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Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  111 ratings  ·  21 reviews
In this new history of the Nazi occupation of France, Ian Ousby uncovers a reality more complex, more human, and ultimately more moving than the myths and legends that have emerged after the event. Resistance came late. DeGaulle's appeal in 1940 for France to fight on went largely unheard, and the Occupation was fourteen months old before the first German soldier was kille ...more
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by St. Martin's Press (first published 1998)
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Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched, well organised, philosophical overview of France under Nazi occupation. The author depicts a humiliated, abject nation where collaboration and opportunism are much more common than resistance. How the Nazis found a lot of extreme right wing anti-semitic feeling in France to exploit and thus were often able to let the willing French do their dirty work for them. It's interesting how novels mostly depict the French as heroic freedom fighters which seems a case of ignoring the ma ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-two
L'enfer, c'est les Autres. . The polite Wehrmacht tourist soldiers, the SS, la Gestapo, the polite policiers who checked whether your papers were in order and rang your door in the morning. They were behind the hungry queues, the improvised wartime chic in their beflowered turbans, the French workers who slaved on the Dora V-2 site along Russian P.O.W.'s.

Sartre's oft misanthropically expanded line suits an atmosphere of ambiguity which runs like a grey thread throughout the book. The ordeal of F
Jill Hutchinson
It depends on how you view the collaboration of the French people during the occupation of their country, especially Paris, by the Nazis during WWII as to how you will enjoy or dislike this book. However, if you have no preconceived notions about that period of French history it will provide an interesting window on a time of defeatism, ennui,collaboration and eventual resistance.

The author has done in-depth research into the activities of the government, both at Vichy, and in London/Algiers whe
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The occupation of France during the Second World War has to be viewed from a distance to be brought into focus at all. It is done brilliantly by the Englich historian Ian Ousby. He searched original sources to capture the attitudes of the times, as well as specific events. France suffered swift military defeat and then the humiliation of a collaborationist government. Petain's Vichy government hoped to negotiate better terms for French citizens, and it seemed to be working until Germany's need f ...more
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This book is, quite simply, brilliant. If you want a guide to how life was actually lived under Nazi rule, look no further. I'm studying the topic in French lessons at the moment and this book has been invaluable. It's readable, interesting, and if you've an interest in French writers like Sartre it gives you a rather unique perspective on their role in the Resistance. Also, quite a few of the terms are left untranslated, making it pretty useful for all the essays I'll have to write come summer. ...more
Fred Sampson
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feeling that my curiosity about this piece of European history has been satisfied. Absorbed more than I imagined I'd want to know about the German occupation of France, Vichy, Marshall Petain, de Gaulle, and all the various other characters. And sadly reconfirms all the horrible things humans can do to each other in the name of ideology, revenge, hatred, and stupidity. ...more
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book on the occupation of France and the Fascist Vichy government under Petain, that replaced "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" with "Work, Family, Country". ...more
This book is a fascinating narration and analysis of the 1940-44 Nazi Occupation of France, which I set out to explore after reading two novels set during this period: the sad and wonderful Suite Française and the Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See. In this book you learn about what Germany sought to accomplish through the Occupation and how the French government came to agree to it. You learn about what daily life was like for French citizens and about why some of them became “c ...more
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found Ousby to be a skilled historian and engaging writer. "Occupation" exposes the precarious situation of the Vichy regime and depicts the hardships of living under harsh military occupation. ...more
Jul 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hgs
Intricate, detailed account of life under occupation.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A psychological evaluation and moral judgment by a perceptive British historian, not a detailed accounting of the Occupation regime as such, Ousby nevertheless gives a comprehensive look at the quality of French life under Nazi rule. Thanks to his incisive questioning of stereotypes he peels away the layers of what collaboration and resistance meant in real terms, finding that an individual could represent both, especially in the muddied moral terrain of Vichy. Is a Parisian who defies the Nazi ...more
Roger Eustis
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who, like me, has travelled in France since childhood Ian Ousby's account of the Occupation is a must-read.

British kids of a certain age grew up with some very blinkered myths handed down by their parents about France under the Nazis. Which in turn were fostered by wartime British propaganda for the Home Front, plus stories from returned soldiers.

The key myth of course was that the heroic French Resistance had ' liberated France'.

Ousby's book covers all aspects of a dark time for the
Steve Nichols
The author is English. I’m pretty sure he establishes that in the first sentence of the book. And then he proceeds the throw in phrases that are in French in practically every paragraph as if to demonstrate his knowledge of, and fluency in, French. Sometimes he translates them into English and the rest of the time he doesn’t, as if we should just know what the hell he just said, means. It’s annoying as hell and detracted from an otherwise outstanding history lesson.
T. Fowler
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a very literate writing style, without going into intricate details, Ousby presents a good picture of the complex issues of the German occupation of France.
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dry & brief, large in concept, yet minimal detail.
Eldon New
Really informative. Timely.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Excellent short history of the defeat, occupation and liberation of France. Ousby chronicles both the politics (Vichy government, Petain, De Gaulle, etc) and the various factions/types of resistance (urban, country, communist, maquisards, etc). The romanticized versions you see in most WW2 movies leave out the difficult and complicated truths. It's hard to understand the French without knowing this story. ...more
Dec 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
The story of the French under German occupation is one well worth a good book. That book is not this one. Scattered and disorganized, devoid of any human element, this book commits the cardinal sin of telling history: it fails to make us care, relegating the story to facts and figures stripped of any emotional context. A laborious read.
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the story of the nazi occupation of france is not all about resistance but about the daily struggle to preserve normality. couldn't help but think about us occupation of iraq, where resistance is much fiercer and the occupiers are much less welcome. damn. ...more
Ross Parkinson
A British take on a complex subject. Interesting.
Max Carmichael
On the plus side, remarkably balanced in its portrayal of the politicians and fighters; on the minus side, far too focused on the politicians and fighters
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I an Ousby's life began - and ended - in tragedy. The birth was tragic, or at least bleak, because his army officer father had been stabbed to death in the India of 1947, independence year, while his mother was pregnant with him. The death was tragic, or at least deeply sad, because his industry, insight, versatility, critical and literary skills, which had created a considerable reputation for hi ...more

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“It was not till he was close upon us that I saw the man. He was little and elderly, with bowed shoulders and poorly dressed. I doubt whether I would have noticed him at all if it had not been for the sinister distinguishing mark on his left breast, the yellow star with Juif printed across it…. I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned. He passed us by without looking at us, but it was a full minute before I recovered the use of my legs. In all my life I have never felt so deeply humiliated.” 0 likes
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