Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation - post I

One of the odd things about catching a P&O Ferry is the odd assortment of books that are offered in the shop. Among a smattering of the Richard & Judy summer reads there are various historical books that all seem to be ramming home the war theme.

I was always brought up to keep the subject of the war to myself when going over to the continent but it seems that those on the ferry can’t get enough of it. One thing has always puzzled me about the Second World War – the attitude of the French to occupation. Bearing in mind their attitude to Bermuda shorts in the campsite swimming pool and the insistence I had to wonder how they behaved when told what to do by Petain and his German backers.

Some of the answers are unfolding while reading this account. Establishing that following the collapse of the resistance against the German attack the confusion spread through both army and civilian population. The result was an exodus away from Paris and the North to the South.

But the confusion lasted longer than just the first few months and throughout the Vichy government there seemed to be confusion about not only what Petain was trying to do but what those around him actually stood for.

Of course the resistance movement is well documented in films and fiction but two chapters in and you wonder as much what Hitler thought about it all with the French squabbling between themselves in Vichy and drifting away from reality.

More to come…

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