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Extreme Right in the French Resistance : Members of the Cagoule and Corvignolles in the Second World War
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In the aftermath of World War II, historical accounts and public commentaries enshrined the French Resistance as an apolitical, unified movement committed to upholding human rights, equality, and republican values during the dark period of German occupation. Valerie Deacon complicates that conventional view by uncovering extreme-right participants in the Resistance, specifically men and women who engaged in conspiratorial, anti-republican, and quasi-****** activities in the 1930s, but later devoted themselves to freeing the country from ****** control.
The political campaigns of the 1930s—against communism, republicanism, freemasonry, and the government—taught France’s ultra-right-wing groups how to live outside the boundaries of legal society, how to organize underground movements, how to use acts of terror to further their cause, and, most importantly, how to survive when hunted by the law. When France fell to the Germans in 1940, many activists unabashedly cited previous participation in groups of the extreme right as their motive for joining the Resistance. They perceived no contradiction between their prewar political engagements and their wartime resistance activity, despite their ideological affinities with the collaborationist Vichy government and occasionally even the ******.
Deacon’s analysis of extreme-right participation in the Resistance supports the view that the domestic situation in ******-controlled France was more complex than had previously been suggested. Instead of focusing on the older narrative of the political right having been exclusively invested in the Vichy regime and the political left having fought to reestablish basic freedoms and restore human rights, Deacon’s study details how rightist resisters navigated between different options in the changing political context. In the process, she refutes the established view of the Resistance as apolitical, united, and Gaullist.
The Extreme Right in the French Resistance highlights the complexities of the French Resistance, what it meant to be a resister, and how the experiences of the extreme right proved incompatible with the postwar resistance narrative.