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Vichy's "Very Nice People"

(Original article and review by Emma-Kate Symons at the Wall Street Journal)

The history of French collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II is still a very sensitive subject in Gallic literary and political circles. Bestselling novelist Alexandre Jardin has learned this the hard way with the publication of "Des Gens Très Bien" (or "Very Nice People"), a startling exposé of his famous family's association with Nazism under the Vichy government of Marshal Philippe Pétain...

"After 70 years I thought we could start to recognize the reality of our families and how they behaved during the war," Mr. Jardin tells me in an interview from Paris. "The core of the problem is that I have not spoken about monsters. My grandfather was not a monster. I have spoken about what 'very nice people' did in France when they accepted collaboration with Nazism. I did not realize I would provoke such anger. So long as we were putting authentic monsters on trial—like Maurice Papon for example—no one was worried. But to lift the lid on the question of the responsibility of people who were 'moral' during the collaboration has totally panicked French society."

Shades of Arendt's 'banality of evil'.

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