James E. Connolly
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Notable protests
Respectable resistance (coups de gueule polis)

This chapter proposes the analytical concept of ‘respectable resistance’ via an in-depth examination of frequent protests of local notables – mayors, municipal councillors, industrialists, clergymen – against German orders. It considers the importance of respectability and politeness in even these oppositional social relations, and suggests that notable protests had a performative element to them – whereas the Germans unequivocally understood them as resistance.

Such protests often comprised letters, written refusals to provide the Germans with access to materials or manpower to be used for military ends, and were bolstered by juridical reasoning citing international, French, and even German law. There is some evidence of centralised, organised mass protests; in any case, both spontaneous and organised protests continued throughout the occupation, despite the fact that notables and communes were often punished as a result, often acquiescing in the end. The chapter suggests that this resistance was nevertheless somewhat successful in the sense of buying time and boosting the morale of the occupied population.

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