Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 103

BOOK REVIEWS THE BLOOD OF FREE MEN: The Liberation of Paris, 1944 Michael Neiberg, Basic Books, New York, 2012, 368 pages, $28.99 M any of the accounts of the liberation of Paris are a part of an agreed-upon myth about the Nazi occupation of France, the conduct of the Vichy government, and the French people. It took a generation for historians to unravel the legend. The fall of France destroyed the French Third Republic and exposed a long-standing sociopolitical divide which Marshal Philippe Pétain’s Vichy government aspired to fill. It unleashed a civil war between resisters and collaborators. Michael Neiberg’s book must be read knowing this context. Neiberg’s work shows the struggle between French resistance factions, collaborators, the Anglo-American Allies, and the Free French movement (the Wehrmacht was also involved). According to Neiberg’s research, the heroes are the people of Paris who played a large part in their own liberation and Charles de Gaulle, whose opponents included the Anglo-American Allies, the French Communists, and the Nazis. Neiberg begins with a theme that has become commonplace in the historiography of World War II— the Nazi victory in 1940 destroying the old European bourgeois social and political structure. The defeat led to an undeclared and a barely acknowledged civil war in France. French society was divided between collaborators and resisters. The former included those who preferred Hitler to Leon Blum (a French politician)—reactionaries and opportunists who wished to accommodate themselves to the new realities of power. The latter included French citizens from all segments of the political spectrum who thought subjugation to Germany was inconceivable. The resistance was very small until the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and the Nazi defeat at Stalingrad. Even then it was still a small portion of the population. While we may see collaborators solely as opportunists, we should understand that most in western Europe were prepared to collaborate with the Nazis because they were now dominant. In the summer of 1940, it appeared they would rule for a ve