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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a breakthrough book, but a bit slanted, 2 Aug 1999
By A Customer
paxton's book was a breakthrough in that it showed to what a huge extent the vichy regime's odious policies weren't simply imposed by the germans, but were carrying out willingly and represented the revenge of right-wing, catholic, nationalistic france against the left, unions, and jews and other foreigners. but at times the book goes a little too far and borders on cheap anti-frenchness. his denunciations of the vichy regime and the elements of france they represented are well backed up, but he's on much shakier ground when he tries to downplay the role of and support for the resistance and charles de gaulle. overall, a chilling, important book, but it should be read as a book about vichy, and not as a definitive book about all aspects of france under the occupation, as it purports to be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allo Allo It Was Not, 16 July 2013
By 
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order (Paperback)
The Vichy regime has never been comfortable for the French for whom it was too shameful a fact to address for almost half a century after the Germans were kicked out of France. The classic defence of Vichy was Robert Aron's 'Historie de Vichy' published in 1954. He claimed Vichy was the product of a total Nazi diktat which acted as a shield against against that diktat, that Vichy played a secret double game involving the Allies and that French public opinion was ready to return to the war on the Allied side as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Paxton argues that Aron's view relied too much on the transcripts of the postwar purge trials. Those trials were predicated on the idea that all Vichy's actions were of German origin. Paxton concluded 'that all four pillars of the Aronian paradigm reflected the circumstances and mentality of......the final days of the Occupation and the first few days of the Liberation'. They did not accurately reflect the period between June 1940 and late 1942. Aron's interpretation was 'a classic case of retrospective memory'.

The Third Republic collapsed in the wake of the German invasion and sued for peace in June 1940. The French Premier Philippe Petain accepted the Franco-German Armistice which divided France into two zones, one under German military occupation and a large southeastern area which was left, nominally, under French sovereignty. That sovereignty theoretically applied to France as a whole with government officials administering German policies in the occupied zone.The following month the National Assembly at Vichy voted full legislative and executive powers to Petain. The new French state was based on authoritarian principles, advocating traditional themes. On October 30 Petain broadcast that he had met Hitler and accepted the principles of the new European order. He stated " I have been under no 'diktat'". Justifying collaboration with the Germans he added, 'he who has taken charge of the destiny of France has the duty of creating the most favourable atmosphere to safeguard the interests of the country. It is with honour and to maintain French unity, a unity of ten centuries, within the framework of a constructive activity of the new European order, that I embark enter to-day the path of collaboration.'

Petain's broadcast undermined claims that the Germans dictated terms to the French. Hitler's aim had been to neutralise France leaving Germany to prepare for its assault on Britain. Hitler did not station large military or police forces in France and, once he had taken the disastrous decision to invade the Soviet Union, the number of German troops did not exceed 40,000. In November 1942 Germany invaded Vichy and put an end to the fiction of unwilling collaboration. Pierre Laval, who was removed from office in 1940, returned to power in April 1942 and set about more active collaboration than his predecessor. Vichy became a tool of German policy and provided an impetus to the Resistance movement as French public opinion abandoned its initial 'wait and see' response for a recognition that Germany could lose the war. By the time the Allies invaded France was in a state of civil war between the Resistance and the Gestapo who were supported by Vichy militias.

Paxton claims Vichy did not act as a shield for the sovereign French government even by the end of 1940, opining there were few instances where the regime extracted (or even tried to extract) concessions for the French people. Only the Russians provided more forced-labour for German factories than the French. Based on archival research Paxton also dismisses claims that 'Vichy had been primarily attentiste awaiting only the right moment to return to the war on the Allied side against Hitler'. There was an irreconcilable difference between Churchill's aims, which was to bring France into the war, and those of the Vichy regime which was to maintain neutrality. Finally, Paxton draws attention to the tacit agreement of the Gaullists and the Communists at the time of the Liberation to present collaboration as 'the work of only a small minority of ideological sympathisers with Nazism and Fascism'. This made the actual policy of 'calculated and voluntary accommodation with German power for reasons of state......almost invisible'.

Not all French who supported Petain were collaborators. In 1940-41 there was widespread hostility towards the British and plenty of evidence to show that many welcomed Petain's decision to withdraw from an unpopular war. Ironically it was the Allies who presented more of a threat to Vichy's neutrality by attacking French possessions overseas than the Germans whose interest in France wavered after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. French public opinion switched from being favourable to Petain in 1940 to almost unanimously in favour of de Gaulle by 1944. In some areas, Toulouse and Clermont-Ferrand, Vichy never enjoyed much support. The Vichy regime was authoritarian but never Nazi or Fascist. It encouraged the deportation of Jews and the persecution of Protestants, Freemasons and foreigners. The 1940 Statute of Jews introduced racial segregation, anti-Semitic laws were repealed and some foreign Jews deprived of their naturalised status. 'Vichy's initial anti-Jewish measures actually ran contrary to German preferences in the fall of 1940 and....Vichy chose to participate actively in the deportations of 1942 partly in order to maintain visible signs of its sovereignty.'

In the 1980s several prominent collaborators, including Maurice Papon and Paul Touvier, along with Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo chief in Lyon, were convicted of war crimes. Paxton's high reputation led to his giving evidence at Papon's trial. The trials reopened the bitter debate about the Vichy regime. Paxton argues the worst errors of judgement about understanding Vichy come from the extremes of its supporters and detractors. The static, bipolar, view does not explain the 'varying degrees of engagement ranging from enthusiasm through mere acquiescence to the forced conformity of those who simply tried to keep their jobs'. An excellent study. Five stars.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Path-breaking, 16 July 2010
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This review is from: Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order (Paperback)
This book was such an important text in its field that I feel it deserves five stars even though I disagree with some of its findings. The French talk of a 'Paxtonian Revolution' to describe the effect this book had on the historiography. Along with Eberhardt Jackel's work, Paxton suggested that collaboration was not something which was imposed on the French by the Germans but rather something which the French government actively sought as a means of promoting their own internal political agenda and of finding a privileged place in the Nazi new order. This flew in the face of the work of previous historians who had insisted that collaboration was imposed on an unwilling French government. Paxton's ideas on this have now established themselves as orthodoxy in the field. That historians are still obliged to quote Paxton 40 years on shows what a seminal text this was. The part of the book which failed to stick in the long run is the part which deals with public opinion. He sees public opinion as broadly supporting Vichy and the Germans. No serious analysis of the archives on this question could support such an analysis.
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4.0 out of 5 stars seminal work but at times verbose, 23 Aug 2013
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Clearly Robert Paxton is a trailblazer in the study of Vichy and his prose style is elegant and sophisticated. Despite being an avid reader of the topic, I found myself at times a little bogged down by the sheer weight of statistics and details that the author went into on topics such as local government structure, which really were for the true aficionado of the period. However, I appreciated the succinct way in which he concludes each chapter, lest the reader becomes a little distracted from the essential content by the mind-boggling information that is given.
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Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order
Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order by Robert O Paxton (Paperback - 4 July 2001)
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