As I write this I am watching Monsignor Renard, the series with John Thaw as a priest in occupied France. It is odd becuase all the French seem to come from the north of England, while the Germans speak in German or with German accents. Maybe John Thaw couldn’t speak in a French accent!! Then again it could be seen as being to Allo! Allo!
The series is good but it lacks a sense of reality. It is a British view on a French tradegy and that it is the problem. There is a lack of depth to the story and the underlying tensions between the Petainists, the Communists, those who were patriotic to France and the vast majority who wished to live life as best they could.
This ties in well with the current “heavy” book I’m reading – The Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Julian Jackson. Some of you may actually know him, as I believe he worked in a 3rd rate educational facility somewhere to the west of here 🙂
This is a heavy academic styled history book. It covers the years of occupation but also the background to what helped to weaken France; how French society was lost and unsure of its own identity. That it had been lost since the fall of the Third Empire, the Dreyfuss Trial and the disappointment with the Third Republic.
I’m also reading Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction by Martin Gilbert. I have already read his The Holocaust; Israel: A History and his 3 volume work on the History of the 20th Century. He is one of my favourite historians as he writes in an open and accessible way. His histories flow with a sense of personal involvement and a desire to share his interest in the subject he is writing about.
His book on the Holocaust brings this subject to life in a different way. He shows us how the persecution grew by telling us the story from the ground up. He tells the stories of the people who died each day and in each village, town and city. How a death here and several there, soon mount up into the hundreds, thousands and millions.
Almost no village, town or city in occupied Europe was unaffected by Hitler’s Final Solution. There were many acts of resistance to the policy but most, whether German or otherwise, chose to ignore what was happening, or actively took part.
It is funny how so many Germans, Poles, Russians, Balts, French or Belgians had no idea that all this was happening.