"A willed amnesia has a way of overpowering even the ugliest history. After 65 years, both the citizens and leaders of France still try to forget the moral squalor of the dark years, 1940 to 1944, when their parents and grandparents lived under German occupation. The people of Vichy, for instance, can still be heard complaining that what the world knows best about their spa town is that it was chosen as the capital of a puppet regime that governed part of the country while submitting to German direction.
Vichy officials handed over about 76,000 Jews to the Nazis and
- sent 650,000 non-Jews into slave labour in Germany. The locals, understandably, would prefer to be known for Vichy water and the restorative baths famous since Roman times.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, for his part, doesn’t like to hear about collaboration and seems to believe that on some spiritual level it didn’t even occur. Only last spring he remarked that in wartime “The true France was not at Vichy, the true France never collaborated.”
- millions of individual surrenders by French citizens, including many artists.
One artist who plunged onward with his career was Jean Cocteau, a writer as well as a painter and designer. He was heard offering a toast in a café:
His flippant remark provides the title for the most recent book-length study of this subject, The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation (Yale University Press), in which Frederic Spotts provides a detailed, intimate account of French artists in nervous co-existence with the Nazis.
The Germans, Spotts says, set out to breach the Maginot Line of French musical life by seizing its key stronghold, the Paris Opera. In no time, the opera became the showcase of collaboration. Sometimes, German officers filled half the seats. On special occasions, such as a performance of Die Fledermaus with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the audience was entirely German.
But the conquerors wanted to get far beyond the performing arts. They brought lists of books that were to be turned into the authorities for destruction,
- and began censoring new books, newspapers, magazines, radio shows, films and plays.
They supervised museums and private art galleries. They appointed spies to monitor schoolteachers and university professors, on the alert for anti-German or pro-Jewish opinions.
- A subtle poison corroded even our best intentions.” Of course, they had to bear in mind that the Germans might be there forever.
- the Nazi boss of culture as well as propaganda. He wanted to see French and German artists appreciating each other.
- When the Occupation began, Harold Rosenberg, then a young art critic, wrote,
- “The laboratory of the 20th century has been shut down.” But it was more than that.
Paris was both Mecca and Vatican to modern culture, the place everyone gathered and everything was judged. Other cities were national capitals; Paris was the international centre, a magnet for artists from everywhere.
- After 1945, cultural values shifted and competing cities replaced Paris;
- and its morale-eroding compromises destroyed what had seemed to be the world’s greatest city.
- It's happening everyday now in the US. You will be ridiculed and ostracized for just saying that. See Saul Alinsky's Rule #13. sm. Have a nice day.