How Paris Deals With Vichy and Collaboration


What can be said about it? It’s pretty, it’s opulent (to the point of being a little too much), it’s a wonderful city to be in (provided you have plenty of money and know where the heck you’re going). In short, it’s a very lovely city to be in.

But its relationship to World War II is a rather difficult one. France was both a collaborator in Nazi atrocities as well as a resistor to them. The capital city, which was mainly untouched by the war, has a mixed history and is rather ashamed of its darker aspects. It seems to me that Paris has tried to make things easier, perhaps for the French people, to emphasize the parts of the war that look favorably upon Paris and France as a whole. For example, at the Musee de l’Armee, the WWII section is also the WWI section, but it begins in 1879, highlighting France’s relationship to Germany since the Franco-Prussian War. Also, while there is great detail on the specific events of the wars and plenty of glorification of the military, there is not a lot of information on the collaborationists, though there is plenty on the Resistance.

And similarly at the Memorial for Deported Martyrs, the memorial, which is designed like a sunken temple to the departed, seems more like an elaborate memorial for soldiers than innocent victims of Nazi brutality. There’s a reason why it’s called the Memorial for Deported Martyrs: it makes the victims seem like soldiers who gave their lives for France.

So France has a very complicated past when it comes to the war. Not surprising, when you consider Charles de Gaulle bred the belief that all the French took part in the Resistance. However, I think France would do some good by admitting to its darker side of its past and then dealing with it by preventing such situations from arising again (and believe me, genocides have occurred since WWII, so don’t discount another Holocaust or Bosnia occurring in Europe again). No one in the US is proud of our past of slavery and racism (though some try to cover it up in shame or hatred), but we remember it and we deal with it in order to prevent it from reoccurring (usually).

On another note, I’m having a blast in Paris. Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve been amazed and wowed. If I have another chance I’ll write on some of what I’ve seen. Keep reading for updates. I’m looking forward to seeing how Berlin deals with its horrific past.

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