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Description - Occupation by Ian Ousby

The real story of the Occupation uncovers a reality more complex, more human and ultimately more moving than the myths which have grown after the event. Defeat in 1940 left the French so demoralized that they readily supported the Vichy regime, committed not just to pragmatic collaborations but to finding scapegoats for the nations disgrace. Jews and Communitsts because the chief victims of a witch-hunt which left plenty of scope for private grudges as well. Resistance came late: the Occupation was fourteen months old before the first German solider was killed. The public mood changed only as the Reich's original correctness gave way to brutality, and as events outside France prefigured possible German defeat. But even as Liberation approached, resistance was far from being the mass army of later myth. Different visions of who should inherit France complicated the pursuit of collaborators and foreshadowed the chaos of post-war politics. During the Occupation selfishness, bigotry and cowardice played parts as great as courage and idealism. They left a 'poisoned memory' which persists even today. But others should not feel superior. In such an ordeal, who can claim they would have done better?

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712665131
ISBN-10: 0712665137
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 153mm x 27mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Feb-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Occupation by Ian Ousby

Book Reviews - Occupation by Ian Ousby

US Kirkus Review » A history of how the French people dealt with the humiliating defeat administered by the Germans in 1940, the occupation that followed, and the end of the Third Republic. Ousby, who has taught history at universities in Britain and the US, first explains why French army and air force seemed so outmatched by the Germans: Although many in number, the troops were poorly led by aged generals who relied on obsolete WW I tactics stressing defense over the offensive. The French forces were no match for a Nazi blitzkrieg featuring massed tanks, armored vehicles, Stuka dive bombers, and swift moving infantry. The government had no choice but to accept humiliating terms of surrender. Harsh reparations were imposed on France, Hitler's revenge for the Treaty of Versailles. General Petain, the hero of Verdun in WW I, a figurehead father image, was installed in the puppet Vichy government that strictly followed Nazi orders. The Germans plundered France's food, drink, and art; the French were reduced by drastic rationing to a nation in perpetual need. The feared Gestapo was much in evidence, and Vichy stooges cooperated with the Nazis in rounding up Jews, communists, and dissidents. The resistants grew in number, and the Germans responded by executing more and more French citizens. A French civil war between Vichy loyalists and underground patriots broke out, adding to the suffering. The resistants suffered high casualties; their charismatic leader Jean Moulin eventually paid with his life. After the German surrender the nation was transfixed by anger, frustration, and shame. The French focused their violent fury on a variety of individuals and groups viewed as having betrayed France. The haughty, immensely self-assured Charles de Gaulle, head of Free French forces, quickly stepped into the power vacuum left by the war, setting France on a new and increasingly controversial course. A well-written, carefully researched, often fascinating story of the long and little known French ordeal. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Ian Ousby

Ian Ousby wrote widely on subjects both English and French. His recent books include The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English and Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944, which won the 1997 Edith McLeod Literary Prize, given annually to the British book which 'has contributed most to Franco-British understanding', and the 1997 Stern Silver PEN Award for Non-fiction. He died in August 2001.

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