Daily Archives: 19 May 2005

Getting Beyond Collaborators vs. Patriots

Nathanael of Rhine River, one of my favorite history blogs, sent notice of a review on H-France by Shannon Fogg of Robert Gildea’s Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France during the German Occupation (Picador, 2002). Here’s a taste of what the book is about.

Gildea concludes that in the Loire Valley, where many small towns and villages never saw German troops except at the beginning and end of the Occupation, the Germans were content to allow the French to have some autonomy as long as German security was assured. Collaboration during the war meant “maintaining good relations between French and Germans, whether at the public or private levels, in order to benefit all concerned” (p. 242). By approaching politics on the local level, Gildea discovers that some left-wing mayors remained in office and concludes that, initially, “what mattered was open endorsement of the regime and tested authority over the local population” (p. 168) rather than political affiliation. With the Russian entrance into the war and the subsequent rise in Communist Resistance activity, Gildea traces the shift from “indirect rule” to rule by Diktat. While Gildea provides persuasive evidence to support his argument that the shift in the Loire Valley came with the assassination of the Feldkommandant of Nantes in October 1941, his claim that June 1941 was a fundamental turning point in Franco-German relations is not supported fully. A synthesis of local studies and the shift from the negotiation to the imposition of terms in each area is needed to learn when both the Germans and the French became more repressive….

Central to the author’s discussion of these groups is the definition of morality during the war. Throughout the book, Gildea demonstrates that the residents of the Loire Valley created their own definitions of morality under the Occupation that differed from the definitions imposed after the Liberation. He concludes that “Informal rules were devised by the French governing what was legitimate and what illegitimate in Franco-German relations. As a rule of thumb, actions that undermined the family, community, or nation were illegitimate” (p. 405). But certain allowances were made. A factory could accept German contracts as long as the employer did not force workers to go to Germany or to work too zealously. Small exchanges on the black market showed the ability of the French to get by while larger profiteering was viewed as immoral. A Frenchman or woman could have a drink with a German or flirt with one, but inviting one to dinner or having an affair was generally frowned upon. By continuing the story of the war years into the post-Liberation period, Gildea is able to trace these differences and the ways morality was defined differently in both periods. He also explores the political ruptures and continuities through post-war election patterns and discusses the joys, disappointments, and continuing memories of the war.

Historians of Korea need to do more research along these lines about the Japanese colonial period. Carter J. Eckert’s Offspring of Empire: the Koch’ang Kims and the Colonial Origins of Korean Capitalism, 1876–1945 (U. Washington Press, 1991) and Colonial Modernity in Korea (reviewed here), edited by Gi-Wook Shin and Michael Robinson (Harvard U. Press, 1999) are among the few.

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