After a cycle of commemoration related to the centenary of the First World War, the year 2020 could open a new commemorative session, this time related to the Second World conflict. In addition to commemorative and memorial events, it is important to keep on developing activities of a more scientific nature, especially as the number of symposia and study days devoted to the WWII period is now decreasing, even though new archival material is available and interest in the period remains high.
The issues that remain little studied and deserve further research include that of the early forms of disobedience and acts of resistance. We keep on using the same testimonies to illustrate how the Resistance was born in France, with all their surrounding uncertainties, especially when it comes to mentioning the precise dates of the first initiatives (leaflets distribution, clandestine publications) . In spite of the already existing works, the initial phase of the Resistance, which has often been reduced to a form of "prehistory of the phenomenon", remains little studied by historians with regard to the subsequent period, i.e the one during which a process of structuring and unification was implemented from 1942 onwards. This pioneering Resistance also continues to generate many preconceived ideas that have not necessarily been subjected to scientific debate, namely the fact that the early Resistance fighters were very few in number, often marginalized, very isolated, and above all, they were cast away from the rest of the society, which passively accepted the occupation.
Since the decree of December 2015 adopted by President Hollande, the opening of all archives covering that period makes it possible to dig out these issues and start studying them from scratch. Among the now fully accessible sources are all the so-called "repression" archives, i.e. police or gendarmerie reports, reports of the French Renseignements Généraux (Intelligence Services), judicial investigations concerning the Vichy regime , but also the archives concerning German repression. Although these archival collections must be interpreted with care by researchers because of their particular nature, they nonetheless enable the identification of the precise dates of the first acts of resistance in a given territory which inevitably left traces (distribution of leaflets, graffiti, sabotage, etc.). Their use is essential for those who want to study the "Pioneer Resistance" in a scientific way, since it alleviates the lack of resources produced by the Resistance fighters themselves for this period. Some local studies already conducted on the basis of this kind of archive would tend to show that the actions of refusal and disobedience were more frequent and more precocious than what is usually claimed, thus contradicting somewhat the image that has long prevailed since the work of Robert Paxton or Philippe Burrin, namely that of a country that would have generally accepted its fate in 1940, without demonstrating any form of opposition, or even "accommodated" the defeat and the Occupation. At the same time, there is a great variation in the situations according to the territories and their context (occupied zone, southern zone, "annexed" territories) while the nature of these actions often remain rather vague due to the absence of an organised Resistance such as the one that developed from 1941 and especially 1942 onwards.
This symposium would therefore be intended to propose a series of works that would make it possible to present, thanks to the use of these archives, the precise traces of these first forms of resistance that developed during the first months of the Occupation (summer 1940-beginning 1941). The papers proposed could deal with the different forms of disobedience and resistance that may have developed from the summer and autumn of 1940 onwards, traces of which can be found in the so-called "archives of repression", with the isolated actions but also with the early organizational forms that were set up (networks, movements), with the reactions of public opinion, and with the adopted forms of repression. The proposed approaches can be developed from a given territory (a department, a region), a type of organization or actions, a person or a group of people who may have embodied this "Pioneer Resistance".
In order to develop a comparative approach to the resistance that developed against German domination in the rest of Europe, papers may also be presented on countries other than France, provided that the scientific objectives of the symposium are respected (limitation of the study to the period of the beginning of the occupation and use of the archives of repression to grasp the forms taken by the various national resistances envisaged). This comparative approach will make it possible to highlight convergences but also a certain number of differences concerning the forms taken by the Resistance at its beginnings and the reaction adopted by the Germans depending both on the national political context and on the type of occupation imposed by the Reich.
Date: 02nd and 3rd December 2020 at the Caen Memorial
Proposals for papers (not exceeding one page), accompanied by a short bibliographic review, should be sent
before the 15th of June 2020
- University of Caen (laboratory History, Territories and Memory - HisTeMé, ex CRHQ)
- Caen Memorial, Resistance Foundation
Scientific Advisory Board
- Alya Aglan
- Julien Blanc
- Laurent Douzou
- Gaël Eismann
- Thomas Fontaine
- Fabrice Grenard
- Guillaume Piketty
- Steffan Prauser
- Jean Quellien
- François Rouquet