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       Paris: After the Liberation 1944-1949, p.1

           Antony Beevor
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Paris: After the Liberation 1944-1949



  ‘There is hardly any aspect of French life during that period which

  the authors do not explore, always with compelling liveliness and

  omnivorous zeal. I shall return gratefully to it again and again’

  Alistair Horne, European

  ‘This book, like the city it discusses, oscillates satisfyingly between

  blunt history and roistering gossip’ Frank Delaney, Sunday Express

  ‘After Antony Beevor’s Crete and Artemis Cooper’s Cairo, the

  excellence of their joint Paris After the Liberation should have come as

  no surprise. De Gaulle’s race for Paris makes one hold one’s breath;

  then the skein brilliantly unravels. Every shade of collaboration is

  traced and – brand-new – the details of Russian control of the French

  Communist Party’ Patrick Leigh Fermor, Spectator

  ‘An entrancing read’ Richard Lamb, Spectator

  ‘A beautifully written book about a vast tapestry of military, political

  and social upheaval, remarkably well researched, wise, balanced, very

  funny at times… I was a witness to events in Paris in the first

  desperate, glorious, mad weeks, and this is just how it was’

  Dirk Bogarde

  ‘A perceptive portrait of Paris in its heyday’ J. G. Ballard, The Times

  ‘This valuable newbook… a true vade mecum of an era’

  Paul Ryan, Irish Times

  ‘This is a wondrous account that thoroughly matches the brilliance of

  its subject’ Boston Globe

  ‘A splendid chronicle of the political, social and cultural forces that

  were unleashed by the war and that played themselves out in Paris in

  an acrimonious battle for the future of France’ Philadelphia Enquirer

  ‘Fascinating’ Alan Massie, Daily Telegraph

  ‘In the 1940s, France went to war with herself yet again, and the tale,

  told with relish by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper in this

  fascinating book, is calculated to stir mixed feelings in the devoutest

  Francophile’ David Coward, New York Times

  ‘A rich, grim but often funny and always marvellously intelligent

  venture into the French past as well as our own’

  S. J. Hamrick, Chicago Tribune

  ‘A thoroughly professional job in reconstructing the sensations of

  Paris in the years after the liberation of 1944, skilfully balancing

  historical narrative with social analysis, and tempering the appalling

  with the absurd’ Jan Morris, Independent


  Antony Beevor wrote his first novel when he lived in Paris for two years. His works of non-fiction include The Spanish Civil War, Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, which received the 1993 Runciman Award, Stalingrad, a No. 1 bestseller which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson History Prize and the Hawthornden Prize in 1999, and its companion volume, Berlin: The Downfall, 1945. Stalingrad and Berlin between them have sold well over 2 million copies, with both books translated into twenty-four foreign languages. Crete, Stalingrad and Berlin are also all published by Penguin.

  Artemis Cooper’s work includes Cairo in the War 1939–1945 and Writing at the Kitchen Table, the authorized biography of Elizabeth David, both of which are published by Penguin. She has also edited two collections of letters: A Durable Fire: The Letters of Duff and Diana Cooper and Mr Wu and Mrs Stitch: The Letters of Evelyn Waugh and Diana Cooper. Her grandfather, Duff Cooper, was the first post-war British ambassador to Paris, and his private diaries and papers provide one of the unpublished sources for this book.

  Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper were both appointed Chevaliers de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. They are married and have two children.



  Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper




  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, NewYork, NewYork 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3

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  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published by Hamish Hamilton 1994

  First published in Penguin Books 1995

  Revised edition published in 2004

  This edition published 2007


  Copyright © Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper, 1994, 2004

  All rights reserved

  The moral right of the authors has been asserted

  Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject

  to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,

  re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s

  prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that

  in which it is published and without a similar condition including this

  condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

  To our parents





  1 The Marshal and the General

  2 The Paths of Collaboration and Resistance

  3 The Resistance of the Interior and the Men of London

  4 The Race for Paris

  5 Liberated Paris

  6 The Passage of Exiles

  7 War Tourists and Ritzkrieg

  8 The Épuration Sauvage



  9 Provisional Government

  10 Corps Diplomatique

  11 Liberators and Liberated

  12 Writers and Artists in the Line of Fire

  13 The Return of Exiles

  14 The Great Trials

  15 Hunger for the New

  16 After the Deluge

  17 Communists in Government

  18 The Abdication of Charles XI



  19 The Shadow-Theatre: Plots and Counter-Plots

  20 Politics and Letters

  21 The Diplomatic Battleground

  22 The Fashionable World

  23 A Tale of Two Cities

  24 Fighting Back against the Communists

  25 The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

  26 The Republic at Bay

  27 The Great Boom of Saint-Germain-des-Prés

  28 The Curious Triangle

  29 The Treason of the Intellectuals


br />   30 Americans in Paris

  31 The Tourist Invasion

  32 Paris sera toujours Paris

  33 Recurring Fevers






  Few countries love their liberators once the cheering dies away. They have to face the depressing reality of rebuilding their nation and their political system virtually from scratch. Meanwhile, black-marketeers and gangsters thrive on the chaotic interregnum which we now call ‘regime change’. This reinforces the sense of collective shame, just when people want to forget the humiliation of having had to survive by moral cowardice, whether under a dictatorship or under enemy occupation. So liberation creates the most awkward debt of all. It can never be paid off in a satisfactory way. Pride is a very prickly flower.

  So too is nationalism, as this post-Liberation period in France shows only too well. Nobody was more prickly than General de Gaulle at the idea of slights from his Anglo-Saxon allies. To judge by the transatlantic rows which continually reignite, this is clearly a ‘recurring fever’, to use Jean Monnet’s phrase. Yet in the post-war world, we were led to believe that the need for national identities would wither away. The Cold War suppressed most national problems within its international straitjacket. Then other developments, whether the United Nations, the European Union or even the contentious process of globalization, pointed to a further fading of national consciousness. But if anything, one finds in our increasingly fragmented world that many people, terrified of drowning in anonymity, seize hold of tribal or national banners even more firmly. And the idealistic notion that international organizations can rise above national interests and intrigue has also proved to be a complete delusion.

  One could well argue in the light of recent events that the Franco-American relationship had never really recovered from 1944. One might also say that the liberators were rather too thick-skinned, while the French were too thin-skinned; that American businessmen wanted to leap in to exploit the market, while the French wanted to revive their own battered industry; that the GIs, ‘ardent and enterprising’ in their attempts to fraternize with local girls, simply created resentment and jealousy, especially since Frenchmen had no cigarettes or stockings to offer. The clash of the free market with the moral rationing of war socialism was bound to provoke deep discontent, whether in matters of love or of food. Frenchmen, and above all Frenchwomen, did not really blame the great film star Arletty for having a lover in the Luftwaffe. But they could not forgive her for staying with him in the Ritz, which meant that she had enjoyed access to the best food available when the rest of them went short. Hunger was indeed as powerful a motive for jealousy as unrequited love. The German writer Ernst Junger, serving in Paris as a Wehrmacht officer, had observed in the Tour d’Argent restaurant that food was indeed power.

  The Occupation was a time of genuine suffering for almost all the French, and it is wrong for those who never experienced it to make sweeping moral judgements in retrospect. Nevertheless, the difficulties, both moral and physical, were such that many myths sprang up afterwards, and they certainly need to be examined. General de Gaulle himself instinctively realized the need when he made perhaps the most emotional speech of his life from the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris on 25 August 1944, the day of its Liberation: ‘Paris! Paris outraged, Paris broken, Paris martyred, but Paris liberated! Liberated by herself, liberated by her people, with the help of the whole of France, that is to say of “la France combattante”, the true France, eternal France.’

  There was not the slightest mention of American or British help in the Liberation. In the eyes of the Allies, this was a churlish and grotesque rewriting of history; nevertheless, it was an inspired message, creating an image of national unity where none existed and binding the sorely wounded pride of the country. Yet the people most put out by this speech were not the Allies, who had come to expect such Franco-centricity by then, but members of the Resistance. They were dismayed by de Gaulle’s deliberate attempt to praise them only as part of ‘la France combattante’, essentially the armed forces commanded by de Gaulle from outside, and making no mention of ‘la France résistante’, the secret army at home. Symbolism had become immensely important. This resentment signified more than the continuation of a power struggle between de Gaulle’s Free French, who had returned from honourable exile, and the ‘people of the interior’, who had stayed behind, but then joined the Resistance later.

  The Resistance, like de Gaulle, had also cultivated a ‘certain idea’ of its own France as well as of itself. And this heroic myth, like its Gaullist counterpart, was bound to come under sceptical examination in later years. As early as 1950, Henri Frenay, one of the most outspoken of the Resistance leaders, wrote that he did not have the courage to publish his account of those years because ‘in my memory heroism is closelylinked with cowardice, ambition with self-sacrifice, mediocrity with greatness’. He openly acknowledged, however, that a ‘people’s strength often rests on legends’.

  The greatest myth-makers of all were the Communists, who claimed the preposterous figure of 75,000 members executed by the Germans. Their legend of the Resistance was vital to cover historical blemishes, such as the Nazi–Soviet pact, as well as to recruit new members for the next round in the struggle. The great irony, which we discovered in the Russian archives, was that the French Communist Party, the most powerful and hitherto the most closely controlled by Moscow, was virtually ignored from August 1939, the moment of the Nazi–Soviet pact, until September 1947. Stalin’s contempt for the French was so great after the collapse of 1940 that their home-grown Stalinists were left to flounder without a clear party line until the Cold War suddenly moved into a higher gear in the early autumn of 1947.

  Another contentious area is the long-standing demonization of Marshal Pétain and the Vichy regime. The utterly shameful examples of Vichy collaboration in the round-up of French and foreign Jews for the Germans have been highlighted in recent years by the scandalously belated and unsatisfactory trials of old men. It took fifty years for a French president – Jacques Chirac in 1995 – to acknowledge publicly that ‘France accomplished something irreparable’ by assisting the ‘criminal folly of the occupier’. The Vichy police’s excess of zeal greatly undermined the usual Pétainist defence that the ‘path of collaboration’ with the occupying power was the right one to take. But once again, those who have not suffered defeat and occupation must study the situation as it was felt then by individuals and communities – rumours are as important in history as archivally demonstrable facts – in order to avoid the artificial wisdom of hindsight. The primary duty of the historian is to understand. It is not to cast stones in moral outrage.

  Nobody threw stones more gladly and more recklessly than the young, post-Liberation intellectuals, flexing rediscovered political and literary muscles after the atrophy of the Pétainist years. They saw themselves as the spiritual descendants of the revolutionaries of 1789. Pétainism in their view was the modern-dress version of monarcho-clerical reaction, the Whites of Old France. They admired the Communists and the hardy Red Army, while despising the US military, which they considered pampered and commercialized. Thus the post-Liberation period brought together in a fascinating fashion the tensions of the past and the present: the guerre franco-française between Old France and the anti-clerical left; the battle between intellectual traditions; and the resentments between the Old World and the New, with the Franco-American love-hate relationship. Some of them are still very much with us today.

  Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper

  Part One



  The Marshal and the General

  In the early evening of Tuesday, 11 June 1940, Marshal Philippe Pétain and General Charles de Gaulle caught sight of each other as they were about to enter the Château du Muguet. It was a month and a day since the German invasion of Fran
ce had begun. They had not seen each other for over two years, and this was to be one of their last encounters. Each would soon proclaim himself the leader of France, and their respective versions of the state would condemn the other as a traitor.

  Pétain and de Gaulle had travelled separately along roads encumbered with refugees and dispirited troops. That morning the château, near Briare on the River Loire, due south of Paris, had become the temporary residence of General Weygand, the commander-in-chief, who had just decided to abandon the capital to the Germans. A conference of the Supreme Inter-Allied Command was assembling to discuss the disaster. The British side, led by Winston Churchill, was expected at any moment. Escorted by a squadron of Hurricanes, the Prime Minister and his colleagues had flown on a circuitous route from England to land at Briare’s deserted airfield.

  Marshal Pétain, born in the final year of the Crimean War, was now eighty-four. He was proud of his appearance, especially his flowing white moustache. When he removed his scarlet and gold képi, revealing a bald dome, he had the air of a Gallic elder. The only colour left in his marmoreal face came from the eyes, which, although watery, remained a startling blue. The ‘bons yeux bleus du Maréchal’ were to provide a favourite refrain in the personality cult of his Vichy regime.

  Charles de Gaulle was then forty-nine. He was unusually tall and the impression he gave of towering over Pétain was enhanced by his bearing. His body appeared stiffly controlled, except when he gestured for emphasis, not just with his hands, like most Latins, but with the whole length of his seemingly endless arms. His face was pale and long. The far-seeing eyes were dug in closely on either side of his blunted beak of a nose.

  The relationship between Pétain, the defender of the Verdun fortresses in 1916, and de Gaulle, the advocate of armoured warfare and now one of the youngest brigadier-generals in the army, went back a long way. Lieutenant de Gaulle, on passing out from Saint-Cyr two years before the First World War, had asked to be gazetted to Pétain’s regiment. But the admiration he had once held had dwindled between the wars. In his view Pétain, the commander idealized by veterans and politicians alike, had succumbed to the corrupting influence of acclaim and honours. It was not, therefore, surprising that this meeting lacked warmth.

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