support behind him as the spearhead in a united drive for freedom from the Naziyoke. This was necessary in order to fulfil the three main tasks that de Gaullehad placed before himself: the continuation of the fight alongside the Allies untilvictory was achieved; reconstruction of a country ravaged by both the occupantsand the resistants; and— perhaps most importantly in de Gaulle’s personalagenda— the reformation of the French Constitution, ratified by popular vote.
In order to do this, de Gaulle felt he essentially needed to suppress the shame of collaboration and distort the memory of the Vichy occupation.In short, as Rousso (1991, p18) notes, the “Gaullist
myth’s…unavowed objective was to present an interpretation of the past inthe light of the urgent needs of the present”. De Gaulle attempted to attain thisobjective through his powerful public speaking, policy
, and through actions suchas the creation of
lieux de mémoire
, all of which glorified the role of France as awhole in its liberation and downplayed the collaborationism of the people byfurther villainizing the occupiers and a minority of Vichyists. Take the exampleof Oradour-sur-Glane, a town razed by the SS and left by de Gaulle never to berebuilt, standing as an eternal monument to Nazi brutality.
Azéma (1984), Lagrou (2000) and Rousso (1991) all suggestedthat the French Communist Party created a parallel, “mirror image”
myth. AsCourtois and Lazar (1995, pp 181-207) outline, the PCF was an active member of the Resistance, and presented itself as “le parti des 75,000 fusillés”
in the yearsfollowing the war. This martyrisation of party members, states Rousso, “made afetish of the Resistance…a quasi-sacred symbol”,
and untruthfully portrayed thePCF as patriotic and unquestioningly committed to the French people. This inturn helped to bolster support for the party and lead to its success in electionsand participation in governments from 1945-1947.
This myth of martyrdom,
As outlined by Winock, M., 1999, p 421
As regards policy take, for example, the pressure de Gaulle exerted inattempting to be considered as a major power at the Yalta conference. As wellas being important in terms of French territory, success in this would have alsohelped to reinforce his myth of France as a victor rather than a collaborator.
See Corbeau, 2011
We may note that conversely, de Gaulle never referred to the horrors of theJuly 1942 roundup of Jews in the Vélodrome d’Hiver and their subsequent deportation, a heinous crime carried out by employees of the French stateagainst their fellow countrymen. See Singer, 2002
Lagrou, 2000, p41
Courtois and Lazar, 1995, p213
Rousso, 1991, p18
See Courtois and Lazar, pp214-253