Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Revising myths of Vichy France

Choices in Vichy France: The French under Nazi Occupation, by John F. Sweets. New York: Oxford University Press. 306 pp. $24.95. John Sweets, a professor of history at the University of Kansas, has previously written about ``The Politics of Resistance in France'' (1976). In ``Choices in Vichy France,'' he suggests that recent revisionist history (not only scholarship, but also films like ``The Sorrow and the Pity'' and ``Lacombe Lucien'') presenting the French as a nation of collaborators may be even more misleading than the earlier myth of a nation of resisters.

In this book, Dr. Sweets takes the town of Clermont-Ferrand as a microcosm to be examined as the key to a larger picture. In meticulously documented detail, he recounts the attempts of the Vichy to impose their ``New Order'' -- replacing individual rights with so-called ``principles of the community'' -- and he describes how members of this particular French community supported or merely accepted, ignored or actually resisted these new policies. He concludes that resistance -- on some levels -- was more widespread than is commonly supposed.

About these ads

This fine study, the product of extensive research, unquestionably adds substantially to our sum of knowledge. But whether Clermont-Ferrand is indeed a microcosm, or merely a limited portion of a vast mosaic, remains debatable. There is always some danger, in such an enterprise, of failing to see the forest for the trees.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.