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When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 Paperback – March 17, 2015
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"Ronald C. Rosbottom's rigorously researched and deeply compelling book, When Paris Went Dark, examines the relationship between the occupiers and the occupied, specifically how the vanquished Parisians either fought against or adapted to the conditions imposed by their Nazi rulers....Rosbottom strikes a perfect tone that is neither too scholarly nor too familiar and produces a chronicle that edifies as it entertains."―Malcom Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Ronald C. Rosbottom's When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 resonated eerily with 2017 America. From its analysis of the French right's rise to power and the many attempts to deny what was occurring, to its nuanced exploration of how both government and average French citizen resisted--or collaborated with--the occupiers, this book is a compelling, sobering warning about the dangers of complacency in the face of intolerance."―Celeste Ng, Wall Street Journal
"A well-rounded overview....The strength of Mr. Rosbottom's book lies in the details he has culled from memoirs, letters, papers, films, plays, songs, and diaries that illuminate the experience of both the occupiers and the occupied."―Caroline Moorehead, Wall Street Journal
"A profound historical portrait of Paris for anyone who loves the city."―Dallas Morning News
"A riveting account of one of the most resonant hostage-takings in history: the 1,500 days when a swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower. Ronald Rosbottom illuminates every corner of a darkened, heartsick city, exploring the oddities, capturing the grisly humor, and weighing the prices of resistance, accommodation, collaboration. The result is an intimate, sweeping narrative, astute in its insight and chilling in its rich detail."―Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra, A Great Improvisation, and Véra
"When Paris Went Dark recounts, through countless compelling stories, how Nazi occupation drained the light from Paris and how many of its residents resisted in ways large and small. This is a rich work of history, a brilliant recounting of how hope can still flourish in the rituals of daily life."―Scott Turow, author of Identical
"Ronald Rosbottom has recreated the Parisian world during the dark days of the German occupation like no previous writer I know. His secret is two-fold: first, exhaustive research that allows him to recover what we might call the importance of the ordinary; and second, a shrewd grasp of how memory works, often in strange ways."―Joseph J. Ellis, Ford Foundation Professor Emeritus at Mount Holyoke College, author of Founding Brothers, American Sphinx, and Revolutionary Summer
About the Author
Ronald C. Rosbottom is the Winifred L. Arms Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Professor of French and European Studies at Amherst College. Previously, he was the Dean of the Faculty at Amherst, Chair of the Romance Languages Department at The Ohio State University, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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The book is well written, illustrated and researched. In it we learn that Paris was not bombed and was virtually intact when the Nazis seized control of the city following the rapid fall of the French army in the summer of 1940. The occupation would last until August, 1945. During this terrible time such events occurred as":
a. The deportation of thousands of Jews to the death camps in Eastern Europe. Parisian Jews were forced to wear the infamous Star of David and their homes were seized by the Nazi and the collaborationist French government.
b. Everyone was cold in the winter and hungry all the time due to rationing.
c. The author details the many French resistance groups and the leadership of General Charles DeGaulle and his Free French forces fighting for the liberation of their beloved nation.
d. The Louvre was stripped of most of its treasurers but the Nazis seized great art, furniture and jewelry.
e. Millions of Parisians fled the city prior to the German entry but many returned to live out the occupation years.
f. French women who had collaborated with the Nazis had their heads shaved and were disgraced by their fellow French citizens in the immediate aftermath of the war.
g. Paris had a large share of officials who played along with the Nazis. Marshall Ferdinand Foch led the infamous Vichy government.
h. Countless partisans were executed in Paris for their acts of revolt against the Nazi regime.
I. Many Paris residents spent long hours In their apartments and refused to respond to the young German soldiers with anything but disdain and apathy. Of course, there were many sexual encounters among the French females and the German males. Thousands of babies were born of these love affairs.
j. De Gaulle led the Fourth and Fifth Republics following the end of the war.
k. Artists such as Picasso and noted literary figures such as Gertrude Stein, Albert Camus, Satre, Cocteau and Collette lived through the occupation years in their beloved Paris
The book is most interesting when it describes individual stories of persons who lived in Paris during World War II. This is an excellent book and worthy of your readership. Vive La France!
In reading this book, I came to know of a Paris during the darkest period of its history, when it was under German control between June 14, 1940 and August 25, 1944. I like to cite some passages that helped to make it so startlingly clear in my mind how a city so renowned for its culture, architecture, and free spirit was, declared an open city by the French government, and gradually absorbed by its German conquerors:
1) “… almost four million inhabitants fled Paris and its environs in late May and early June  rather than await the increasingly inevitable occupation of their precious capital. Several memoirists mention that Parisian boulevards soon resembled empty movie sets... Groceries and bakeries were closed, their entrances barricaded; automobiles had vanished;"
2) In mid-June of 1940, the German army arrived before Paris, exuberant but stunned. They could see in the distance the Eiffel Tower, standing as confidently over the world's most recognized cityscape as when it had first appeared there just fifty-one years earlier. The Wehrmacht had been almost as surprised as the French at the ease of their foray into the Low Countries and France."
3) "About 6:00 [AM} on Friday, June 28, 1940, a convoy of convertible Mercedes limousines ... entered nearly abandoned Paris, zigzagging around military barriers and passing a few staring Parisian police officers and bystanders. They had come from the northeast, speeding down Avenue de Flandre, then Rue La Fayette, to ... the Opéra de Paris. Adolf Hitler was tense with excitement." (The author provides a diagram, showing the route that Hitler and his entourage followed that day. In all, Hitler spent 4 hours in Paris, marvelling over its architecture and showing no interest in its neighborhoods or restaurants, markets, and cafés. It would prove to be his one and only trip to the city.)
4) "The German occupiers wanted to unmake dynamic Paris, to create a static simulacrum, preserving its most banal characteristics for their own enjoyment. They thought they could persuade the world that they, too, were culturally and aesthetically sensitive, while keeping Parisians literally in line. For a time, the strategy seemed to work."
5) "The Parisian apartment figures prominently in recollections of the Occupation. An apartment was more than a place of expected physical comfort; it was also a site of psychological retreat from confusion and uncertainty. Yet... the apartment could be a trap, and many wrote of feeling closed in there by events and police, always worrying about how they would escape should there be an ominous knock at the door."
"When Paris Went Dark" is highly readable and full of personal accounts -- from both sides of the Occupation, French and German, Jew and Gentile -- which help to give the reader a tangible sense of immediacy to an era now fast fading into history as the Second World War generation becomes fewer in number. It also offers an examination into France's continuing efforts to come to grips with this dark chapter in its history with which it remains in many respects unreconciled. I'm so glad I read this book because I now want to learn so much more about this epoch.