Term Paper: Modern French History

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¶ … Oradour-sur-Glane fit into the "Vichy Syndrome." Postwar France and the reorganization of the once German-occupied country did not proceed smoothly. The residents were bitter about the Occupation of their country, and even more bitter about the Vichy regime that was the only area of France allowed to be self-governed during the occupation. The massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane fits into the Vichy Syndrome because it was one of the conflicts that resulted from the Resistance during the Occupation, and because it was a period of "unfinished mourning" and civil unrest.

Historian Henry Rousso created the term "Vichy Syndrome." He defines it as, "The Vichy syndrome consists of a diverse set of symptoms whereby the trauma of the Occupation, and particularly that trauma resulting from internal divisions within France, reveals itself in political, social, and cultural life. Since the end of the war, moreover, that trauma has been perpetuated and at times exacerbated."

The massacre at Oradour represents that trauma perfectly, because it happened by misunderstanding and because of internal divisions within the country.

The government at Vichy was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Frenchmen, and most of the French resented the Vichy regime because it had close ties to the Nazis, and they felt they sympathized far too heavily with their occupiers. The Resistance movement in France struggled to overthrow the Germans, but they were never able to reach their goal during the war. After the war, tensions were still extremely high in France, and they were not easily resolved. Another writer notes, "A tension emerged between desire to celebrate glorious or heroic actions (of the resistance) and to forget the shameful (of the collaborators). The memory and consequent memorialization of Nazis atrocities centered on crimes committed against the French like the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane."

Thus, the massacre at the tiny village became a national outrage, just another aspect of the Vichy Syndrome and its aftermath in France.

What actually happened at Oradour-sur-Glane? On June 10, 1944, German soldiers of the Der Fuhrer Regiment of the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division Das Reich received word that a German hostage was being held by French Resistance members in the village of Oradour-sur-Vayres, but the Germans confused that village with Oradour-sur-Glane, which was nearby the other village. They entered the village, and seperated the men from the women and children. They then took the men to a barn, shot them all, and set the barn on fire. In all, 190 men died in the attack, while five managed to escape. The women and children were placed in a church, and the Germans placed a gas bomb inside. When they tried to escape, they shot them. In all, 247 women and 205 children died, while only one woman managed to escape. The Germans massacred 642 people, everyone in the town, and a few others who were just passing through, and then they destroyed most of the town. They seemed to believe that the Resistance had a pocket of fighters there, and they were trying to send a message to them, it seems.

Clearly, there was great division in France during the Occupation. The Resistance routinely attempted to interfere with Nazi operations however they could, and the Resistance saw the Vichy government as traitors for working with the Nazis. The French people were equally divided, but their outrage at the Oradour massacre was universal. The Germans left the town after they looted it, and it did not take long for people to find the results of their massacre. Writer Williams continues, "During the day many French people made their way into town and finally discovered the true nature of the disaster. The first shock was of course seeing the destruction of the town, then the discovery of the remains in the church, followed by the realisation of the full scale of the killings."

News spread everywhere, and the survivors were taken to hospitals, where they told their… [END OF PREVIEW]

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