"SISTERS IN THE RESISTANCE: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945" by Margaret Collins Weitz

"SISTERS IN THE RESISTANCE: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945"

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An oral history of women who served courageously and well in a variety of roles in the French Resistance in WW II. Weitz (Humanities and Modern Languages/Suffolk Univ.), who has coedited a volume about the role of gender in the two world wars, now turns her attention specifically to France in WW II. Weitz contends that most French citizens tried simply to avoid trouble and survive during the occupation. Only a few aided the Nazis, she says; likewise, only a small minority of French participated in the Resistance. Here she interviews over 70 of these courageous r‚sistantes. Since about two million Frenchmen, including POWs, were deported to do labor in Nazi war industries, young men were few and aroused suspicion. Thus, as the war progressed, women went beyond mundane but necessary support tasks (such as searching for and distributing scarce food, doing laundry and finding shelters for refugees) to riskier activities. These included carrying coded underground messages, distributing newspapers, and tracts; coding and decoding reports; relaying intelligence; guiding escaped prisoners and downed Allied airmen--all in the shadow of the Gestapo and the French Vichy collaborationists. Many were caught, tortured, imprisoned, or executed. A potential problem in oral histories is verification, especially in a history of a secret organization. Understandably, few records were kept, and Weitz contends that many of the women's secret activities were omitted even from those records we have. The author also finds the French authorities still sensitive to scholarly probing of les arm‚es noires of 1940-44, and some files are accordingly still closed. Despite this lack of documentation, Weitz tells a good story of some obscure heroines of France's dark years.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0471196983
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Wiley