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Living with the Enemy
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    2018. Books and films received. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 24, Issue. 1, p. 221.

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    Living with the Enemy
    • Online ISBN: 9781316823439
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Book description

In post-liberation France, the French courts judged the cases of more than one hundred thousand people accused of aiding and abetting the enemy during the Second World War. In this fascinating book, Sandra Ott uncovers the hidden history of collaboration in the Pyrenean borderlands of the Basques and the Béarnais in southwestern France through nine stories of human folly, uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, desire, vengeance, duplicity, greed, self-interest, opportunism and betrayal. Covering both the occupation and liberation periods, she reveals how the book's characters became involved with the occupiers for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to settle scores and to gain access to power, money and material rewards, to love, friendship, fear and desperation. These wartime lives and subsequent postwar reckonings provide us with a new lens through which to understand human behavior under the difficult conditions of occupation, and the subsequent search for retribution and justice.


'Sandra Ott, one of the leading experts on the history of the French Basques, offers an important and wonderfully readable study of the region during the Vichy Years. In Living with the Enemy, her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated ‘hidden’ story of the Germanoccupation and Vichy collaboration in the Basque country. Ott’s compelling narrative and thoughtful conclusions nuance what we know about French collaboration with the Nazis during the Vichy years.'

John Merriman - Charles Seymour Professor of History, Yale University

'A subtle and enthralling exploration of the myriad ways in which Germans and French were drawn together in complex webs of greed and vengeance, generosity and betrayal under the occupation. A magnificent contribution to the historiography.'

Robert Gildea - University of Oxford

'This engaging and important book sees the big questions of France in the Second World War (questions of occupation and collaboration) refracted through the lives of individuals in one particular, and particularly interesting, region. It will be of special interest to those who study twentieth-century France or the Second World War, but it deserves a wider readership as well because it lives up to Marc Bloch’s injunction that the historian should be like the ogre in the fairy tale who finds his prey ‘by the smell of human flesh’.'

Richard Vinen - King’s College London

‘Living with the Enemy provides a rich and nuanced view of daily life in the French Basque country and raises interesting questions about postwar justice. Ott does not shy away from the complexity of wartime interactions and explores the complicated, multifaceted, and ambiguous motivations that lay beneath Franco-German relationships. Drawing on historical and ethnographic methods, Sandra Ott has mined the trial dossiers for what they can tell us about the past, but she is also careful to acknowledge their limits. Her own voice as an anthropologist, one who has maintained relationships with Basque locals stretching back to 1976, adds another layer to her analysis and demonstrates the enduring memories of World War II. The end result is a regional study that contributes 'greatly to our understanding of the choices people made and the factors that motivated them', as well as to our ideas about collaboration and cohabitation during the war.’

Shannon L. Fogg Source: German Studies Review

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  • Series 27W: W6

  • Series 30W: classified trial dossiers of suspected collaborators, records of punishments: 30W2; 30W3; 30W6; 30W9; 30W10; 30W11; 30W13; 30W22; 30W23; 30W35; 30W36; 30W38; 30W39; 30W40; 30W42; 30W45; 30W52; 30W97; 30W102; 30W123; 30W125; 30W126.

  • Series 34W: 34W8, liberation committees; 34W9, administrative purge, 1944–1946; 34W13; 34W14; 34W17; 34W39; 34W43, intelligence concerning internment camps; 34W42; 34W44, Idron internment camp; 34W45; 34W47, local and departmental liberation committees.

  • Series 37W: 37W15; 37W16, file on political parties; 37W114, SD staff in Oloron.

  • Series 1031W: 1031W172, files on the purge, the search for justice by the judiciary; 1031W182: reports on atrocities committed by the Germans; 1031W224: Cabinet of the Prefect, files on German prisoners of war held in the camps at Polo-Beyris in Bayonne and Idron.

  • Series 1089W: purge commission, Pau: 1089W5; 1089W6; 1089W13, commerce with the enemy, Groupe Collaboration in Pau; 1089W14, list of summary executions by the Resistance.

  • Series 1257W: 1257W9: sentences and amnesties, court of appeal, Pau; 1257W14, list of death penalties pronounced by the court of justice, Pau.

  • Series 1259W9: judgments rendered by the court of justice, Pau.

  • Series 3Z: Z83: local and regional responses to refugees.

  • Series 1M: 1M94, Great War; 1M361, Great War; 1M278, circulars to mayors, 1939.

  • Series BB: BB/30/1752, inspection of the judiciary in Pau, 1945; BB/1031/W182, public security, Pau.

  • Series F/7/15305, on the Gestapo in the Basses-Pyrénées; F/7/15384, professionals in special services for the Third Reich; F/7/15389

  • Series 5H1/13: war, 1939–1946.

Scapini papers, correspondence 1928–1976, 27 ms. boxes.

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  • L'Action: November 2, 1945.

  • La IVième République, Pau: no. 2, August 24, 1944; no. 3, August 25, 1944; no. 6, August 29, 1944; no. 8, August 31, 1944; no. 9, September 1, 1944; no. 11, September 2–3, 1944; no. 19, September 14, 1944; no. 28, September 23, 1944; no. 31, September 27, 1944; no. 49, December 18, 1944; no. 51, October 20, 1944; no. 57, October 27, 1944; no. 99, December, 14, 1944; no. 100, December 15, 1944; no. 407, December 20, 1945; no. 460, February 22, 1946; no. 451, February 23, 1946; no. 530, May 17, 1946; no. 531, May 18, 1946; no. 532, May 19–20, 1946; no. 533, May 21, 1946; no. 679, November 12, 1946; no. 755, February 12, 1947; no. 757, February 14, 1947; no. 810, April 17, 1947; no. 826, May 7, 1947; no. 891, July 24, 1947; no. 893, July 26, 1947; no. 901, August 5, 1947.

  • Eskualduna: no. 1936, June 11, 1937.

  • France-Pyrénées: no. 257, August 2, 1941; no. 279, August 24, 1941; no. 291, September 5, 1941; no. 354, November 13, 1941; no. 861, July 15, 1943.

  • L'Indépendent des Basses-Pyrénées: February 7, 1939.

  • Le Patriote des Pyrénées: February 9, 1939.

  • 44: issue 1, Pau, August 21, 1944.

  • La République, organe du CDL nationale: Pau, August 22, 1944.

  • La République des Pyrénées: May 7, 2012.

  • La République du Sud-Ouest: Biarritz, no. 188, October 19, 1944; no. 645, April 16, 1947; no. 725, July 23, 1947.

  • La Résistance Républicain: no. 8342, August 24, 1944; no. 8343, August 25, 1944; no. 272, July 13, 1945; no. 882, July 24, 1947; no. 883, July 27, 1947.

  • Le Sud-Ouest La Presse: no. 7695, July 10, 1940; no. 7750, September 15, 1942; no. 8257, May 12, 1944.

  • The New York Times: November 13, 1915.

  • Palais des Pyrénées: Pau, December 5, 1943.

  • Signal: issue no. 1, (spring) 1944.

  • Le Chagrin et la Pitié by Marcel Ophüls, 1970.

  • Lacombe, Lucien by Louis Malle, 1974.

Among other local and regional studies of the occupation, Vichy, the purge and liberation period, see Marc Bergère, Une société en épuration: Épuration vécue et perçue en Maine-et-Loire (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2004); Shannon Fogg, The Politics of Everyday Life in Vichy France: Foreigners, Undesirables, and Strangers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Robert Gildea, Marianne in Chains: In Search of the German Occupation, 1940–1945 (London: Macmillan, 2002). In the 1990s, local and regional studies include Luc Capdevila, Les Bretons au lendemain de l'Occupation: imaginaire et comportement d'une sortie de guerre 1944–1945 (Rennes: Presses Universitaire de Rennes, 1999); Étienne Dejonghe & Yves Maner, Le-Nord-Pas-de-Calais dans la main allemande, 1940–1944 (Lille: La Voix du Nord, 1999); Megan Koreman, The Expectation of Justice: France 1944–1946 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999); Tzvetan Todorov, A French Tragedy: Scenes of Civil War, Summer 1944 (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1996); and Robert Zaretsky, Nîmes at War: Religion, Politics, and Public Opinion in the Gard, 1938–1944 (University Park: Penn State Press, 1995).

Among those scholars who use French trial dossiers extensively, but with more focus on quantitative rather than qualitative evidence, see, for example, the excellent work by Marc Bergère, Une société en épuration: épuration vécue et perçue en Maine-et-Loire (Rennes: Presses Universitaire de Rennes, 2004) and Luc Capdevilla, Les Bretons au lendemain de l'Occupation: imaginaire et comportement d'une sortie de guerre 1944–1945 (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 1999). See also Jean-Laurent Vonau, l’Épuration en Alsace: la face méconnue de la Libération, 1944–1953 (Strasbourg: La Nuée Bleue, 2005). Yves Lecouturier, 1944, l’épuration en Normandie (Rennes: Éditions Ouest-France, 2011) deals with both prominent public figures and ordinary citizens who faced the courts. He cites both national and departmental archives as primary sources but does not, lamentably, use footnotes. See also Marc Olivier Baruch's edited collection about the purge of the professions, Une poignée de misérables: L’épuration de la société française après la Seconde Guerre mondiale (Paris: Fayard, 2003).

Classic microhistorical studies include the excellent works by Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a 16th Century Miller (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980) and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village, 1294–1324 (London: Penguin, 1980).

On the contribution of French volunteers to the German war effort, see Pierre Giolitto, Volontaires français sous l'uniforme allemande (Paris: Perrin, 2002) and Bertram M. Gordon, Collaborationism in France during the Second World War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980). In fiction, Jonathan Littell's novel, The Unkindly Ones (New York: Harper, 2009), contains the detailed, horrific confessions of a German SS officer who volunteered to serve on the Eastern Front.


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