Julian Jackson on Daniel Cordier on the French Resistance
January 12, 2010 4 Comments
Anyone interested in the history of the French Resistance should become familiar with the memoirs of Daniel Cordier. To be convinced of that, I recommend Julian Jackson’s recent critical review of Cordier’s book (here).
In his extensive review, Jackson notes that the current French President, Nicolas Sarkozy,
has attempted to refocus attention on the Resistance. His first presidential decision was to instruct teachers to read to their junior classes every year a letter written from prison by the 17-year-old Resistance fighter Guy Môquet on the eve of his execution. Soon afterwards, Sarkozy visited the Plateau of Glières, site of a major Resistance uprising in 1944. This has led to accusations that Sarkozy is shamelessly annexing the Resistance to his cause. A film has just opened in Paris telling the story of Walter Bassan, a communist fighter at Glières, who was deported to Dachau. Now aged 82 and as vigorous as ever, Bassan argues in the film that Sarkozy’s policies, especially its attacks on illegal immigrants, are a betrayal of the values he had joined the Resistance to defend.
I hope to see the Bassan film in due course.
Jackson recounts events that led to Cordier’s decision to research more carefully aspects of the Resistance. Cordier focuses, naturally, on Resistance leader Jean Moulin, under whom Cordier served during the Resistance.
Elements noted in Jackson’s review include:
- competing motives for Resistance among its participants;
- President Roosevelt’s dislike for General Charles de Gaulle;
- the paradoxes of sympathy for the Resistance by the most unlikely of French citizens;
- ironic tactics used by agents in the Resistance to identify each other;
- antipathy toward de Gaulle by Resistance leaders;
- suspicion towards each other by various Resistance groups; and,
- what Jackson calls the unwritten story of homosexuality in the Resistance.
Mysteries about what transpired during the Resistance, whether in detail or in general outline, abound. Julian Jackson, noting a number of these, wonders about the mixture of history and fallible memory in Cordier’s memoirs. If you are irresistibly curious about the vicissitudes of the Resistance, and you can’t get to the book, read the review.
- Jackson’s review of Cordier is in English, but Cordier’s book, Alias Caracalla : mémoires, 1940-1943 (Paris, Gallimard, 2009), is in French.
- Go here for the English translation of the French entry in Wikipedia about Daniel Cordier.
- Jackson refers to the documentary film The Sorrow and the Pity, which was reviewed favorably by the celebrated film critic Pauline Kael, in The New Yorker, March 25, 1972. See her book For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies.