“In Denaturalized, Claire Zalc combines the precision of the scholar with the passion of a storyteller…This is a deftly written book. Zalc combines in an accessible style (smoothly translated by Catherine Porter) the stories of people trapped within a bureaucracy that was as obsessed, perhaps, with clearing files as with hunting Jews. In other words, Zalc reminds us how cruel the banality of indifference could be.”—Wall Street JournalWinner of the Prix d’histoire de la justiceA leading historian radically revises our understanding of the fate of Jews under the Vichy regime.Thousands of naturalized French men and women had their citizenship revoked by the Vichy government during the Second World War. Once denaturalized, these men and women, mostly Jews who were later sent to concentration camps, ceased being French on official records and walked off the pages of history. As a result, we have for decades severely underestimated the number of French Jews murdered by Nazis during the Holocaust. In Denaturalized, Claire Zalc unearths this tragic record and rewrites World War II history.At its core, this is a detective story. How do we trace a citizen made alien by the law? How do we solve a murder when the body has vanished? Faced with the absence of straightforward evidence, Zalc turned to the original naturalization papers in order to uncover how denaturalization later occurred. She discovered that, in many cases, the very officials who granted citizenship to foreigners before 1940 were the ones who retracted it under Vichy rule.The idea of citizenship has always existed alongside the threat of its revocation, and this is especially true for those who are naturalized citizens of a modern state. At a time when the status of millions of naturalized citizens in the United States and around the world is under greater scrutiny, Denaturalized turns our attention to the precariousness of the naturalized experience—the darkness that can befall those who suddenly find themselves legally cast out.
Captured by German forces shortly after Dunkirk, and not relinquished until May of 1945, nearly a year after the Normandy invasion, the British Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark, and Herm) were characterized during their occupation by severe deprivation and powerlessness. The Islanders, with few resources to stage an armed resistance, constructed a rhetorical resistance based upon the manipulation of discourse, construction of new symbols, and defiance of German restrictions on information. Though much of modern history has focused on the possibility that Islanders may have collaborated with the Germans, this eye-opening history turns to secret war diaries kept in Guernsey. A close reading of these private accounts, written at great risk to the diarists, allows those who actually experienced the Occupation to reclaim their voice and reveals new understandings of Island resistance. What emerges is a stirring account of the unquenchable spirit and deft improvisation of otherwise ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Under the most dangerous of conditions, Guernsey civilians used imaginative methods in reacting to their position as a subjugated population, devising a covert resistance of nuance and sustainability. Violence, this book and the people of Guernsey demonstrate, is not at all the only means with which to confront evil.
The French Resistance has an iconic status in the struggle to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe, but its story is entangled in myths. Gaining a true understanding of the Resistance means recognizing how its image has been carefully curated through a combination of French politics and pride, ever since jubilant crowds celebrated Paris’s liberation in August 1944. Robert Gildea’s penetrating history of resistance in France during World War II sweeps aside “the French Resistance” of a thousand clichés, showing that much more was at stake than freeing a single nation from Nazi tyranny.As Fighters in the Shadows makes clear, French resistance was part of a Europe-wide struggle against fascism, carried out by an extraordinarily diverse group: not only French men and women but Spanish Republicans, Italian anti-fascists, French and foreign Jews, British and American agents, and even German opponents of Hitler. In France, resistance skirted the edge of civil war between right and left, pitting non-communists who wanted to drive out the Germans and eliminate the Vichy regime while avoiding social revolution at all costs against communist advocates of national insurrection. In French colonial Africa and the Near East, battle was joined between de Gaulle’s Free French and forces loyal to Vichy before they combined to liberate France.Based on a riveting reading of diaries, memoirs, letters, and interviews of contemporaries, Fighters in the Shadows gives authentic voice to the resisters themselves, revealing the diversity of their struggles for freedom in the darkest hours of occupation and collaboration.
“Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not and will not go out.” As Charles de Gaulle ended his radio address to the French nation in June 1940, listeners must have felt a surge of patriotism tinged with uncertainty. Who would keep the flame burning through dark years of occupation? At what cost?Olivier Wieviorka presents a comprehensive history of the French Resistance, synthesizing its social, political, and military aspects to offer fresh insights into its operation. Detailing the Resistance from the inside out, he reveals not one organization but many interlocking groups often at odds over goals, methods, and leadership. He debunks lingering myths, including the idea that the Resistance sprang up in response to the exhortations of de Gaulle’s Free French government-in-exile. The Resistance was homegrown, arising from the soil of French civil society. Resisters had to improvise in the fight against the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime. They had no blueprint to follow, but resisters from all walks of life and across the political spectrum formed networks, organizing activities from printing newspapers to rescuing downed airmen to sabotage. Although the Resistance was never strong enough to fight the Germans openly, it provided the Allies invaluable intelligence, sowed havoc behind enemy lines on D-Day, and played a key role in Paris’s liberation.Wieviorka shatters the conventional image of a united resistance with no interest in political power. But setting the record straight does not tarnish the legacy of its fighters, who braved Nazism without blinking.
In the immediate decades after World War II, the French National Railways (SNCF) was celebrated for its acts of wartime heroism. However, recent debates and litigation have revealed the ways the SNCF worked as an accomplice to the Third Reich and was actively complicit in the deportation of 75,000 Jews and other civilians to death camps. Sarah Federman delves into the interconnected roles—perpetrator, victim, and hero—the company took on during the harrowing years of the Holocaust.
Paris at War chronicles the lives of ordinary Parisians during World War II, from September 1939 when France went to war with Nazi Germany to liberation in August 1944. Readers will relive the fearful exodus from the city as the German army neared the capital, the relief and disgust felt when the armistice was signed, and the hardships and deprivations under Occupation. David Drake contrasts the plight of working-class Parisians with the comparative comfort of the rich, exposes the activities of collaborationists, and traces the growth of the Resistance from producing leaflets to gunning down German soldiers. He details the intrigues and brutality of the occupying forces, and life in the notorious transit camp at nearby Drancy, along with three other less well known Jewish work camps within the city.The book gains its vitality from the diaries and reminiscences of people who endured these tumultuous years. Drake’s cast of characters comes from all walks of life and represents a diversity of political views and social attitudes. We hear from a retired schoolteacher, a celebrated economist, a Catholic teenager who wears a yellow star in solidarity with Parisian Jews, as well as Resistance fighters, collaborators, and many other witnesses.Drake enriches his account with details from police records, newspapers, radio broadcasts, and newsreels. From his chronology emerge the broad rhythms and shifting moods of the city. Above all, he explores the contingent lives of the people of Paris, who, unlike us, could not know how the story would end.
Translated from the German and drawing on German and French sources, Wolfgang Seibel traces the twisted process of political decision-making that shaped the fate of the Jews in German-occupied France during World War II. By analyzing the German-French negotiations, he reveals the underlying logic as well as the actual course of the bargaining process as both the Vichy Regime and the Germans sought a stable relationship. Yet that relationship was continually reshaped by the progress of the war, Germany’s deteriorating prospects, France’s economic and geopolitical position, and the Vichy government’s quest for domestic political support. The Jews’ suffering intensified when the Germans had the upper hand; but when the French felt empowered, the Vichy Regime stopped collaborating in the completion of the “final solution.” Persecution and Rescue: The Politics of the “Final Solution” in France, 1940–1944 demonstrates the ways in which political circumstances can mitigate—or foster—mass crime.
Winner of the Society for Military History’s Distinguished Book AwardShocked by the fall of France in 1940, panicked US leaders rushed to back the Vichy government—a fateful decision that nearly destroyed the Anglo–American alliance.According to US Secretary of War Henry Stimson, the “most shocking single event” of World War II was not the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but rather the fall of France in spring 1940. Michael Neiberg offers a dramatic history of the American response—a policy marked by panic and moral ineptitude, which placed the United States in league with fascism and nearly ruined the alliance with Britain.The successful Nazi invasion of France destabilized American planners’ strategic assumptions. At home, the result was huge increases in defense spending, the advent of peacetime military conscription, and domestic spying to weed out potential fifth columnists. Abroad, the United States decided to work with Vichy France despite its pro-Nazi tendencies. The US–Vichy partnership, intended to buy time and temper the flames of war in Europe, severely strained Anglo–American relations. American leaders naively believed that they could woo men like Philippe Pétain, preventing France from becoming a formal German ally. The British, however, understood that Vichy was subservient to Nazi Germany and instead supported resistance figures such as Charles de Gaulle. After the war, the choice to back Vichy tainted US–French relations for decades.Our collective memory of World War II as a period of American strength overlooks the desperation and faulty decision making that drove US policy from 1940 to 1943. Tracing the key diplomatic and strategic moves of these formative years, When France Fell gives us a more nuanced and complete understanding of the war and of the global position the United States would occupy afterward.
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