When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944

When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944

4.5 7
by Ronald C. Rosbottom
     
 

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The spellbinding and revealing chronicle of Nazi-occupied Paris

On June 14, 1940, German tanks entered a silent and nearly deserted Paris. Eight days later, France accepted a humiliating defeat and foreign occupation. Subsequently, an eerie sense of normalcy settled over the City of Light. Many Parisians keenly adapted themselves to the situation-even

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Overview

The spellbinding and revealing chronicle of Nazi-occupied Paris

On June 14, 1940, German tanks entered a silent and nearly deserted Paris. Eight days later, France accepted a humiliating defeat and foreign occupation. Subsequently, an eerie sense of normalcy settled over the City of Light. Many Parisians keenly adapted themselves to the situation-even allied themselves with their Nazi overlords. At the same time, amidst this darkening gloom of German ruthlessness, shortages, and curfews, a resistance arose. Parisians of all stripes-Jews, immigrants, adolescents, communists, rightists, cultural icons such as Colette, de Beauvoir, Camus and Sartre, as well as police officers, teachers, students, and store owners-rallied around a little known French military officer, Charles de Gaulle.

WHEN PARIS WENT DARK evokes with stunning precision the detail of daily life in a city under occupation, and the brave people who fought against the darkness. Relying on a range of resources—-memoirs, diaries, letters, archives, interviews, personal histories, flyers and posters, fiction, photographs, film and historical studies—-Rosbottom has forged a groundbreaking book that will forever influence how we understand those dark years in the City of Light.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/21/2014
When Hitler toured his legendary conquest in 1940, occupied Paris was sinking into a colorless tedium of paranoia and oppression punctuated by grey-clad Germans and miserable Parisians suffering from shortages and overregulation. Rosbottom, professor of French and European Studies at Amherst College, delivers distinctive, humanizing anecdotes that, while occasionally lacking attribution or further identifying context, otherwise illuminate well-documented events of the occupation. After the rise of the weak, disorganized, youth-driven resistance movement and the hunt for increasingly marginalized and imperiled Jews, the bureaucrat-driven 1944 liberation and violent aftermath of the post-occupation period seem almost anti-climactic. Bolstered by a user-friendly chronology and list of personalities, Rosbottom packs his tales with memorable descriptions of both the subtle and overwhelming changes that seeped into daily life, making for a moving portrayal of the awkward coexistence of occupation—from the vantage points of both weary Parisians and confused, low-level German soldiers alike. Rosbottom highlights how leaderless, ordinary people and their formerly glittering city turned as grey as the occupiers' uniforms. Maps & photos. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"Ronald C. Rosbottom's rigorously researched and deeply compelling book, When Paris Went
Dark
, examines the relationship between the occupiers and the occupied,
specifically how the vanquished Parisians either fought against or adapted to the conditions imposed by their Nazi rulers....Rosbottom strikes a perfect tone that is neither too scholarly nor too familiar and produces a chronicle that edifies as it entertains."—Malcom Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune"

A well-rounded overview....The strength of Mr. Rosbottom's book lies in the details he has culled from memoirs, letters, papers, films, plays, songs, and diaries that illuminate the experience of both the occupiers and the occupied."—Caroline Moorehead, Wall Street Journal"

A profound historical portrait of Paris for anyone who loves the city."—Dallas Morning News"

A riveting account of one of the most resonant hostage-takings in history: the 1,500 days when a swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower. Ronald Rosbottom illuminates every corner of a darkened, heartsick city, exploring the oddities, capturing the grisly humor, and weighing the prices of resistance, accommodation, collaboration. The result is an intimate, sweeping narrative, astute in its insight and chilling in its rich detail."—Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra, A Great Improvisation, and Véra"

When Paris Went Dark recounts, through countless compelling stories, how Nazi occupation drained the light from Paris and how many of its residents resisted in ways large and small. This is a rich work of history, a brilliant recounting of how hope can still flourish in the rituals of daily life."—Scott Turow, author of Identical"

Ronald Rosbottom has recreated the Parisian world during the dark days of the German occupation like no previous writer I know. His secret is two-fold: first, exhaustive research that allows him to recover what we might call the importance of the ordinary; and second, a shrewd grasp of how memory works, often in strange ways."—Joseph J. Ellis, Ford Foundation Professor Emeritus at Mount Holyoke College, author of Founding Brothers, American Sphinx, and Revolutionary Summer

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-06-12
An exploration of “what it would have been like to be [in Paris] under the German Occupation during the Second World War.”The City of Light passed the war years in a period of sustained urban anxiety, when lives were constantly disrupted and fear reigned. France’s army, “the uninspired being led by the incompetent,” surrendered to the Nazis in June 1940. Rosbottom (Arts and Humanities, French and European Studies/Amherst Coll.) explains the interactions of the French and their occupiers in a way that illuminates their separate miseries. He makes us see that we can never judge those who lived during the occupation just because we know the outcome. If you think you might live the rest of your life under Nazi control, you do everything you can just to survive, feed your family and not get arrested. Who can judge what is accommodation, appeasement, acceptance, collaboration or treason? When they moved in, the Germans requisitionedall automobiles, rationed food, established curfews and cut back on power. The French police were merely German puppets, responsible for nearly 90 percent of the Jewish arrests. The members of the Vichy government were equally reviled. The author attentively includes German and French letters and journals that explain the loneliness, desperation and the very French way of getting by. Both during and after the war, the French seemed to be highly prone to denouncing their fellow resistors, neighbors, friends and family, but the Resistance was nothing like we’re shown in many popular portrayals. Instead, there was mostly quiet defiance, such as whistling when Nazis trooped by or printing anti-German and anti-Vichy tracts. The Resistance was only truly effective the few days before and after D-Day. Otherwise, the foolhardy deeds of a few young, disorganized men brought brutal reprisals and misery.A profound historical portrait of Paris for anyone who loves the city.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316217446
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
08/05/2014
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
124,226
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

What People are saying about this

author of Cleopatra, A Great Improvisation, and Véra - Stacy Schiff
"A riveting account of one of the most resonant hostage-takings in history: the 1,500 days when a swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower. Ronald Rosbottom illuminates every corner of a darkened, heartsick city, exploring the oddities, capturing the grisly humor, and weighing the prices of resistance, accommodation, collaboration. The result is an intimate, sweeping narrative, astute in its insight and chilling in its rich detail."
Ford Foundation Professor Emeritus at Mount Holyoke College, author of Founding Brothers, American Sphinx, and Revolutio - Joseph J. Ellis
"Ronald Rosbottom has recreated the Parisian world during the dark days of the German occupation like no previous writer I know. His secret is two-fold: first, exhaustive research that allows him to recover what we might call the importance of the ordinary; and second, a shrewd grasp of how memory works, often in strange ways."
author of Identical - Scott Turow
"When Paris Went Dark recounts, through countless compelling stories, how Nazi occupation drained the light from Paris and how many of its residents resisted in ways large and small. This is a rich work of history, a brilliant recounting of how hope can still flourish in the rituals of daily life."

Read More

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