Courage and its Costs in the French Resistance

In the good old days of Hollywood cowboy movies the truth was always obvious, the good guys wore white hats, and the villains wore black ones. In the real world, judgments of people and of their behavior are not that simple. A particular example of this is the differing versions of the behavior of French people that have been and are being expounded in the flood of books and commentaries about the Vichy regime and the occupation of France by Nazi Germany during World War II.

There has always been a kind of moral ambiguity about this. For almost thirty years there was deliberate official organized amnesia about the distressing fact of widespread collaboration of French people with the Nazis. Collective memory was, as the historian Pierre Nora suggested, used by groups to interpret the past. Specific dates and individuals are commemorated and may become familiar through political emphasis and cultural carriers of film, media, and literature, while others may suffer from collective amnesia.