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B o ok R ev iew s Rita Thalmann. L a M is e a u p a s . Id é o l o g ie e t s t r a t é g ie s é c u r it a ir e d a n s l a F r a n c e o c c u p é e . Paris: Fayard, 1991. Pp. 394. Rita Thalmann’s latest study demonstrates that the difficult and complex relationship between France and the Third Reich continues to be a rich field of investigation. Whereas the politics of Vichy France and fascist ideology in France have been extensively researched, little has been written, at least by French historians, about the politics of Nazi Germany in regard to its secular enemy, France. The present study concentrates therefore on the question of how Germany tried to pur­ sue a twofold goal: to reduce France to a “ fournisseur de biens et de loisirs aux nouveaux maîtres du monde” (17) and to maintain the illusion of seeking a collaboration/coopera­ tion with the defeated nation. Gaining access to German Military Administration archives, which have never been systematically studied before, Thalmann draws a detailed picture of the four institutions which shared the authority of putting into effect Goebbels’ vision of France as a “ Suisse agrandie.” During the four years of occupation, the Military Admin­ istration, the embassy in Paris, the Propaganda Department, as well as the Security Service rivaled for the privilege of being sole interpreter and executor of German politics in France. Their numerous “ reports” (Lageberichte), completed through material from memoirs and French archives, reveal that their work, strategies, and goals were as different as their par­ ticular spheres of interest or the characters of the people in charge. Given the overall impeding competition among these institutions, combined with a lack of clear strategies in fundamental matters and a frequent misjudgement of the actual situa­ tion in France, it is surprising how and why the “ mise au pays d’un pays de 45 million d’habitants avait pu atteindre de telles proportions en si peu de temps, avec des effectifs ne dépassant pas 40.000 hommes même après l’occupation de la zone dite libre” (11). To answer this question Thalmann follows Goebbel’s distinction between two main steps in the execution of Germany’s cultural policy. The first one, which she considers a success, is the “ phase négative.” Its purpose was to control French society and to purify it from Jewish, Anglo-American, and other “ noxious” elements. Once this step was accomplished, the “ phase positive” then aimed at filling this “ vacuum” with German thought and culture. After having analyzed all domains of French social and cultural life, such as education, theater, Church, and so forth, Thalmann concludes that the second phase failed miserably to bring about the anticipated results. Furthermore, she concludes that both success and failure were, to a high degree, possible only because the majority of French society either accepted or rejected the German influence. While the “ état de décomposition sociale du pays” (310) greatly facilitated the German authority’s work concerning the control and purification processes, profound differences between French and German mentalities as well as the fact that the “ question juive . . . a été méconnue en France” (310), to mention just a few reasons, prevented the ideological and cultural impregnation of France. La Mise au pas is a well written and necessary “ revision” of the history of German politics in France and its execution as well as its reception in French society. In this regard, Thalmann’s study can be considered a successful completion of such fundamental studies as Robert O. Paxton’s Vichy France or Zeev Sternhell’s N i droite ni gauche. Not only does it shed new light on a singular and difficult moment o f the Franco-German relationship, it also achieves a very timely value considering the recent political and economic develop­ ments of a new Europe faced with the rising tide of racism. M a r k u s E. M ü l l e r University o f California, Los Angeles VOL. XXXIII, NO. 1 119 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 119
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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