The Old Vichy Syndrome

by Denis Boyles

The decision to release the names of the French citizens who collaborated with the Nazis, reported today in the Telegraph by Peter Allen, has not been discussed much in the French press. The publication of the names online will begin in 2015 – and only then of those whose involvement with the German occupation and the Vichy collaborators is documented for the year 1940. It’s fair to say that most of those whose names will appear will be long dead.

Belated disclosure is better than none, I suppose. Henry Rousso’s The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944, is about the way in which selective memories are used to construct comfortable narratives.  (Séverine Labat’s thoughtful piece in Le Monde on this general subject is unusual.) Picking and choosing evidence is a concept familiar to anyone who reads history, of course, and the Vichy government is part of a much more complicated story than simply a story of complicity in vast crimes. But after six decades of jokes about French collaboration, will these revelations cause discomfort? More likely, a shrug. Then back to blaming Israel for not collaborating with Hamas.

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