THE WEEK FRANCE FELL: June 1940 by Noel Barber


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A journalistic montage of the mid-June 1940 capitulation to the Nazis by French government and military leaders as millions began a chaotic flight from the German invasion. Premier Paul Reynaud was willing to attempt some sort of resistance with British support, but according to Barber was foiled by the intrigues of his collaborationist mistress, the Comtesse de Portes, and by army commanders like Petain who believed that ""France will revive by suffering."" While the government decamped to Loire chateaux and de Gaulle failed to carry his plan for an Allied enclave in Brittany, American Ambassador William Bullitt remained in Paris; he exaggerated France's fighting capacity to Washington, writes Barber, while creating false French expectations of US aid to come. Barber also asserts that an army coup against Reynaud was averted only by accident; the collaborationists prevailed anyway, but the population was left uninformed until the capitulation became official. ""The agony and misery of a rabble retreating"" is rendered through the eyewitness recollections of foreigners in France, with side glances at the military situation proper. This basically lightweight treatment succeeds not only in recreating an atmosphere but in raising important questions (particularly about Bullitt) which were not addressed in earlier studies.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1976
Publisher: Stein & Day