This book provides a unique perspective on the Allied bombing of France during the Second World War which killed around 57,000 French civilians. Using oral history as well as archival research, it provides an insight into children's wartime lives in which bombing often featured prominently, even though it has slipped out of French collective memory. The book compares three French towns with different experiences of bombing: Boulogne-Billancourt , Brest, and Lille. Divided into three parts dealing with expectations, experiences and explanations of bombing, the book considers the child's view of wartime violence, analysing resilience, understanding and trauma. The first part of the book deals with the time before bombing. It examines how the French prepared for war and preparations made specifically for bombing, showing how state-level and municipal-level preparations. The second part considers the time during bombing and its aftermath. It discusses the experience of being bombed, examining children's practical, sensory and emotional responses. The fascinating and frightening scenes in the immediate aftermath of bombing that made lasting impressions on children, including destruction, chaos and encounters with violent, public death. Changes in status as a result of bombing becoming a sinistre, refugee or evacuee had far-reaching consequences in some children's lives, affecting their education and economic situation. The last section looks at the way in which air raids were explained to the French population. It considers the propaganda that criticised and defended the Allies, and an understanding of the history of Vichy.
condition that afflicts France as a
nation and that may be applicable to subsequent conflicts in Frenchcollectivememory, above all the Algerian War.
Rousso’s model has proved influential for scholars of memory studies
due to the critical attention the author pays to what might be perceived
as the white noise of the Second World War in French public life. Rousso’s model is attentive to the public narratives, agencies and arenas of war
memory that have shaped Frenchcollectivememory. Yet, Rousso’s model
of war memories is problematic when applied to fictional
New configurations of Frenchness in contemporary urban fiction
in Frenchcollectivememory, inviting other artists, writers, or musicians, to talk about the massacre. The collaboration between historians and urban writers or musicians
later materialized in the book Don’t Panik, co-written by historian Pascal
Boniface and rapper Médine, who is also famous for the song ‘17 octobre’
describing the October 1961 tragedy.
In his 2006 novel Banlieue Voltaire, Didier Mandin describes the daily life
of young adults of Caribbean descent and explores the cultural gap between
the experiences of the parents, who grew up in Martinique or
evidence that the Allies fought on, that the bombers grew stronger and
that liberation was coming.
Édith can only partially remember the sequence of events leading up
to the moment Jacques left the house. She has replayed them in her mind
for 65 years, sharing them only with her sister. Her husband Jean heard
them with me for the first time in our interview in April 2009. Historian
Jean-François Muracciole has described the Allied bombing as ‘the last
“black hole” in Frenchcollectivememory of the Second World War’.3
While bombing is prominent and meaningful in private
thirty years and is gradually being transformed into historical time by the
succession of generations. During that same period, the body of texts has
grown steadily through a regular flow of annual publications. In retrospect,
immigration literature approaches Frenchcollectivememory as a process of
sedimentation which opens, today, a significant perspective onto the presence of a postcolonial mentality inherited from the painful fractures between
France and its colonies, a period culminating in the last war of liberation,
the 1954–62 Algerian War of
government, and the fact that the war had
not become part of Frenchcollectivememory (Stora, 1997: 175). In the
case of the harkis, who were already associated with invisibility and silence,
and who would later be described as ‘les oubliés de l’histoire’ (the people
forgotten by history),2 the absence was very real, and they rarely appeared in
fiction films made before 2000.
The presence of the harkis in France first manifested itself in the public
arena in other domains. First, the media reported widely on a series of riots
that broke out in the housing camps in summer
‘Frenchcollectivememory of the Second
World War’. It is certainly the case that bombing has not featured in the
dominant narratives of this historical period – what I might prefer to
call ‘public memory’: the way that past has been represented back to the
public over the intervening period (and the subject of Henri Rousso’s
highly influential work on the development of public memory of the
Occupation period in France, pathologised as a ‘syndrome’ afflicting
the population).28 French public memory has not, until very recently,
included the Allied bombing; its
, across the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Hundreds
of mutineers faced courts martial. This was very much more than the
‘two days of madness’ or ‘two bad days’ as Leygues described it in the
Chamber of Deputies.25
The historiography of a mutiny
This book proposes a fundamental reassessment of these events and
their significance in cycles of transnational contention, Frenchcollectivememory and political culture. The existing historiography of the mutinies is deficient in this regard. André Marty dominated early versions of
the mutinies (which was to be expected given
5 Georges Dillinger, ‘Brève évocation de la fin de l’Algérie’, La Lettre de Véritas,
93 (May 2005), 11.
6 Jim House and Neil MacMaster, Paris 1961: Algerians, State Terror and
Memory (Oxford, 2006), p. 315.
7 Antoine Prost, ‘The Algerian War in FrenchCollectiveMemory’, in War and
Remembrance in the Twentieth Century, ed. by Jay Winter and Emmanuel
Sivan (Cambridge, 1999), p. 166.
8 Florence Beaugé, ‘Torturée par l’armée française en Algérie, “Lila” recherché
l’homme qui l’a sauvée’, Le Monde (20 June 2000), p. 1.
9 See, for example, Pierre-Henri Simon
final hours of the German Occupation (1940–44), French society has found it nigh on impossible to recount a coherent story of the events of the Second World War. As James Chisem ( 2011 ) stated, the ‘collective memory of WWII in France has been defined by the existence of competing and contested narratives’. Johnnie Gratton argued that the difficulties of this period rendered France even more incapable of confronting its collective past: ‘Until very recently, the Occupation years held only a small place, and a highly doctored one at that, in France's collectivememory