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Vichy against Vichy: History and Memory of the Second World War in the Former Capital of the État français from 1940 to the Present


Vichy against Vichy: History and Memory of the Second World War in the Former Capital of the État français from 1940 to the Present

Mallet, Audrey (2016) Vichy against Vichy: History and Memory of the Second World War in the Former Capital of the État français from 1940 to the Present. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Following the June 22, 1940 armistice and the subsequent occupation of northern France by the Germans, the French government left Paris and eventually established itself in the city of Vichy. The name ‘Vichy’ soon came to be used to refer to the regime instigated by Pétain and his ministers. The shortcut was maintained and popularized in the postwar period, to the great displeasure of the Vichyssois, who have long been refusing to incorporate the war into the city’s history. Whereas the Vichy regime is considered one of the most defining historical events of France’s recent past, the city of Vichy stands out as a non lieu de mémoire in the national memorial landscape of the Second World War.
This dissertation investigates the wartime period in Vichy and explores how the population has dealt with the fraught legacy of the Vichy regime from 1944 to the present. My research examines how the interaction between national mythology, specific local concerns, and broader troubling issues have impacted – and often blocked – the formation of a local war memory. In the immediate postwar years, local resisters strove to establish a strong memory of the resistance. At the same time, a powerful victimhood myth emerged in response to the city’s fears of stigmatization and ostracism. The spa tourism’s recovery in the early 1950s marked a significant change in the city’s memorial politics, leading to the memory of the war being pushed into the background, thereby establishing a tradition of silence in Vichy. This, however, does not mean that the memories of the war never resurfaced. They did, especially during the Algerian War. In the 1950s, Vichy’s economy largely depended on colonial spa tourism. Known as the “Capitale d’été de l’Afrique du Nord,” Vichy was indeed a privileged summer destination for thousands of settlers, especially pieds noirs from Algeria. The fear provoked by the prospect of a grave economic crisis in the event that Algeria would become independent led to a rightward shift of the population. This shift provided the ideal environment for a pro-Pétain memory to gather strength in Vichy, beyond Pétain’s traditional extreme right base. While in the 1950s, Pétain’s myth also enjoyed a revival of popularity in France, it declined rapidly, when, following the end of the Algerian War, the extreme right hit historical lows. In Vichy, on the other hand, this counter memory continued to develop in the 1960s. In the post 1970s period, although the local Petainist memory went underground, no other memory has risen to occupy a central place in the local collective remembering of the war, turning the city into a non lieu de mémoire and making it a counter example of what has been happening in many other places across Europe, where the most shameful aspects of the Second World War have been memorialized.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > History
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Mallet, Audrey
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:5 December 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Ingram, Norman and Rousso, Henry
ID Code:982160
Deposited On:31 May 2017 18:46
Last Modified:01 Apr 2019 00:00
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