Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Book of the Month

Frederic Spotts
Yale University Press, 2008

Usually, I write a book review every month for our web site that relates somewhat to the time and experiences we had while on active duty. Others have highlighted major American figures that have leveraged their military careers into civilian and political leadership positions at times of major national crisis. I like these stories about our leaders rising from a fairly common but purposeful American childhood where no one would have guessed their innate abilities or the scope of their future. Those “who earned their wings” through the eyes of their comrades in the most trying of circumstances. They are the story of America and they are thus compelling in both spirit and patriotism. Their successes were a large part of the foundations for American Exceptionalism. Our history, in many instances, is their lives.

But, this month I am taking a different tack and one that I hope you enjoy. Those of us who served in the C-133’s during the early 60’s fondly remember our many trips to Chatteroux, France, hopping the train to Paris, spending the nights in the American Hotel for $2.00, and I could go on for some time. But, WWII was only a scant 15 years past and one of the most “inglorious responses to Nazi rule” was still largely unspoken. It was a cloud that we did not know about. It was the shameful story of the French cultural establishment and their collaboration with the Germans in order to live a life of luxury and safety during the occupation of France, especially in Paris. Traitorous collaboration was so conspicuous that a spontaneous purge began the moment allied troops entered Paris resulting in an estimated 1600 summary executions.

In my opinion, the lack of serious study of French history under German rule is second only to the indifference by contemporary scholars to the criminal dimension of Communism. Such blatant absence of academic research undermines the fabric of worldwide democracy. In both examples, it seems telling that the intellectuals aligned themselves with the enemy of humanity rather than their fellow man. Seemingly, they have now chosen a path that hides their cowardly deeds and their involvement in these two movements of such evil that the world still shudders from its content. Why did they do it and why do they deny it?

But, now comes The Shameful Peace by Frederic Spotts casting a brilliant light upon the disgraceful and dishonorable actions of French artists and intellectuals during the Nazi occupation. We can only hope that more such serious studies are to emerge, as they should help citizens of all countries in evaluating their leadership during times of crisis. I considered reviewing it; but I can add nothing to that published in the WSJ by Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute. I urge you to click on the following red link: "Collaborative Artists: The French cultural establishment's inglorious response to Nazi rule" for his critical examination of this subject. You will not be sorry!

Now, I would like to turn my/your attention to another item of interest as you read history: History as fiction designed to unite us. It was not always that historians tried to tell a dispassionate truth to the reader. They were writing stories, more often than not, to persuade and to unite us around a common theme or cause that they felt important. There is no such thing as a real story. Stories are told or written, not found. Thus, a true story is a virtual contradiction in terms and all are fiction. But, is the truth always fiction or is fiction always the truth? Many say there is no such thing as fiction anymore as anything can happen. I always use September 11, 2001, as an example of fiction that became truth.

The historian’s problem is to always interpret things as they happened but personal experiences often bias his final analysis. So, what is the truth? The truth is more often found if you are familiar with the writer’s life experiences. Thus, in order to better understand history one must know the writer and his connections to the matter that is being examined. For a full discussion of this concept go to: History as Fiction Designed to Unite Us as I think you will enjoy this introductory analysis to historical revisionism. It does ring true as both authors and their subjects are only human and we all know the frailties of each. I know that my life experiences encroach upon my thoughts of what I consider the truth and I bet yours do as well!


Richard Spencer
39th ATS, MATS
KDOV, 1962-1965


Debra said...

Thanks for raising another interesting subject. An amazing (fictional) account of the time is Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, one of the best books I have ever read. Here is the link:


firstfleet said...

The high level of collaboration with the Germans occupiers among the French is pretty well known, though this sounds like a very interesting way to present the issue. The French were particularly bad with their own concentration camps for Jews and others. I'm reading, very slowly, "The Holocaust Chronicle," which is a 770-page (9 x 11) compendium of the history of antisemitism, from the earliest times, as well as thousands of photos, illustrations, maps and charts of the German programs. I wish I had had this book when the young 2LT in my 1976 intel school class said, "Sir, the Holocaust never happened." I was speechless!

Cal Taylor

Mark said...

Interesting, Dad - thanks for pointing it out.

Rick Spencer said...

Both Debra and Cal's suggestions would seem perfect for those wanting to pursue this subject. One from fictional writing and the other from academic research. In fact, Nemirovsky's writings are considered to be the first fictional account about WWII. We are a long way from recovery concerning the murderous aspect of the War and the criminal actions of these regimes against their fellow man. How many generations I hesitate to guess.

Rick Spencer said...

I have just finished watching the adaption of Olivia Manning's fictional trilogy of British expatriates during WWII. Her writings are considered the best fictional history about this period of the War and the story line ranges from Romania to Egypt. Manning's writings are based upon her own experiences and begin in 1940 as the Germans were marching freely to their belated victories. The adaption was done by BBC and released in 1987 titled "Fortunes of War." I highly recommended it if your interests are thus directed.