'Thrilling narration... a soundly sourced history that gallops by with the verve of a great historical novel' – BBC History magazine

416 pages/2009 – World English Language (Simon & Schuster) 

416 pages/2009 – World English Language (Simon & Schuster) 

The Resistance

The French Fight Against the Nazis
Matthew Cobb

An exciting, tragic and perceptive account of one of the most striking events of the twentieth century – and how one of the most powerful modern myths came to be forged.

The French resistance to Nazi occupation during the Second World War was a struggle in which ordinary people fought for their liberty, despite terrible odds and horrifying repression. Hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and women carried out an armed struggle against the Nazis, producing underground anti-fascist publications and supplying the Allies with vital intelligence.

Based on hundreds of French eye-witness accounts and including recently released archival material, The Resistance begins with the catastrophic Fall of France in 1940, and shatters the myth of a unified Resistance created by General de Gaulle. In fact, De Gaulle never understood the Resistance, and sought to use, dominate and channel it to his own ends. Brave men and women set up organizations, only to be betrayed or hunted down by the Nazis, and to die in front of the firing squad or in the concentration camps. Eventually, through the determination of Frenchman Jean Moulin, the Resistance was unified. But without the sacrifice of British Special Operations Executive agents and RAF pilots flying into makeshift airstrips on moonlit nights, there would have been no radio contact with London, little money and fewer arms.

In 1943, thousands of young men took to the hills (the maquis) to avoid being sent to work in Nazi Germany. The question of who would control these men – de Gaulle, the Allies or the Resistance – took on a crucial importance after D-Day, when hundreds of thousands of Resistance fighters harassed the retreating Nazi forces and helped two million Allied troops liberate France. Liberation threatened to transform itself into Revolution – the outcome that both De Gaulle and the Allies feared most, and did their utmost to prevent. Victorious, De Gaulle was able to neuter the Resistance, turning its revolutionary force into part of the establishment. Over the next half-century, the true story of the Resistance got blurred and distorted, its heroes and conflicts forgotten as the movement became a myth.