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France during World War Two
It is quite wrong to think of Pétain as a quaint octogenarian who was unaware of what was going on. He , as Head of State, was
the originator of policies, directing his PMs (Laval, Flandin, Darlan, Laval) and pursuing an understanding with Germany that he himself called
COLLABORATION. The 'National Revolution' (including 'Travaille, Famille, Patrie) would find a place for France in the new 'Europe'. At
first, he certainly hoped for mutual benefit and reciprocal arrangements with Germany. Perhaps towards the end it became a servile acceptance of
German demands. The support that he received was genuine...which does not mean that the French were pro-German or Nazi. Most put their faith in
the man who had already saved France once.
After the war, it was natural that the French believed in the idea of 40 million resisters. 'Papy a fait la
Résistance' was a popular film as late as the 1980's. But this has long been seen as a myth, certainly since Robert Paxton, whose book Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order
(1972) challenged the idea of French resistance under Nazi occupation. Paxton showed that the Vichy regime had sought real collaboration with
Germany - consistently offering more than the Germans asked, particularly in the area of anti-Semitic policies
- to carve out a role for
France under Hitler in a future New European Order. He also found that among the French population the Vichy government remained popular
until it became clear that Germany would certainly lose the war.
Pétin and ollaboration. How much did they anticipate German demands?
Why there was so little resistance at first. There is no need to be critical! It is worth noting that the communists were hampered by the
Nazi-Soviet Pact and that it was difficult to resist in the south because there were no Germans! (at least until 1943). But then there was a conservative and
traditionalist link going back to the early 1930s.
What the resistance was when it came. Look at a) de Gaulle and his lot in London...Soustelle, Moulin, Michelet, Monnet.....b) South...Combat, Libération-Sud,
Franc-Tirreur..; c) North. Libération-Nord, Ceux de la Résistance, etc, d) Across zones. Front National (not Le Pen!) and PCF from 1941)
And therefore what contribution the French actually made to their liberation. What did the resistance achieve in the end?
If that is not enough, or comes across as dull, you can pad it out a bit with why France fell at the beginning.......
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