The Western Front

Lies and More Lies

Having come across several references this spring to a French literary critic, Jean Sévillia, who is criticizing leftist historical reconstructions, I read his two most recent books, Le Terrorisme Intellectuel (2000) and Historiquement correct: Pour en finir avec le passé unique (2003).  An associate editor of Le Figaro magazine, Sévillia makes clear that he is sick of “anti-fascist” polemics and has set out to demonstrate their dishonesty.  What make Sévillia’s investigations especially useful are his caustic refutations of leftist orthodoxies.

He is merciless in going after the now widespread and deeply embedded lies that the communists in France were always the backbone of the anti-Nazi resistance, while Catholics and monarchists happily collaborated with the German invaders.  Particularly since the 70’s, with the appearance of Marcel Ophuls’ interminable pseudodocumentary on Clermont-Ferrand during the occupation (Le Chagrin et la Pitié) and with the publication of the book The Jews in Vichy France (1973), by Michael Marrus, the view has come to prevail that wartime France swarmed with pro-Nazi collaborators, typically identified with the Church and the nationalist right.  The older historical account, typified by de Gaulle’s memoirs and Robert Aron’s Histoire de Vichy, which emphasized...

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