France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise

In This Review

France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise

By Philippe Burrin
New Press, 1997
526 pp. $27.50

Burrin, a distinguished Swiss historian of fascism and of Vichy France, leaves the Resistance out of this wry and often biting but always objective volume. For some, accommodation was highly self-interested. Many bankers and industrialists saw profits in joint Franco-German schemes (dominated by the Germans) and immediate gains in working for the German war effort. Famous entertainers wanted their work (like Klaus Mann's Mephisto) to remain on the screen or on the stage. For others, such as Marc Bloch's friend Lucien Febvre, who accepted censorship so that Les Annales could continue to be published, accommodation was a way of not giving up, of not leaving the field to pro-Nazi publications. Burrin -- having excluded the heroes -- gives us a gallery of rogues, brutes, easily flattered egos, shortsighted calculators, cowards, and ordinary people doing their best to survive while hoping for liberation. No book does a better job of demolishing -- implicitly -- both the myth of national bravery and the countermyth of collective villainy. Pettiness, stupidity, and various forms of stoicism and daily courage prevailed. The "notables" and intellectuals were certainly not better and sometimes worse than the other French men and women observed here.

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