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When Paris Went Dark: Book summary and reviews of When Paris Went Dark by Ronald C. Rosbottom

When Paris Went Dark

The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944

by Ronald C. Rosbottom

When Paris Went Dark by Ronald C. Rosbottom X
When Paris Went Dark by Ronald C. Rosbottom
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Book Summary

On June 14, 1940, German tanks entered a silent and nearly deserted Paris. Eight days later, France accepted a humiliating defeat and foreign occupation. Subsequently, an eerie sense of normalcy settled over the City of Light. Many Parisians keenly adapted themselves to the situation - even allied themselves with their Nazi overlords. At the same time, amidst this darkening gloom of German ruthlessness, shortages, and curfews, a resistance arose. Parisians of all stripes - Jews, immigrants, adolescents, communists, rightists, cultural icons such as Colette, de Beauvoir, Camus and Sartre, as well as police officers, teachers, students, and store owners - rallied around a little known French military officer, Charles de Gaulle.

When Paris Went Darkevokes with stunning precision the detail of daily life in a city under occupation, and the brave people who fought against the darkness. Relying on a range of resources - memoirs, diaries, letters, archives, interviews, personal histories, flyers and posters, fiction, photographs, film and historical studies - Rosbottom has forged a groundbreaking book that will forever influence how we understand those dark years in the City of Light.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A profound historical portrait of Paris for anyone who loves the city." - Kirkus

"A riveting account of one of the most resonant hostage-takings in history: the 1500 days when a swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower. Ronald Rosbottom illuminates every corner of a darkened, heartsick city, exploring the oddities, capturing the grisly humor, and weighing the prices of resistance, accommodation, collaboration. The result is an intimate, sweeping narrative, astute in its insight and chilling in its rich detail." - Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra, A Great Improvisation, and Véra

"When Paris Went Dark recounts, through countless compelling stories, how Nazi occupation drained the light from Paris and how many of its residents resisted in ways large and small. This is a rich work of history, a brilliant recounting of how hope can still flourish in the rituals of daily life." - Scott Turow, author of Identical

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Reader Reviews

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SHofsommer

A Paris Without Vitality
When I think of Paris, I envision a city steeped in romance, the Eiffel Tower, bistros, small cafés, history and, being an American, Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. But Ronald C. Rosbotten paints a different picture, one of a more subdued Paris where much of the population learned to live with their German occupiers and to turn their heads when their Jewish inhabitants were sent to Drancy and then to camps. Paris remained
unscathed. It's buildings and parks were not bombed or destroyed. Yes, Hitler admired this city that he had captured but visited only once. It was, he believed, to be his some day.

Rosbottom uses novels, memoirs, historical writings, memoirs, letters, novels by writers such as Camus to paint this picture. While he discusses those who became members of a resistance, he notes that they were never as organized and successful as those in other countries.

Was life easy for Parisians? No. They suffered from food deprivation and many, especially wealthy Jews, saw their dwellings taken over by the Germans. There were many besides Jews who were sent to camps but their numbers were relatively small compared to those in other occupied cities and countries.
This is a fascinating book that does what many more weighty historical volumes do not deal with as there are no battles or statistics showing loss of lives. And the Germans never raze buildings or bomb sections of the city which they see as a city to keep intact and make their own, although Hitler made plans to do so in the last days of the war, it never happened.
I heartily recommend this portrait of the city the world pictured then and still does today as romantic, beautiful and brimming with a fascinating history.

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Author Information

Ronald C. Rosbottom

Ronald C. Rosbottom is a Professor at at Amherst College. He has edited three essay collections and has written two monographs on French novelists.

At Amherst, Ron is the holder of the Winifred Arms Professorship in the Arts and Humanities and professor of French and European studies. He has also been an academic administrator and planner and former dean of the faculty. His classes have included the 18th-century British and French novel, the history of ideas, literary criticism, art history of the early modern and modern periods, the history of the European city, especially of Paris, fictional and documentary film, Napoleon and his legends, the literature of World War I, and, most recently World War II and the European imagination. Ron has published well over a hundred articles and book reviews, has edited three essay collections and has written two monographs on French novelists.

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