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

by Ronald C. Rosbottom


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When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ronald C. Rosbottom

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.

Product Details

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

About the Author

Ronald C. Rosbottom is the Winifred L. Arms Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Professor of French and European Studies at Amherst College. Previously, he was the Dean of the Faculty at Amherst, Chair of the Romance Languages Department at The Ohio State University, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Chronology of the Occupation of Paris xi

Major Personalities xix

Preface xxiii

Introduction 3

Faux Paris 3

Sequestering Medusa 5

Paris Was Different 11

Chapter 1 A Nation Disintegrates Preludes 19

Three Traumas 25

Chapter 2 Waiting for Hitler 47

"They" Arrive, and Are Surprised 47

One Who Stayed, One Who Left 53

"They" Settle In 60

Hitler's Own Tour 72

The Führer's Urbanophobia 91

Chapter 3 Minuet (1940-1941) 97

How Do You Occupy a City? 97

For Some, Paris Was a Bubble 100

Dancing the Minuet 106

Correct, but Still Nazis 117

"To Bed, to Bed!" 119

An Execution in Paris 125

Chapter 4 City Without a Face-The Occupier's Lament 130

Paris Had Already Welcomed the Nazis-Before the Occupation 130

The Occupiers Are Surprised, Too 133

A Dreamer in Exile 143

Sexually Occupied 145

A "Better" German 151

Recollected Solitude 154

Chapter 5 Narrowed Lives 160

Narrowing and Boredom 160

The Apartment 168

A Crowded Metro 182

The Informer 186

The Queue 190

Chapter 6 The Dilemmas of Resistance 196

Quoi faire? 196

Resistant Paris 203

Bébés Terroristes 213

The Red Poster 223

A Female Resistance 233

Who Got the Credit? 237

Chapter 7 The Most Narrowed Lives-The Hunt for Jews 240

Being Jewish in Paris 240

Three Girls on the Move 252

A Gold Star 260

The Big Roundup 272

Chapter 8 How Much Longer? (1942-1944) 287

"You Can Come Over Now!" 287

The Plague 297

Observers from the Palace 302

Signs of Defeat 305

Chapter 9 Liberation-A Whodunit 310

Is Paris Worth a Detour? 310

The Beast of Sevastopol Arrives 317

"Tous aux barricades!" 325

Why Do Americans Smile So Much? 337

Whodunit? 344

Chapter 10 Angry Aftermath-Back on Paris Time 349

Rediscovering Purity 349

"Kill All the Bastards!" 358

The Return of Lost Souls 363

Chapter 11 Is Paris Still Occupied? 367

De Gaulle Creates a Script 367

Stumbling Through Memory 372

Should We Blame Paris? 378

"The Landscape of Our Confusions" 381

Appendix: De Gaulle's Speech on the Liberation of Paris 385

Acknowledgments 387

Notes 393

Selected Bibliography 405

Index 431

About the Author 448

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."

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When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like history books that focus on a single area; the all in one volume misses most of what really affected people.  This view of the Occupation is great:  the author interviewed a lot of people and did a lot of research.  Whatever I thought I knew about the occupation, it's not so much I was wrong, but that I didn't know enough.  It was a big part of World War II.  At first Hitler admired Paris, but when the Germans were leaving, he wanted it bombed into oblivion. It's surprising to find out how many people were affected by the occupation and how many did what they had to to survive.    
RK-AC_J More than 1 year ago
Ronald Rosbottom captures what life was like for Parisians who endured German occupation during World War II. The book gives attention to everyday Parisian citizens; to Jews facing prejudice, injustice and cruelty; and to the German occupiers who faced growing scorn and hostility from the local population. It illuminates how Hitler pictured Paris and why he protected it as an open city through much of the war. The author raises profound questions and offers different perspectives on these. He draws on a rich variety of sources to bring Paris alive during the war years. To gain a deeper empathy for Parisian inhabitants during World War II, this is a book worth reading.
TheLoon More than 1 year ago
No, I was more disappointed in this book than impressed. First this work is highly psychological and philosophical. The reader needs to buy into the whole notion that what happened in Paris during the war should best be seen in those terms. Is a woman who has sexual affairs with German officers really a human being probably not guilty of much, at least in her own mind? That we should judge her or anyone based on non war conditions? Etc. Is everything in war "relative" or too hard to judge? Secondly, I thought the author had an out of date, simplistic view of the behavior of the French Army in 1940. It has been more than a decade now that competent military thinking has expelled the myths of 50 years ago that French soldiers threw down their arms and disgraced the nation. They lost the Battle of France decisively and quickly. They were horribly led at the top by General Gamelin and had some outdated concepts of war, but today it is widely understood today that any army facing the Blitzkrieg in 1940 would have lost, even the much admired American army. Finally, and most importantly, Professor Rosbottom perpetuates the long standing rant that France, almost uniquely, failed her Jewish citizens. The lowest numbers I have ever read or heard are that over 50% of all Jews in France survived the war. Though this represents a horrific crime is it really true as suggested in this book and many others that this represents a real failure on France to save them? How? Which major Jewish countries in Europe occupied by the Nazis' did better? None did even half as well. Is it true as the author suggests that Jews in France would have done better had French police refused to round them up? Where did that strategy work? Indeed, as the author specifically refutes, it is statistically very accurate to point out that French born Jews had a very high chance to survive the Holocaust in France. I just found the whole book to be too heavy on inaccurate left wing finger wagging while being too inaccurate on modern scholarship on the war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read many books about WWII, but none that I've been as engrossed in as this from the beginning. "When Paris Went Dark..." describes the city during the German Occupation, 1940-44. The research must have taken Prof. Rosbottom years to accomplish through numerous resources -- memoirs, diaries, letters, interviews, historical material and photographs, etc. of those who lived in Paris as inhabitants or occupiers during that period. You leave the book with a sense of having lived there yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Filled with great insight into the Nazi occupation of Paris.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago