Book Review: Vichy France by Robert Paxton

This seminal book first published in 1972 exploded the myth that Vichy was imposed by the Nazis in the face of massive French resistance. It also ignited public discussion of Vichy in France itself with Paxton being subsequently called as a witness in trials of former Vichy officials. Paxton describes how Vichy hoped to become an equal partner in the new Nazi German dominated Europe, while at the same time maintaining the fiction of neutrality. Vichy’s actions were in part motivated to save her fleet and her empire but when even these were lost at the end of 1942, Paxton shows how Vichy was motivated by fear of an allied invasion and a desire to become a broker in a future peace treaty.

Vichy was never a fully signed up Fascist regime but a proponent of a mix of socially conservative, Catholic, agrarian, anti-Communist, anti-Anglo-Saxon and anti-Semitic ideologies. Despite this Vichy was domestically a technocratic regime with the same civil servants running the Vichy war economy later in charge of post war economic planning as if nothing had happened.

Not a light read with plenty of detail and statistics but a serious historical classic.  5 stars.

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