Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What-I'm-Reading-Wednesday: 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 is a compelling narrative of the lives of Parisians during "les années noires". Inspired by his time in the city during his undergraduate years, Rosbottom meticulously researched this dark time in order to provide what he calls a "tactile" history of the period, or a portrait of how everyday Parisians lived, worked, loved, and raised families in a city no longer their own. Much has been written about the occupation of Paris across the decades, and many aspects of life during this time have been shrouded in silence and mystery due to the controversial nature of the occupation. Rosbottom's research included interviews with those still living who were in Paris during this time period, and he astutely mined their stories for details not often shared in other similar histories.

Rosbottom lays out the chronology of the invasion and occupation from the beginning, including brief explanations of the events leading up to the occupation. The painstakingly detailed preparations of the Germans, their deep knowledge of the architectural, structural, and social layout of the city, and the experiences of previous failed attempts to take the city in earlier times all factored into the creation of an almost seamless takeover. Many fled the city prior to the occupation, but those who stayed, whether due to lack of resources needed to leave, or because they felt a devotion to the city and their French heritage, were presented daily with great ethical questions related to their interactions with the occupiers. Rosbottom separates those who "collaborated" from those who merely lived in a state of "accommodation" in order to survive. This distinction is essential in understanding how the Parisians viewed their own existence during this time, and to some extent in how the history of this era has long affected interpretations of France's role in the war.

When Paris Went Dark is available on the Library’s “New Arrival Shelf” in the main lobby, or you can place a request for this title directly from the Library's catalog hereClick on the "Availability" link on the catalog record, then click on the yellow "Request" button. Log in using your 14-digit Library barcode number (located on your University ID), and your last name. You will then be able to select your pick-up location. The Library will notify you via email when your book has arrived for pick-up. If you need assistance with this process, please contact the Circulation Desk at 301-687-4395.

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