In France, the German occupation is still called simply the "dark years." It is remembered as a time of hunger, fear, cold, and the absence of freedom, when the French population was cruelly and consistently oppressed by the enemy. There were only the "good French" who resisted and the "bad French" who collaborated. Yet Marianne in Chains, a broad and provocative new history, uncovers a rather different story, one in which the truth is more complex, and more humane.
Drawing on previously unseen archives, firsthand interviews, diaries, and eyewitness accounts, Robert Gildea wholly reveals everyday life in the heart of occupied France. He describes the pressing imperatives of work, food, transportation, and family obligations that led to unavoidable compromise and negotiation with the army of occupation. In the process, he sheds light on such subjects as forced labor, the role of the Catholic Church, the "horizontal collaboration" between French women and German soldiers, and, most surprisingly, the ambivalent attitude of ordinary people toward the Resistance, which was often dismissed as a bunch if bandits who were militarily irrelevant.
A brilliant work of reconstruction, a crucial work of scholarship, and at once thorough, challenging, and readable, Marianne in Chains provides a clear view—all these years later, and unobscured by romance or polemics—of the painful ambiguities of living under tyranny.