The Postwar Debate over Collaboration in Vichy

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Authors
Devroede, Antoine
Keyword
France , World War 2 , Second World War , Collaboration , Vichy , Resistance , Germany , History , Historiography , Paxton , Aron , Laborie
Abstract
This thesis is about two histories, the history of the Vichy regime in France between 1940 and 1944, and the evolution of postwar memory and scholarship about Vichy until today. The objective of this research is to investigate the evolving conceptual interpretation of collaboration as it happened in France during the Second World War. This historiography primarily examines the perspectives of scholars, historians, and French civil society in the postwar era with the aim of investigating how they responded to the memory of the Occupation, particularly on the topic of collaboration. I chose to focus on three periods, and three books which were particularly impactful at the moment of their publication: 1945-1965 through the work of Robert Aron, 1954-1970s through the work of Robert Paxton, and the 1980s through the work of Pierre Laborie. The postwar debate over Vichy continues to follow familiar political fault lines between the left and the right, with some far-right factions continuing their attempt at defending the actions of those who chose to collaborate. For some conservatives, particularly in the late 1940s and 1950s, condemning Vichy could only be done in so far as it didn’t compromise their postwar agenda. Additionally, this condemnation couldn’t be at the benefit of communists and the left. I also argue that while there is still much to learn on the history of Vichy, the major debates have been settled by historians. Today, when some wish to instrumentalize the memory of Vichy to further their political agendas, we ought to differentiate historical revisionism from what constitutes an honest debate over the history of this difficult period.
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