Books by Philippe Burrin

Released: Feb. 3, 1997

A damning indictment of French collaboration with the Nazi regime. Historian Burrin (Hitler and the Jews, not reviewed, etc.; Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva) has immersed himself in the archives and emerged with a disturbing portrait of war-time France under the German occupation. From Paris, Munich, Bonn, and Rome, the evidence is indisputable: Only a tiny minority of the French opted for active resistance to the Nazis; the vast majority saw no other choice but to submit. That submission ran the gamut from quiet rage and hatred to active support of and participation in the worst aspects of Nazi rule. Americans might find it difficult to empathize with these French citizens, yet Burrin reminds us that we are fortunate to have escaped the experience of foreign occupation for over 200 years (and some might even dispute labeling British rule here as ``foreign''). Three sections of French society are scrutinized: the government, civil society, and the ``intellectuals'' (politicians, journalists, and academics). This division may perhaps be artificial, since clearly the three categories overlap; indeed, a single person could be in all three divisions at once. Burrin invites us into the world of the collaborationist, showing how it was often difficult to choose sides. At the same time, he reveals the always sordid reality of collaboration through access to newly opened Vichy police files and information gleaned from telephone taps and mail censorship. The reader is left with the clear realization that the uniquely French disease cited by the French scholar Henri Rousso as ``the Vichy syndrome'' was endemic and may still infect French right-wing political groups today. Read full book review >