THE PURGE: The Purification of French Collaborators After World War II by Herbert R. Lottman

THE PURGE: The Purification of French Collaborators After World War II

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The French post-liberation purge of suspected collaborationists has had ""bad press"" over the past two decades, with the historical emphasis placed on the excesses: the summary executions and frontier justice. The author of this detailed history attempts to revise that attitude, showing that though some retributive acts were inevitable, the purge was for the most part judicious. A political and statistical defense, the study wrestles with facts and figures that are difficult to confirm because of the decentralized groups of resistance fighters. The numbers of executions, arrests, etc. were more often exaggerated than recorded. The author must also depend upon the daily press for accounts of purge trials, which he admits are not necessarily accurate or fair. More important than raw facts were the legal ambiguities and uncertainties. The jurists had to invent a new crime to fit the collaborator's sort of treason--indignitÉ nationale--but even as they did so, they questioned the implications of their handiwork. Meanwhile, the trials plunged ahead without ever resolving fundamental legal questions. An example of the strange sort of justice that was handed down is that writers and journalists who had been pro-German before the war would get off more lightly because their collaboration had not been opportunist. Since that era, those responsible for the purge have seldom spoken out to defend themselves against the accusations of Draconianism and vengefulness. This account, if somewhat arid, is moderating and well-reasoned. It sifts the facts with little concern for the emotions and mass psychology that underlay them, and doesn't claim the purge was entirely just, or even that it served its purpose of ""purification,"" but simply that it need not be a source of shame.

Pub Date: July 23rd, 1986
Publisher: Morrow