AN UNFAIR BOOK TO FRANCE

 

While « Anatomy of Fascism » is a well balanced and very interesting book, « France’s Vichy » ignores the context of France in 1940. The book is unfair to France and eventually very wrong.

 

 - First of all, one must remember that France desperately attempted to establish PEACE in Europe after WWI. France had been alone to stop Germany in 1914, the English not yet in the war, and in 1920 it was exhausted. The only thing France wanted was PEACE. (Aristide Briand received the NOBEL Price). It begged the US and UK to guaranty its borders against Germany. But the US walked away from the committment Wilson had made to France in 1919... In fact what happened is that both the US and UK supported Hitler’s Germany in the thirties against France to the extent that Churchill was the lonely voice warning of the “awful danger” of “perpetually asking the French to weaken themselves”. It can be said that  the Anglo-Saxons’ Francophobia was a defining factor in letting Hitler establish power. Not only it was a disaster for France, the world but also the Jews.

                                                                                               

 - Secondly to accuse France of rampant antisemitism is just not true. There was antisemitism, especially among the elite, but it was not expressed in the laws. France was the only country in the world to keep its borders open to all the refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe. They all came to France. And the Prime Minister of France in 1936 was Leon Blum, a very remarkable Jew. When is America going to vote for a Jewish President? So before 1939, France’s behavior towards the Jews was one of the most friendly in the world. The US closed their borders and showed no pity. America had the land and more to welcome the Jews. In fact, a coordinated effort by the Anglo-Saxon world – US, UK, Canada & Australia – plus France,  would have saved the Jews from Hitler !

 

 - Thirdly, France was badly defeated in 1940. How could it be otherwise? France was not strong enough to resist Germany alone. And France was alone, the US having run away after leaving a mess in Europe in 1919, plus forcing France to weaken itself, and the UK, as usual, had no army and also very quickly run away... Dunkirk!

 

When France was badly defeated, and it was, everybody trying to escape from the German advance, documents show that Laval “forced” parliament to give all the powers to PETAIN. It was “a coup”, not something which happened in normal circumstances. And PETAIN was an antisemite, the people around him also. In time of a major upheaval/disaster, a senile man and bad people took power. The French never voted for them. But again, the French disaster was the result of American policies in the thirties.

 

It is in this context that the Jews in France suddenly faced an hostile administration. Nobody in France can be proud of what happened. People who had come to France trusting the French tradition of hospitality, were betrayed. There is little excuse for such letdown though many French people did their best to help.

 

Quite rightly Paxton is critical of the French elite. No quarrel with that but it was a worldwide phenomenon. Just to give a personal example: my father, after the war, went to America on a business trip. He was a guest of a fancy Oyster Bay Golf Club and he invited Miss Rothschild, a first class French golfer to join him. The third time he took her there he was told that he was welcome but not the Jewish woman... and this happened after the war!

 

A lot more can be said. In the last fifty years, America kept alive its love for dictators with appaling results : Chiang Kai-Shek, Pahlevi, Marcos, Pinochet and above all Stalin to whom Roosevelt gave Eastern Europe....

 

Etc... I am not an historian. But I would like to see the rightful and arrogant America apologize to the Jews, as Chirac and France did. May be, to achieve this result, Mr. Paxton  needs to write a book : “American anti-semitism in the 20th century and its consequences”. France is the wrong fight, America is a better one, the real one is the top of the Catholic church: the pope.

 

Jean-Paul Delorme

 

 

Biographie

 

J-P Delorme est né à Paris en 1940. Etudes : ESSEC puis Harvard Business School, Cambridge, USA. Il a  fait sa carrière au sein de la Société Air-Liquide, au Canada, Brésil, Asie du Sud-Est, Israël, USA et France. Retraité depuis 2005, il s’intéresse à l’histoire du  monde entre 1919 et 1950, et fait de nombreuses synthèses et critiques de livres récemment parus.

 

 

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