Wikimedia Commons General Charles de Gaulle and his entourage proudly stroll down the Champs Élysées to Notre Dame Cathedral for a ceremony following the city's liberation on 25 August 1944.

The Rebirth of the French Spirit

I DO not mean this to be history; what I attempt is only a psychological analysis of the French people as they are after the past five years -- years heavier than centuries. Never in its two thousand years of history has the country known more tragic hours, never has its social, political and moral fabric undergone a more terrible ordeal. The destruction and the shock have been so great that even today, when France has regained her dignity, her independence and her place among the nations, she cannot be considered a normal political entity. Everything has been trampled under foot, torn up, rocked to its foundations. The souls of the French people have been spared no more than their buildings and institutions. Everything must be rebuilt on ground still littered with ruins. The future cannot be written on a clean white page; the past, steeped in bitterness, is inescapably present. Those who have not experienced the ruin and the bitterness will find difficulty in imagining them; yet not to take them into account would be to misunderstand the situation and to run the risk of forming most unfair judgments.

The crisis must be seen as a whole. Let us begin, therefore, with the state of mind of Frenchmen when war was declared. France's effort between 1914 and 1918 had overtaxed her strength. She sorely missed her 1,500,000 dead. Moreover, in spite of her victory, she did not feel victorious: she could not forget the vulnerability of her frontier, breached four times within a century. Hence her insistent demand for the occupation of the left bank of the Rhine and her attempt to maintain it; hence her recourse to a counterweight in the east in the form of alliances with Slav partners -- mere small change in comparison with the great Russian ally who was lost. England and the United States blamed us for these precautions and thought them expressions of a pathological obsession or inveterate imperialism. We, of course, thought that we were

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.