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Imaes of the enemy: A study of the Images of Germans and Frend Collaborationists in the Gaullist newspaper Combat by Suzy Gmer

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Images of the Enemy: A Study of the Images of Germans and French Collaborationists in

the Gaullist newspaper Combat by Suzy Gamer

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The French Resistance and Combat

The seemingly endless years of the German Occupation of France during World War II remain among the most controversial in the nation's history. Today this period of time between 1940 and 1944 serves as a bittersweet reminder of the fragility of man's freedom, the sweetness of his liberation, and the shamefulness of one's neighbor's treachery. This was a unique time in modem history when ordinary citizens could become heroes fighting for «France libre». Instead of physical combat, however, many Frenchmen chose to write and publish various clandestine newspapers and fight through more sophisticated means. Perhaps it was not physical freedom they sought so much as cultural freedom which was so obviously threatened by Nazi ideology, propaganda, and the censorship of the puppet government at Vichy. Indeed, it was these men and women who came together to form publications such as Combat.

Unlike the rest of the nations involved in the Second World War, the French fought or, better yet, "resisted" two enemies, the Germans and themselves, thus presenting a dangerous and unique dilemma for the French Resistance fighter: on one side of the opposition lie France Frenchmen, truth, courage, and dignity, on the other the enemy and Vichy. Indeed, the Resistance was never a strong national movement nor part of the war's popular culture until after the Liberation when the Allied victory was clearly in sight. Nevertheless, the non-communist movement saw the Resistance as a powerful popular uprising, an «élan» of all French patriots against the enemy and the traitors in his service. Though the numbers of Resistance organizers, fighters, and contributors could never be ascertained, the Resistance movement was proportionally small in comparison to the French population, due to the dangerous cost of membership or association with a Resistance organization.

Throughout this period of clandestine publishing Combat was able to distribute thousands of copies to French citizens, sharing various news articles, book reviews, editorials, and literary fiction. For instance, in its first full year, 1942, Combat published and circulated over 150,000 copies of its newspaper. Certainly, the liberation of France was the primary goal not only for Combat but for all French Resistance publications. However, these clandestine papers portrayed somewhat different images of the enemy, both German and French. Though they fought on the same side against the same enemy, the publications produced varied images of Vichy and the German invaders. In Combat alone, the coverage of prominent Germans and French collaborationist leaders evolves throughout the history of the newspaper's publication.

The men and women of Combat voluntarily chose to join this military and political Resistance organization and Gaullist publication to create an innovative and unique type of literature, that of war. As the resistance writers depicted the horrendous face of the enemy in its editorials and news coverage of prominent Germans and French collaborationist leaders, the face or, more appropriately, the faces of the enemy came to share many similarities yet have distinct differences in character, depiction, and personal nature. These images of the barbaric German invader and the traitorous "non-French" collaborator became a focal point for the newspaper.


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