In France, the German occupation is called simply the "dark years." There were only the "good French" who resisted and the "bad French" who collaborated. Marianne in Chains, a broad and provocative history drawing on previously unseen archives, firsthand interviews, diaries, and eyewitness accounts, uncovers the complex truth of the time. Robert Gildea's groundbreaking study reveals the everyday life in the heart of occupied France; the pressing imperatives of work, food, transportation, and family obligations that led to unavoidable compromise and negotiation with the army of occupation.
After the Liberation of France, the Resistance was glorified and collaborators punished, but these convenient categories obscured the varied and equivocal experience of the ordinary populace. To capture this experience, Gildea concentrates on one region, the Loire, going deep into its archives and interviewing survivors. He describes the blurry line between civility and collaboration -- drinking with Germans in a café was acceptable; inviting them home was not -- and citizens' confusion about where their patriotic duty lay. Typically, people defined their loyalty within their immediate community, which explains their willingness to betray Communists and Jews, but also the lasting bitterness toward the Resistance for the reprisals its attacks on Germans provoked. In terms that would doubtless seem familiar to the inhabitants of other occupied countries, this subtle and humane book shows that the French experience of occupation was one of comfort, deprivation, heroism, pettiness, terror, excitement, pride, and shame.