Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
“Collective memory is part of dominant ideology, and as such reflects not what has happened, but the interests of the ruling classes”. How accurate is this statement with regards to the transmission of memory in postwar France?

“Collective memory is part of dominant ideology, and as such reflects not what has happened, but the interests of the ruling classes”. How accurate is this statement with regards to the transmission of memory in postwar France?

Ratings: (0)|Views: 25|Likes:
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Patrick Ryan. Originally submitted for TSM Russian and French at Trinity College Dublin, with lecturer Dr Edward Arnold in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Patrick Ryan. Originally submitted for TSM Russian and French at Trinity College Dublin, with lecturer Dr Edward Arnold in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology

More info:

Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
See more
See less


“Collective memory is part of dominant ideology, and as suchreflects not what has happened, but the interests of the rulingclasses”. How accurate is this statement with regards to thetransmission of memory in postwar France? 
There can be little doubt that since World War II, various members of theruling political classes— in particular (but not exclusively) de Gaulle, Gaullistsand the French Communist Party— have attempted to distort the image of VichyFrance and the actions of its people under occupation in order to serve certainends. However, the degrees to which they have been successful in these aimshave been varied. Over the course of this essay we will see, in a chronologicalfashion, how France’s collective memory of the Vichy years has evolved inrelation to the political and social currents of the time, and that althoughdominant political ideology has had great influence over this evolution, it isperhaps a little simplistic to see the interests of the ruling classes as the onlycontrolling factor in the way memory of Vichy in France has changed and beenpassed on.For his part, it would appear that Charles De Gaulle undertook the task of modifying collective memory without delay. In his famous liberation speech fromthe staircase of the Paris Hôtel de ville, on the 24
of August 1944, he presentedan image of occupied France that revisionist historians have since argueddiverges markedly from the realities of the time: 
Paris ! Paris outragé ! Paris brisé ! Paris martyrisé ! Mais Paris libéré !libéré par lui-même, libéré par son peuple avec le concours des armées dela France, avec l'appui et le concours de la France tout entière, de la Francequi se bat, de la seule France, de la vraie France, de la France éternelle
 We see here the establishment of what has become commonly known as theGaullist myth. As Azéma (1984, pp209-210) puts it, this “imposed” interpretationof events presented “a view of France rapidly overcoming temporary hesitationsand— apart from a handful of 
and a minority of misled Vichy men—uniting, in the interests of the liberation.”It is generally agreed that de Gaulle created this image of occupied Francein the immediate aftermath of the liberation of Paris in order to legitimize hisseizure of power from the constitutionally valid Pétain government. It collected
INA, Charles de Gaulle "Paris, Paris outragé ! Paris brisé ! Paris martyrisé ! maisParis libéré !... ", N.d.
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
embodied in heroes such as the young Guy Môquet, conspicuously neglects tomention the policies the PCF implemented before the German invasion of theUSSR in June 1941. These included fawning attempts to obtain legalisation of thepress from the German occupants and calls for fraternisation between Frenchworkers and German soldiers
— both examples of action that hardlyconstitutes an unremitting, patriotic fight for liberty. Moreover, the figure of 75,000 executed Communists was a vast exaggeration, with modern estimatesplacing the total number of French resistants of all political leanings executed bythe Nazis at around 25,000
. This is not to forget the possible interests of the Allied forces inpromoting the concept of a united, victorious France. Lagrou (2003, p66) notesthat France was possibly permitted to become a fourth “victor” in the war partlybecause it was seen as a necessary concession; as a colonial power and countryof geopolitical influence in Europe, a positive, victorious France was needed inorder to manage European reconstruction and to help contain the humiliatedGerman nation (especially following the departure of American troops).All of this evidence points towards a political manipulation of collectiveconsciousness, leading to a warped transmission of memory in postwar France.In the arts, films such as
La Bataille des railles
Le père tranquille
(bothreleased in 1946) presented a similarly glorified image of the French Resistanceand the Liberation, further propagandizing this interpretation of events. Theyalso provide possible evidence of the influence that the messages propagatedby de Gaulle and the PCF were having on the public psyche. However, we must equally raise the question of the interests of the common man with regards tocollective memory. Countless were those who waited patiently—who continuedtheir work in fields, factories and offices up and down the country— untilFrance was liberated. Courtois and Lazar (1995, p199) refer to research bythe French historian Phillipe Buton suggesting that only 5 French towns wereliberated (Paris is included in that number) with the aid of popular insurrection.It seems most people were happy to wait and see. Through their work theyfed their families, but also contributed passively to the German war effort. Andyet countless numbers of them took part in the vicious and chaotic
that followed the 1944 Liberation. Gordon (1995, pp272-273) suggests that 
See Courtois and Lazar, p173
Simonnet, 2004, p68

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->