Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Abusive Use of the Word "Resistance" Regarding 1940s France

Many interesting letters from Le Monde readers regarding the daily's 70 Years Ago series, Recalling the Summer of 1940.

The testifying readers, many if not all of whom lived through the German invasion, include former aspirant Jacques Gauchet and his war stories; Monique Arveiler from Metz on the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine to the Third Reich; Guy Georges, who tries to explain the teachers' union's pacifism; Lucette Asso (née Mège), who was "lost" (for almost three months) at 9 with her 13-year-old brother during the evacuation of Paris's children; Henry Guillot, on the élitism, alleged or real, of France's first resistants; Michèle Bézille on history lessons under the occupation; Paul Vannier on Flying Fortresses; Patrick de Fréminet on la zone libre; Thérèse Wang, whose father attempted to escort Britain's French- based war bullion from la Banque de France through the countryside and out of the country; and Alphonse Drouan, whose parents lived a poignant love story during the years of occupation.

But the most interesting letter is probably that of Normandy's Jacques Gindrey, who protests the abusive usage of the word "Resistance" (with a capital R) to denote all sorts of activities that didn't really call for a massive amount of courage by, say, picking up a rifle and putting one's life at risk:

" Résistance "

Résistance, avec un grand " r ", on en trouve partout, bien plus qu'en 1940-1944 ! Résistance d'un instituteur contre de nouvelles modalités d'enseignement, Résistance contre les atteintes aux droits des Roms, Résistance contre l'EPR... Nous ne sommes certainement pas plus de 20 000 survivants à avoir résisté effectivement, fusil en main (ou l'équivalent : renseignement, etc.) avant septembre 1944, et encore moins avant le débarquement du 6 juin 1944. Alors, ne mettez plus de grand " r " à votre opposition à ceci ou à cela, gardez-nous notre Résistance, et n'utilisez ce grand mot que, si par malheur, surgissait le devoir de Résister " pour de vrai " !

Jacques Gindrey Vire (Calvados)

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