Charles Potter

The Resistance, 1940 :

An Anthology of Writings from the French Underground





During the decades following the Second World War, much has been written and published about activities of the French resistance following the military occupation of France by the German Reich in 1940. The Resistance, 1940 adds to our understanding of the critical first months after the collapse of the Third Republic through four first-hand accounts written by recognized leaders and founders of the French resistance movement.

Translated and annotated by Charles Potter, these four accounts enable anglophone students of the period to form opinions based upon the perspectives provided by resistance leaders who were operating in different regions and whose experiences were shaped by different personal backgrounds. Potter includes extensive introductions, annotations, and analysis to the documents, together with appendixes, an index, and a bibliography that all provide relevant insights to the events described by the resistance leaders.

First among the four accounts is a journal written by Jean Moulin during the weeks when the German army took control of northern France. Moulin was Prefect of Eure-et-Loir at the time when the government in Paris issued the order to retreat. Moulin instead remained at his post and his subsequent actions led him to become the most famous and celebrated of the French resistants. His journal is written with the precision of a trained civil servant, and is seen in its proper context with a foreword and appendix provided by Charles Potter. It is a gripping and first-rate journalistic account of the collapse as it took place.

The three accounts which follow are equally compelling, both for the history as recounted first-hand, and for the individual experiences that they convey. Germaine Tillion was one of the most highly revered doyennes of the resistance, as well as being a respected anthropologist and historian. Her memoir is an eye-witness account of the earliest days of the resistance and describes the formation of the first resistance group in France. Next to Jean Moulin, Henri Frenay was arguably the most influential leader of the French resistance. His tract Libération nationale is presented in this book along with an astute interpretation by Potter. Frenay was a military officer who organized a group of other officers in opposition to the provisional French government that had been established in Vichy. The final account in this collection was written many years after the war by Jean Garcin, who, like Frenay, was also a soldier who had escaped being held captive as a prisoner of war in the aftermath of the armistice.

Together, these four accounts demonstrate how people from all walks of life made a conscious decision to "break the law of the land, and the rule of the military occupier, to adopt a clandestine existence, and to join like-minded people in the resistance." Amongst many thousands of their compatriots whose acts of courage upheld resistance to military occupation and collaboration with the enemy, these four writers are represented in The Resistance, 1940 for their candor and their proven stature in the eyes of the French.




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The Resistance, 1940 : An Anthology of Writings from the French Underground

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The Resistance, 1940 : An Anthology of Writings from the French Underground