Open Access (free)
Respectable resistance (coups de gueule polis)
James E. Connolly

This chapter proposes the analytical concept of ‘respectable resistance’ via an in-depth examination of frequent protests of local notables – mayors, municipal councillors, industrialists, clergymen – against German orders. It considers the importance of respectability and politeness in even these oppositional social relations, and suggests that notable protests had a performative element to them – whereas the Germans unequivocally understood them as resistance.

Such protests often comprised letters, written refusals to provide the Germans with access to materials or manpower to be used for military ends, and were bolstered by juridical reasoning citing international, French, and even German law. There is some evidence of centralised, organised mass protests; in any case, both spontaneous and organised protests continued throughout the occupation, despite the fact that notables and communes were often punished as a result, often acquiescing in the end. The chapter suggests that this resistance was nevertheless somewhat successful in the sense of buying time and boosting the morale of the occupied population.

in The experience of occupation in the Nord, 1914– 18
James E. Connolly

This chapter considers actions that are more evidently identifiable as resistance, and which comprise a more active form of opposition to the Germans. The actions examined comprise: helping escaped Allied prisoners of war; engaging in espionage, escape and correspondence networks on behalf of the Allies; creating clandestine publications; and explicitly refusing to work for the Germans. The chapter draws on both British and French archives to highlight the role of the respective secret services in some of these activities, in some ways a precursor to the resistance of the Second World War. More generally, the chapter attempts to assess the extent of such resistance, its role within occupied culture, and its success. It concludes that active resistance, so praised during and after the war and so present in works on the occupation, was extremely dangerous and never involved more than a small minority of the occupied population; yet it remains a fascinating subject that provides its own insights into the complexities of occupied life and French reactions to it.

in The experience of occupation in the Nord, 1914– 18
Open Access (free)
Liberation, remembering and forgetting
James E. Connolly

This chapter provides a brief summary of the experience of liberation in the Nord, notably the Germans’ violent retreat involving scorched-earth tactics, the forcible evacuation of civilians, and the jubilant reception those civilians who remained offered to liberating British and Canadian troops. It briefly discusses the disenchantment with the Allied re-occupation and the difficulties posed by reconstruction, before turning to the way in which the occupation was remembered. The chapter argues that occupation misconduct remained present in collective consciousness in the immediate months after liberation; some claimed that punishments for such behaviour were too lax or too rare, although there were some trials. Misconduct soon faded from memory, whereas resistance remained a stronger, key component of the ‘official’ and local memory of the occupation into the 1930s, especially visible in monuments, ceremonies, and the local press. The book’s conclusion highlights the marginal nature of the occupied Nord’s experience of the war, re-states the case for an occupied culture, and expresses the hope that this work has provided an insight into the complex range of behaviours and responses to the German presence in the occupied Nord in 1914-1918.

in The experience of occupation in the Nord, 1914– 18