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The resistance : the French fight against the Nazis Matthew Cobb.

By: Cobb, Matthew.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London ; New York : Simon & Schuster 2009Description: 403 pages, [16] pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9781847371232 (hbk.).Subject(s): World War, 1939-1945 -- France -- Underground movements -- France -- Underground movements | World War, 1939-1945 -- Underground movements -- France | France -- History -- German occupation, 1940-1945DDC classification: 940.548644 COB Summary: A gripping and insightful history of the French Resistance and the men and women who opposed Nazi occupation during World War II.--Publisher.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

The French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II was a struggle in which ordinary people fought for their liberty, despite terrible odds and horrifying repression. Hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and women carried out an armed struggle against the Nazis, producing underground anti-fascist publications and supplying the Allies with vital intelligence. Based on hundreds of French eye-witness accounts and including recently-released archival material, The Resistanceuses dramatic personal stories to take the reader on one of the great adventures of the 20thcentury.

The tale begins with the catastrophic Fall of France in 1940, and shatters the myth of a unified Resistance created by General de Gaulle. In fact, De Gaulle never understood the Resistance, and sought to use, dominate and channel it to his own ends. Brave men and women set up organisations, only to be betrayed or hunted down by the Nazis, and to die in front of the firing squad or in the concentration camps. Over time, the true story of the Resistance got blurred and distorted, its heroes and conflicts were forgotten as the movement became a myth.

By turns exciting, tragic and insightful, The Resistancereveals how one of the most powerful modern myths came to be forged and provides a gripping account of one of the most striking events in the 20thcentury.

Includes bibiiographical references (p. [305]-388) and index..

Includes bibliographical references (p. [305]-388) and index.

Includes bibliographical references (p. [304]-321) and index.

A gripping and insightful history of the French Resistance and the men and women who opposed Nazi occupation during World War II.--Publisher.

5 11 49 68 91 130

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

Introduction The next time you visit Paris, imagine the public buildings draped with swastika flags, the streets crowded with the grey-green uniforms of the German army, the humiliation of Jews wearing yellow stars on their clothes, threatened with deportation and death. That was the reality of the Occupation of France during the Second World War. Then look at the walls. Look at the bullet-holes spattered over the Préfecture de Police opposite Notre-Dame cathedral, or on the École des Mines on the Boulevard Saint-Michel. Look at the plaques on anonymous buildings, commemorating the forgotten men and women who died during the Occupation. Look at the names of the Métro stations - 'Guy Moquet', 'Jacques Bonsergent', 'Corentin Cariou' or 'Charles Michel' - which pay homage to victims of Nazi repression. These are all traces of the Resistance, of the price paid to drive the Nazis out of France. Similar signs can be seen throughout the country. Many towns have their own Resistance museum, telling the story of how the region was liberated, of the people who fought and died to free their country. There are memorials at the side of country roads, marking the location of secret landing strips for tiny aircraft flying in from Britain. There are families who still tell stories of how parents and grandparents made their contribution to the Resistance, and who still mourn loved ones crushed by the fascist juggernaut. This book is full of the personal stories of some of those hundreds of thousands of men and women who risked everything to fight the Nazis. In the 1960s, when I grew up, the Resistance was everywhere - from schoolboy comics to television series, from true-life accounts to films. It saturated British culture, a constant reference in a world that was still dominated by the war, which had finished only twenty years earlier. Not only did we accept without question the heroism and self-sacrifice of the men and women of the Resistance and of those Britons who helped them, we were awed by their bravery, even slightly jealous of the fact that these people knew how they would behave under terrible pressure. Times have changed. In France and elsewhere, the heroic view of the Resistance has faded. Few people know exactly what the Resistance did, beyond a general sense that they blew up trains and shot Nazis, although in reality these were relatively rare events. Even in France, where the Resistance remains an ever-present theme in popular culture, most ordinary people no longer know the detail of this story. The number of surviving résistants has inevitably dwindled (virtually none of those mentioned in this book are still alive), while the two main political forces that claimed the heritage of the Resistance - Gaullism and Communism - have been transformed utterly, largely losing their connection with this decisive period in French history. The names of most of the Resistance leaders have long since slipped from public awareness. There are no more French postage stamps showing the portraits of Resistance heroes. These changes are not only due to the passage of time, but also to a general shift in attitudes. We are less deferential than in the past, age and experience command less respect, while tales of bravery and self-sacrifice are more likely to provoke a cynical smile than awed regard. Popular views of the war years in France have also been affected by the widespread suspicion that the true reality of the Occupation was not the heroic acts of the Resistance, but rather the behaviour of a population that apparently accepted the orders of the new fascist masters. There are some good reasons for this feeling. Following the crushing defeat at the hands of the Nazis in June 1940, the French military, supported by the political and business leaders, sought to work with the Nazis. A new government was set up with the task of negotiating an Armistice that would accept the Occupation. Based in the small spa town of Vichy, the new government initially enjoyed widespread support, and many people believed that its leader, Marshal Pétain, was secretly preparing to turn the tables on the Nazis. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was Pétain himself who coined the term that came to symbolize the politics of Vichy: collaboration. Although Vichy technically ruled over the whole country, the Germans occupied the north - and, after November 1942, the whole country. In the regions where the Nazis had troops, they had control. From the outset, Vichy's independence was severely limited, and after the Nazi invasion of the south nearly two-and-a-half years later it was non-existent. Pétain and his Vichy colleagues endorsed every important Nazi decision relating to France, from the systematic exploitation and pillaging of the country, through the arbitrary conscription of hundreds of thousands of young men to work in Germany, to the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews, the vast majority of whom would never return. After an initial 'honeymoon' period, important sections of the French population began to realize that although Pétain had provided peace, in the sense that no pitched battles were being fought on French soil, a terrible price had been paid. This price had many facets: plummeting living standards (malnutrition began to spread, infantile mortality soared, mass unemployment and low wages became rife); the loss of the most elementary democratic rights (letters and phone calls were systematically intercepted and their contents transmitted to the paranoid state apparatus); the misery and distress produced by the division of the country and the brutal Nazi-inspired laws. But above all, the price paid by Vichy was moral and political. Vichy was a willing accomplice in the Holocaust, enthusiastically applying laws that slowly transformed the country into an anti-Semitic police state, viciously persecuting all those who opposed it. Nevertheless, for most of the war, the vast majority of the French did little or nothing to oppose Vichy and the Occupation. They may have hated the division and exploitation of their country, they may have been shocked and appalled by the deportation of the Jews, they may have looked with approval on the acts of the Resistance, but in general all this had little practical consequence. Less than two per cent of the population - at most 500,000 people - were involved in the Resistance in one way or another. Up to 100,000 résistants are thought to have died during the war - executed, killed in combat or dying in the camps - an indication of the dangers that were faced by this determined minority. Many historians now rightly argue that resistance took a wide variety of forms. As well as direct action against the Nazis and their Vichy allies, people wore red, white and blue (the colours of the French flag), listened to the BBC (which was illegal), or offered aid and succour to the persecuted Jewish population. However, at the time 'resistance' was used above all to describe organized actions against the Nazis and Vichy. And until the final days of the Occupation, most of the French population watched and waited. Only a tiny minority felt they had to oppose the Occupation and, as many of them put it, 'do something'. Even before the Armistice had been signed, the first signs of resistance were seen. A few individuals made heroic but ultimately futile gestures of physical opposition to the Nazis, often risking imprisonment or even death. Others chose a more literary approach - in Brive, south of Limoges, Edmond Michelet produced a leaflet consisting merely of six quotations from the French writer and philosopher Charles Péguy, calling for the fighting to continue. It did not have the desired effect. After the Occupation began, and Pétain's regime started its sinister rule in the south, a series of small Resistance organizations sprang up, producing amateurish publications. In most cases they were smashed by the Nazis in a matter of months. Not one of the scores of Resistance organizations was created by the man who came to represent them - General Charles de Gaulle. Indeed, de Gaulle appeared to have little time for the Resistance, which in turn was profoundly suspicious of the French general, while recognizing his importance as a symbol of opposition to Vichy and the Nazis. The reason for this clash between the Resistance and what became known as the 'Free French' around de Gaulle was that the two groups had fundamentally different objectives. A tiny fraction of the French army leadership - basically, de Gaulle and a handful of others - together with a rag-bag of adventurers and right-wing patriots, had travelled to Britain to continue the struggle. Their intention was to create an exile army that would participate in the Allied war effort to drive out the Nazis, thereby preserving the honour of France, and setting up an alternative government and state apparatus that could take over from the discredited Vichy regime and regain control of the French Empire. The outlook of the Resistance was rather different. It also wanted to drive the Nazis out of France, but it was never a disciplined and coherent single organization. Composed of disparate groups, it encompassed a wide range of political views, from the far right to the far left. Eventually, even some of its more right-wing leaders changed their opinions, and began to see the Resistance as a revolutionary army that could transform French society in a socialist direction. This inevitably led to more conflicts with de Gaulle, who sought to control all armed action in France, and appeared dismissive of the strength and sacrifice of the Resistance. Created in France, the Resistance grew in stature partly as a result of its links with the Free French and also with the British secret services, in particular the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Military supplies and money were parachuted into France, providing a vital lifeline for the Resistance. Nevertheless, throughout the war the Allies remained ambivalent about both the Resistance and the Free French. London and Washington were uncertain about the true influence of the Resistance, although they accepted that it could be useful in providing intelligence and military support after D-Day. These suspicions and doubts were even greater with regard to the Free French. President Roosevelt loathed de Gaulle; he rightly felt that the French leader's prickly independence would threaten Allied plans to occupy France and dismember her Empire after the war was over. Although Churchill was more sympathetic to de Gaulle, he followed the US President's lead. As a result of these tensions, the story of the Resistance - a tale of heroism and sacrifice against terrible odds - was played out against a backdrop of conflict and mutual suspicion. Underlying all these disputes was the fundamental question of what kind of France would emerge from the Occupation. This book deals primarily with the Resistance, but de Gaulle looms large, simply because within a few weeks of the fall of France, he was transformed from an unknown, low-ranking General, into the most notable representative of all those who opposed the Occupation. That transformation came about through the power of radio. De Gaulle's regular BBC broadcasts from London - which were occasionally suspended during some of his bitterest spats with the Allies - provided ordinary French people with a sign that all was not lost, and gave the bolder among them the confidence to stand against the Nazi tide. The scattered forces of the Resistance eventually rallied to de Gaulle precisely because of his renown within France, and because of his links with the British. This in turn reinforced his power and influence. The frictions between the Allies, the Free French and the Resistance became stronger in the run-up to D-Day. London and Washington considered that liberation was the task of the Allied troops, who would then occupy France under the authority of an Allied Military Government that would run the country for as long as necessary. Important sections of the Resistance, on the other hand, wanted a mass uprising of the French population to help drive out the Nazis and produce major changes in French society - a revolution. De Gaulle, meanwhile, sought to use the action of both the Allies and the Resistance to consolidate his own influence and to realize his vision of a re-born France under his command. It is one of history's sharper ironies that in this triangular tension it was de Gaulle who eventually triumphed, even though he owed virtually everything to the two rival forces. But this was not an inevitable outcome - history could have written a different ending. This book also explores what might have happened, and the path the Resistance could have forged for France. The use of strongly patriotic language makes many of the declarations of the Resistance and of the Free French seem hopelessly anachronistic. Chauvinist appeals to 'the glory of eternal France' are unlikely to strike many chords today. This is partly due to the political and sociological changes that have occurred over the last sixty-five years, which have weakened the power of patriotism, in particular among young Europeans. It is also because, to put it simply, there is no war. At the time the war and the Occupation changed everything. In wars, ordinary people are allowed to kill other people - indeed, they are expected to do so. As de Gaulle put it with characteristic bluntness in a broadcast in 1942: It is completely normal and completely justified that Germans should be killed by Frenchmen and women. If the Germans did not wish to be killed by our hands, they should have stayed at home and not waged war on us. Sooner or later, they are all destined to be killed, either by us or by our allies. The starting point of the Resistance, and of de Gaulle, was that all French people, irrespective of their class or status, had a common national interest in driving the Nazis out of the country. In the 1914-18 war, both sides used appeals to the 'national interest' to justify a horrendous slaughter which was the result of conflicting commercial and political interests, none of which had any real significance for the vast majority of those caught up in the war. The situation after June 1940 was different. France had been invaded, carved up and exploited; a country that had its own globe-spanning Empire was in its turn being transformed into a colony. Those now in charge were Nazis who destroyed all democratic rights (with the help of the Vichy government), and proceeded to first repress and then exterminate those they considered to be sub-humans - Jews, Communists, homosexuals, gypsies and others - and all those who opposed the Occupation. Everyone in France who was not a supporter of the Vichy regime did indeed have a common interest in driving out the Nazis. Their very survival was at stake. For hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, standing by was not an option. They had to do something. They had to resist. This book is theirs. So why did I have to write it? Telling the powerful personal stories of the résistants , describing their successes and failures, focusing on their courage and sacrifice, feels like a duty. By keeping their stories alive, the résistants themselves can be brought back to life in our memories. I have wanted to write this book since the mid-1980s, when I was living in Paris. One evening, I was watching TV and bumped into a documentary about the Occupation. It was like getting an electric shock: there was my adopted home city, draped in Nazi swastikas. Instantly, my vague knowledge of what happened during the war turned into something much more visceral: I felt a glimmer of the outrage, the fury and the desire to fight back that motivated so many during the war years. After the documentary was over, there was a debate between various historians and old résistants . At one point, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, a résistant who had subsequently been a right-wing Prime Minister from 1969-1972, and was not at all on my political wave length - turned to the camera and said: 'I want to say to all the young people watching, who do not know what it was like to be in the Resistance: it was one of the greatest times to be alive.' That phrase, and my shock at the image of Occupied Paris, have remained with me over the years. In the pages that follow I have tried to transmit the emotions that were experienced by the members of the Resistance - the moments of joy and the times of terrible depression; the euphoria of victory, the bitterness of betrayal and the sorrow of sacrifice. There are moments that inspire, others that make you think long and hard, and there are points at which I had to stop to wipe away the tears. That is why this book had to be written, and why it has to be read. Manchester, January 2009 (c) Matthew Cobb 2009 Excerpted from The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis by Matthew Cobb All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Plenty has been written about the French Resistance, but no dedicated English volume comes close to this superb, comprehensive account. When the Nazis invaded France in 1940, scores of ordinary people made the extraordinary decision to take action, no matter the risks, in order to oust their occupiers. Cobb (The Egg and Sperm Race) relies on hundreds of interviews, diaries, Resistance newspapers and literature, as well as vast stores of European archival material to present a riveting account of the period. The book covers all levels of the movement, shifting seamlessly from the point of view of the young high school kids clashing with police and soldiers in the streets of Paris; to communist hit squads boldly gunning down German officers; the strategizing of leaders like de Gaulle, Petain, and Churchill; and the confusion and excitement of the liberation of Paris. Expanding his viewpoint, Cobb explores in detail the Resistance's relationship to the Holocaust and its subsequent impact on French history, as well as the overstated role of de Gaulle. Cobb's work is an important contribution to the English literature on World War II and will appeal to anyone interested in military or French history. 20 b&w photos, 2 maps, and a glossary. Agent: Peter Tallack, Science Factory (U.K.). (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.