Fighters in the Shadows : A New History of the French Resistance, Hardback

Fighters in the Shadows : A New History of the French Resistance Hardback

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The story of the French Resistance is central to French identity, but it is a story built on myths. 'La Resistance francaise' was not simply a national effort to free the country from German occupation, but a wider struggle, filled with conflicts and division.

It included Spanish republicans, Italian and even German anti-Nazis.

The defence against the Holocaust brought in Jewish resisters and Christian rescuers.

It involved a civil war for the French Empire in Africa and the Near East.

The movement itself was split between those on the far right and the far left, fighting for very different visions of the world.

Robert Gildea returns to the testimonies of the resisters themselves, asking who they were, what they believed in and what compelled them to take the terrible risks they did.

He brings to the fore the woman resisters, who history neglected.

By looking again at the constructions and interplay of the myths surrounding the resistance, Gildea builds a vivid, gripping and entirely new account of one of the most compelling narratives of the Second World War.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General & world history
  • ISBN: 9780571280346



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Fighters in the Shadows – An excellent examination of French Resistance.Robert Gildea is Professor of Modern History at Oxford and specialises in nineteenth and twentieth century French history. Professor Gildea is an expert on France under German occupation and more importantly on collective memory and political culture. In Fighters in the Shadows, Gildea shines a very bright light in to this very dark area of history.Churchill said that ‘history is written by the victors’, no more so than in the French collective memory of the Second World War and the occupation by the Germans. It was General Charles de Gaulle who created the myth that resistance represented the true heart of France. In this book Robert Gildea clearly states that ‘De Gaulle’s resistance myth was military, national and male” before he goes on to disprove the myth that the resistance movement was more civilian, international and female then was ever allowed to remain. This book shines a light of the famous myth that the French freed themselves and that there were only a few scoundrels who collaborated during the Nazi occupation. Gildea challenges this in that resistance only capable of mobilising a minority of people everyone else attempted to carry on as if nothing had changed. At the end of the war it was the prostitute who was tar and feathered, while the likes of Coco Chanel and Edith Piaf got away with their collaboration, for example.One of the great things that his book does is contest the De Gaulle version of resistance and restores to their rightful positions those often ignored such as women and the Allied Armies. The Allies often referred to De Gaulle as their ‘mutual headache’. De Gaulle’s myth also ignored the anti-fascist fighters that came from Spain, they emigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, Jewish refugees and British Operatives from the SOE, these are now remembered. De Gaulle airbrushed them out of history Robert Gildea puts them back to where they belong at the centre of the resistance history.It required a great deal of courage to stand and make even the smallest of gestures against the Germans and the French Vichy collaborators, it was the French Police that confronted children of Beziers as they wanted to lay wreaths on Remembrance Day. It was the French Police, aided by French citizens, who rounded up the Jews and transported them to Paris for the final journey east, not the Germans.After the war plenty of romantic guff was written and movies made that enhanced the myth of French Resistance and it was not until 1971 that sentimental view was challenged in France, and even then somewhat drowns out.The French Resistance in the War occupies one of the great moral tests of the war and asks some challenging questions such as how ordinary people behaved and able to define themselves in what were dangerous times. Gildea has taken a step back and looked at the bigger picture that helps to give context to those acts of courage that did take place. Gildea has done more in this book to challenge the myth of resistance and ask people to open their eyes to the bigger picture as well as look at the moral and political impact on French history.It does leave one question hanging which only the reader can answer, how would we have acted if we had been occupied. One has to remember there were certainly people who were sympathetic to the German cause here too before one tries to take the moral high ground.

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