Deposition 1940-1944: A Secret Diary of Life in Vichy France

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Deposition 1940-1944: A Secret Diary of Life in Vichy France

Historians agree: the diary of Léon Werth (1878-1955) is one of the most precious--and readable--pieces of testimony ever written about life in France under Nazi occupation and the Vichy regime. Werth was a free-spirited and unclassifiable writer. He is the author of eleven novels, art and dance criticism, acerbic political reporting, and memorable personal essays. He was Jewish, and left Paris in June 1940 to hide out in his wife's country house in Saint-Amour, a small village in the Jura Mountains. His short memoir 33 Days recounts his struggle to get there. Deposition tells of daily life in the village, on nearby farms and towns, and finally back in Paris, where he draws the portrait of a Resistance network in his apartment and writes an eyewitness report of the insurrection that freed the city in August, 1944.

From Saint-Amour, we see both the Resistance in the countryside, derailing troop trains, punishing notorious collaborators--and growing repression: arrests, torture, deportation, and executions. Above all, we see how Vichy and the Occupation affect the lives of farmers and villagers and how their often contradictory attitudes evolve from 1940-1944. Werth's ear for dialogue and novelist's gift for creating characters animate the diary: in the markets and in town, we meet real French peasants and shopkeepers, railroad men and the patronne of the café at the station, schoolteachers and gendarmes. They come off the page alive, and the countryside and villages come alive with them.

With biting irony, Werth records, almost daily, what Vichy-German propaganda was saying on the radio and in the press. We follow the progress of the war as people did then, day by day. These entries make interesting, often amusing reading, a stark contrast with his gripping entries on the persecution and deportation of the Jews. Deposition is a varied and complex piece of living history, and a pleasure to read.

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France & French Resistance Deposition 1940-1944: A Secret Diary of Life in Vichy France Historians agree: the diary of Léon Werth (1878-1955) is one of the most precious--and readable--pieces of testimony ever written about life in France under Nazi occupation and the Vichy regime. Werth was a free-spirited and unclassifiable writer. He is the author of eleven novels, art and dance criticism, acerbic political reporting, and memorable personal essays. He was Jewish, and left Paris in June 1940 to hide out in his wife's country house in Saint-Amour, a small village in the Jura Mountains. His short memoir 33 Days recounts his struggle to get there. Deposition tells of daily life in the village, on nearby farms and towns, and finally back in Paris, where he draws the portrait of a Resistance network in his apartment and writes an eyewitness report of the insurrection that freed the city in August, 1944.

From Saint-Amour, we see both the Resistance in the countryside, derailing troop trains, punishing notorious collaborators--and growing repression: arrests, torture, deportation, and executions. Above all, we see how Vichy and the Occupation affect the lives of farmers and villagers and how their often contradictory attitudes evolve from 1940-1944. Werth's ear for dialogue and novelist's gift for creating characters animate the diary: in the markets and in town, we meet real French peasants and shopkeepers, railroad men and the patronne of the café at the station, schoolteachers and gendarmes. They come off the page alive, and the countryside and villages come alive with them.

With biting irony, Werth records, almost daily, what Vichy-German propaganda was saying on the radio and in the press. We follow the progress of the war as people did then, day by day. These entries make interesting, often amusing reading, a stark contrast with his gripping entries on the persecution and deportation of the Jews. Deposition is a varied and complex piece of living history, and a pleasure to read.
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