Paris at War chronicles the lives of ordinary Parisians during World War II, from September 1939 when France went to war with Nazi Germany to liberation in August 1944. Readers will relive the fearful exodus from the city as the German army neared the capital, the relief and disgust felt when the armistice was signed, and the hardships and deprivations under Occupation. David Drake contrasts the plight of working-class Parisians with the comparative comfort of the rich, exposes the activities of collaborationists, and traces the growth of the Resistance from producing leaflets to gunning down German soldiers. He details the intrigues and brutality of the occupying forces, and life in the notorious transit camp at nearby Drancy, along with three other less well known Jewish work camps within the city.
The book gains its vitality from the diaries and reminiscences of people who endured these tumultuous years. Drake’s cast of characters comes from all walks of life and represents a diversity of political views and social attitudes. We hear from a retired schoolteacher, a celebrated economist, a Catholic teenager who wears a yellow star in solidarity with Parisian Jews, as well as Resistance fighters, collaborators, and many other witnesses.
Drake enriches his account with details from police records, newspapers, radio broadcasts, and newsreels. From his chronology emerge the broad rhythms and shifting moods of the city. Above all, he explores the contingent lives of the people of Paris, who, unlike us, could not know how the story would end.
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.90(d)|
About the Author
David Drake has taught at universities in London and Paris and has published widely on French intellectual and cultural history.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There is a famous quote attributed to Stalin: “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”. This book, more than anything else, is an embodiment of this quote. Millions of people died or had their lives irreparably damaged by World War II, and almost everyone today is aware of the statistics. What this book brings home to the reader, through its use of diary entries of ordinary Parisians alongside the historical timeline, is how the German occupation of Paris impinged upon the every day life (and death) of every person within the city. I began writing this review by outlining what happened, what I learned that surprised me (lots!), things I thought that deserved wider attention ....I wrote more notes on this book (about 15 A4 sides!), than on any other book I have read in the last decade. And then I finally realised, that I want you to read this book – not my review. When reading this book, you get to know some of the individuals living (subsisting) in Paris during the occupation. You know that things are going to get worse before liberation, but you start the (mistakenly) believe that all “your” people will survive as their words have done, that history will change – at least in some small cases. And, yes – it is not all bleak. At the end of the book is a round up of what happened to the diarists, some of whom made it into the 21st century. But for me, one of the most upsetting sentences in the book was: “deported to Drancy (Auschwitz/ Bergen Belsen/ Sobibor ....) and never returned”. This is a book about the quiet heroism of ordinary people, and the veniality and evil of others. There are the historical facts, figure and statistics, but also the tragedies and triumphs of individuals. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Stunning, compelling, informative, life-affirming and tragic. Read it!