Why this book?
First published in 1972, this book significantly altered the views of French collaboration with the Nazi German occupiers during the Second World War. During the immediate postwar years, many in France maintained that the Vichy government of Marshal Philippe Pétain and its supporters had done everything possible to resist and subvert the German occupiers and that the Resistance and the Pétain government had been part of the same struggle, the “sword and shield” of France against the German occupiers. Writing at a time when most relevant French archives were closed to historians and using German archival material that was captured during the war, Paxton showed that contrary to the Vichy government’s being a shield, it had in fact more actively supported the Germans while establishing an authoritarian government aligned in many ways with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. This book altered French views of the war to the point where it is frequently said in France to have given rise to a “Paxtonian revolution.”