A Few Pitiful Traitors

David Drake

  • Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance by Robert Gildea
    Faber, 593 pp, £20.00, September 2015, ISBN 978 0 571 28034 6
  • Occupation Trilogy: ‘La Place de l’etoile’, ‘The Night Watch’, ‘Ring Roads’ by Patrick Modiano, translation by Caroline Hillier, translated by Patricia Wolf and Frank Wynne
    Bloomsbury, 336 pp, £18.99, August 2015, ISBN 978 1 4088 6790 7

Two political forces dominated post-Liberation France: Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French and head of the provisional French government until January 1946; and the French Communist Party (PCF), at that point the biggest and most popular party in the country. As Robert Gildea explains in his perceptive new book, each constructed a myth about France’s behaviour during the war that served its own political interests; each claimed it had led the Resistance. According to the Gaullist narrative, France went to war in 1939 weakened by internal political struggles. It was quickly crushed in 1940 by the superior weaponry of the Germans and, for the next five years, the spirit of resistance was kept alive by de Gaulle and his Free French forces in London, as well as by the French people themselves. France regained its honour when the Free French, with a little help from France’s allies, drove the Germans out of the country.

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