The French Resistance by Olivier Wieviorka (Translated by Jane Marie Todd) - review by Patrick Marnham

Patrick Marnham

A Resistible Force

The French Resistance


Harvard University Press/Belknap Press 569pp £29.95 order from our bookshop

The question of ‘resistance’ is still unsettled in France. What exactly was the wartime resistance? Who was in it, what did it achieve, did it matter, did anyone else notice? For over forty years, following the liberation of Paris in 1944, French historians generally preferred to avoid the years of occupation. In a country torn apart by defeat and collaboration, the pursuit of historical truth threatened the process of national reconciliation, a process founded on a myth invented by Charles de Gaulle – that France had never been properly defeated and was a country that liberated itself.

This emphasis on a generally non-existent glory enabled people, in the words of Olivier Wieviorka, to avoid looking too closely ‘at the shameful times … and at the compromises of a state that denied its humanist and republican past in order to conduct an authoritarian, anti-Semitic and xenophobic policy’. Sheltered

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

A Mirror - Westend