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Post French Resistance and Melville's "Army of Shadows"
Created by John Eipper on 12/04/18 2:25 PM

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French Resistance and Melville's "Army of Shadows" (David Duggan, USA, 12/04/18 2:25 pm)

In light of the recent events in France, WAISers and others may want to find (perhaps at their local library), Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows (1969, but digitally remastered more recently), a masterpiece depicting the Resistance.

The opening scene has German soldiers marching down Les Champs Elysees, L'Arc de Triomphe in the background, for which Melville had to secure a special permit as German uniforms are forbidden to be depicted on the famous boulevard. Truly a remarkable film.

JE comments:  I checked Netflix, which doesn't have Army of Shadows.  You can "rent" it on YouTube for $3.99.  I'd like to hear David Pike's take on the film.  Might it overly romanticize the Resistance?  One takeaway I got from David's Paris under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944 was just how widespread collaboration was among Parisians.  We could start with Pétain (below).

The bottom line:  the French Resistance seems to have grown in numbers exponentially...after the war.  If I'm wrong, please set me straight.

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  • Italian Partisans of WWII, Before and After (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/09/18 12:07 PM)
    When commenting David Duggan's post of December 4th, John E wrote, "The French resistance seems to have grown in numbers exponentially...after the war."

    I don't have great knowledge of the French resistance, but it probably is similar to the Italian one.  Therefore I will give some numbers about the Italian resistance.

    After the unconditional surrender (fake armistice) of Italy, some soldiers of the collapsed army escaped to the mountains. At the end of September 1943 they numbered 1500, mostly in Piedmont. They were the remnants of the army that was occupying eastern France and had withdrawn home.

    Then the communists started acting, using the ex-fighters of the Spanish Civil War as leaders of the brigades. By the winter 1943-44 the number of partisans reached perhaps 4000. In the late spring-summer 1944 following the call to arms of the RSI, many young fellows to avoid service went to the mountains. Later, the fall of Montecassino seemed to open the way North for the Allies. At this point the partisans jumped to 50,000-60,000.

    But in November 1944 following the great offensive of the RSI and of the Wermacht plus General Alexander's invitation to go home for the winter, the number fell to 20-30,000.  Approaching the end many opportunists joined up, and on 25 April 1945 the partisans probably numbered 80,000.

    After the war, the Italian state recognized 393,341 people as partisans. This is quite an increase.

    Some presidents of the republic and many politicians of the left have quite often stated that the partisans defeated Nazi-Fascism and freed Italy. They evidently forget what the Allies did, but stating that they, the partisans or their heirs, are among the victors of WWII. The ridiculous knows no limits.

    In the schools, and not only there, the resistance is strongly supported and the few students who have the courage to question the resistance are threatened with failing grades.

    But the most important thing is that the resistance, especially its clandestine form in towns, was in violation of Art 1 of the Convention of The Hague 1907, in force during 1939-'45. Therefore it was a war crime and the countries that supported it with supplies or propaganda (tun tun run tuuuun V for victory and Beethoven's 5th, the identifying sound of the radio giving instructions in code) were committing war crimes.

    By the way, in the postwar years the new Geneva Convention partially modified the Art. 1.

    JE comments:  Nothing succeeds like success.  Eugenio, I've read very little about the Italian occupiers of France pre-September 1943.  Is there a definitive history in English of this event?

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    • Italy's WWII Occupation of France (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/12/18 6:08 AM)
      To answer John E's question of December 9th, I do not know of any definitive book in English about the Italian occupation of Southeast France during WWII. Anyway, here is my brief version:

      On 10 June 1940 the Italian Army assumed a defensive attitude. The idea (suggested by Churchill?) was to quickly reach a peace with Mussolini, repeating the miracle of Munich 1938. Instead France went on a bombing offensive, followed by the "Battle of the Alps" of 21-24 June. An armistice came on June 24th.

      Italy occupied a strip of land along the border, 832 square km with 28,523 inhabitants. Italy also received a naval base at Bordeaux, "Betasom," for its submarines.  After 8 September 1943 the base passed to the Navy of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana. These personnel surrendered to the Americans in May 1945.

      In November 1942 following the Allied invasion of North Africa, all the Free Territory of Vichy was occupied. Italy extended its presence to the river Rhone, and also occupied Corsica and Tunisia. There were almost no troubles, and for the Italian Army it was almost a vacation abroad. The French resistance, which started after the German invasion of Russia, did not give troubles to the Italians at least until the fall of Mussolini on 25 July 1943, but the new government started withdrawing troops.

      Probably the most bellicose action was an attack on a Vichy quarter to free some Jewish residents. About the fortunate situation of the Jews in the Italian Zone, to which they were moving from all over France, see Leon Poliakov, Jews under Italian Occupation (1983) or L'Etoile Jaune: La situtation des Juifs in France sous l'Occupation (1999).

      About this situation, Hitler sent Ribbentrop to Rome to try to convince Mussolini to deliver the Jews to the Germans, but without any success. Italian protection applied not only to the French Jews, but also to the Yugoslavian and Greek Jews. Mussolini during the war saved hundred of thousands of Jews with the help of his officers.  The latter received many recognitions, but the former (who gave the orders) only hatred. Something is wrong here.

      Giorgio Bocca was a fascist officer with the troops occupying France, but after 8 September 1943 he became a leader of the partisans in Piedmont. His book, Storia dell'Italia partigiana, is "politically correct" but nonetheless interesting. Anyway, his narrative is an attempt to recreate his "virginity." I have no idea idea if the book has been translated into English.

      JE comments:  I cannot find any English edition, although Bocca became rather famous as a journalist after the war.  He died in 2011 at the ripe age of 91.  Perhaps Roy Domenico can steer us in the right direction?

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