The Purge

Herbert R. Lottman, Author William Morrow & Company $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-04940-9
Lottman, an American who lives in France (and is PW's international correspondent) has in his past three books, including this one, been creating a major work of French history: examining the state of the country just before, during, and immediately after World War II. This is tricky ground for a French historian, and Lottman's objectivity, patient research and plain lack of axes to grind, suit him ideally to the task. The present book, following The Left Bank and Petain, deals with the trials and punishment of French collaborators with both the Nazis and the Vichy regime, in the wake of the 1944 Liberation. Legends have grown up about lynch law, hasty and unjust executions, thousands of lives ruined as vengeful Resistance fighters and returning Free French turned on those who had been too friendly to the occupying forces. The reality, as Lottman shows in painstaking detail, was that organized justice was surprisingly swift in returning to France, that French jailings and executions were fewer, comparatively, than in some neighboring countries, and that eventual amnesties as wartime tempers cooled brought many of those condemned to indignite nationale back into French life. The Purge is a thorough, careful historical record rather than an easy, dramatic read; but it was clearly a difficult task that has been accomplished with great care. Photos not seen by PW. (July 23)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1986
Release date: 07/01/1986
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