Harnessing The Past: Book Analysis

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On August 25, 1944 Paris was liberated by Allied forces just seven weeks after the Normandy landings. Hitler’s order to have the city razed to the ground, an order executed in the cultural capitals of Warsaw and later by the Allied forces in Berlin, was not realized and French troops loyal to the resistance fought off German forces and reclaimed the city without the use of urban warfare. On the same day that Paris was liberated General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French resistance movement and the future President of the Fourth French Republic, addressed the newly freed nation for the first time: Why do you wish us to hide the emotion which seizes us all, men and women, who are here, at home, in Paris that stood up to liberate …show more content…
This lack of acknowledgment can be attributed to the guilt that Frenchmen felt after the war or to de Gaulle’s own belief in nationalism and the Jew’s place in the France. In Harnessing the Past: The Politics of Memory in France, Joan Wolf discusses in the introduction how, in order to keep French society free from particularisms, such as individual identities and ethnic backgrounds, “the Jews (like all other French citizens) were required to demonstrate unadulterated loyalty to a nation that was unconscious of its own ongoing contingency.”21 This inclusion of Jews into the state was regarding the French Third Republic, but the sentiment of requiring loyalty to the nation from all people is easily recognizable during de Gaulle’s time as head of the provisional government and later as President of France. The idea that “Frenchness was based not on blood or lineage but on a commitment to equality between men”22 could be the very idea that inspired the Gaullist myth that all Frenchmen were martyrs, from the resistance fighters to the victims of the Vél d’Hiv roundups, and that no differentiation was to be made. The Gaullist myth of the French experience during the war insisted that Vichy was just “a parenthesis in the history of France” and that collaboration was isolated amongst the French people, who instead supported the resistance movement.23 In de Gaulle’s ideal wartime France there were just heroes and victims; the collaboration exhibited by Vichy was the exception, not the

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