did and damned if they didn`t' - either right away or at the end of the war. A case in point is the relève, i.e. the attempt to bring home, by sending out replacements, French prisoners of war working in Germany. Another example of the dilemmas many Frenchmen were facing is the supply of goods to the German side. If the country was not to collapse economically, people had to be kept employed, and the wine the country continued to produce had to be marketed. In the absence of other clients, the Germans were an obvious choice.
The book shows how, after the end of the war and after the obvious settlement of accounts between the various groups in the Résistance, France, under the leadership of General de Gaulle, managed to maintain national unity by stressing only one side of those difficult years and promoting everyone to the rank of hero. It also describes how, in recent years, the story of the Résistance has somewhat waned and the deportation of Jews has tended to become the prominent theme of the commemorative ceremonies.
The rifts that run through France in many directions are still so deep that it would perhaps be dangerous to undo the myths that are holding the country together and that have had the beneficial effect of assuring a tenuous yet lasting internal peace ever since the end of the Second World War. In this connection, I am always reminded of the old American film The Man who shot Liberty Valance" which stressed the importance of myths for the cohesion of a society even at the expense of truth. Unfortunately for Professor Gildea this means that he may find it difficult to get a translation of his book published in France.