French Cinema

L’ image et le mot…

The `Vichy Syndrome’



    Coming to terms with the events of les années noires has been a difficult process for many in France. This difficulty is largely due to the trauma of four years of Nazi occupation. France’s military and political collapse in 1940, the emergence of the collaborationalist Vichy régime and its shameful complicity in Nazi repression and the deportation of 76,000 Jews resident in France, and a virtual civil war, une guerre franco-française, particularly violent by the summer of in 1944, all contributed to what the historian Henry Rousso has called le syndrome de Vichy. Rousso defined this `syndrome’ thus:

    Le syndrome de Vichy est l’ensemble hétérogènes des symptômes, des manifestations, en particulier dans la vie politique, sociale et culturelle, qui révèlent l’existence du traumatisme engendré par l’Occupation, particulièrement lié aux divisions internes, traumatisme qui s’est maintenu, parfois développé, après la fin des événements. (Rousso: 1990 18-19)

    The `Vichy syndrome’, then, is Rousso’s shorthand for France’s difficult coming-to-terms with les années noires and the conflicts that were created, exacerbated, or continued between 1940 and 1944. Rousso’s argument is that, for many, those conflicts remain unfinished business with many French people unreconciled to their own history.

    Rousso argues that attitudes to and debates about les années noires have gone through four distinct chronological stages defined by the specifics of the political priorities and developments of each respective period:

  • 1944-1954: le deuil inachevé
  • 1954-1971: le refoulement
  • 1972-1980: le miroir brisé
  • 1980-present: obsession …”


January 12, 2008 - Posted by | Histoire | , ,

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