[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-War]: Deacon on Koreman, 'The Escape Line: How the Ordinary Heroes of Dutch-Paris Resisted the Nazi Occupation of Western Europe'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Thu Apr 25 07:41:12 MDT 2019

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
> Date: April 25, 2019 at 9:29:55 AM EDT
> To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]:  Deacon on Koreman, 'The Escape Line: How the Ordinary Heroes of Dutch-Paris Resisted the Nazi Occupation of Western Europe'
> Reply-To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Megan Koreman.  The Escape Line: How the Ordinary Heroes of 
> Dutch-Paris Resisted the Nazi Occupation of Western Europe.  New York 
> Oxford University Press, 2018.  416 pp.  $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 
> 978-0-19-066227-1.
> Reviewed by Valerie Deacon (NYU-Shanghai)
> Published on H-War (April, 2019)
> Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
> Megan Koreman is well known amongst French historians for her 
> previous book, an excellent history of the post-Liberation period in 
> three French towns. In _The Escape Line_, she turns her attention to 
> the story of the Dutchman Jean Weidner and his French wife, Elisabeth 
> Cartier. Their entry into resistance in France was prompted by a 
> letter in 1942 from a Jewish friend who was looking to escape the 
> Vichy government's increasingly dangerous anti-Semitic laws. After 
> helping this friend cross the border into Switzerland, the couple 
> started to receive additional requests from friends and strangers 
> alike and Weidner committed to expanding his yet-unnamed escape line. 
> Although the earliest help was given to Jews, the line would 
> ultimately assist anybody who needed it. Using archival sources from 
> some seven countries, Koreman details the creation of the line, its 
> expansion, the various crises it experienced, the role it played in 
> helping people flee the oppression of occupying forces, and the 
> consequences for having done so. 
> From 1943 to 1944, the line was run by Weidner, Edmond Chait, and 
> Jacques Rens. The three men had a great deal in common: all were in 
> their early 30s, all three were multilingual, all were businessmen, 
> and all were religious, though each man came from a different 
> devotional background. Together, along with some three hundred 
> colleagues, these men operated a network that spanned the 
> Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Spain. Operating as 
> both a welfare agency and a courier service, the line that would 
> eventually be called "Dutch-Paris" supported 1,500 refugees in hiding 
> and took another 1,500 to safety in Spain and Switzerland (p. 26). 
> The people they helped included British and American airmen, which 
> put the line in a great deal of danger because it was a capital crime 
> to help downed Allied aircrew and Koreman notes that for every two 
> airmen who were returned to their bases after finding themselves in 
> the Netherlands, one Dutch helper was killed (p. 139). This bravery, 
> Koreman emphasizes, was particularly special because the people 
> involved with Dutch-Paris were regular citizens, ordinary people from 
> diverse backgrounds. 
> The book is compelling, engagingly written, and solidly researched. 
> It seems clear that two primary objectives of the book were to honor 
> the courage of the people who resisted the German occupation and to 
> write their stories accessibly, for broad audiences. Koreman achieves 
> both of these goals, but in doing so, glosses over a couple of 
> important historiographical and archival issues. 
> In setting the stage for a full discussion of Weidner's work, Koreman 
> first tells her readers why his Jewish friends were desperate to 
> leave France. She writes: "as the preserve of right-wing 
> conservatives, the Vichy regime sympathized with Nazi goals.... More 
> tellingly in the context of the times, the Vichy regime repudiated 
> the French Republic's welcoming attitude to immigrants, to the point 
> of revoking the naturalized status of people who had earned their 
> French citizenship more than ten years earlier" (p. 8). Statements 
> like this do not quite do justice to the complexity of the situation 
> in France before and during the war. An administrative commission 
> under the Vichy regime did indeed examine some 650,000 files with a 
> view to revoking previous naturalizations, especially those granted 
> during the Popular Front years. As Claire Zalc shows, many of these 
> denaturalizations were arbitrary, based not on the explicit 
> application of any particular law, but rather on the inclinations of 
> the person who was reviewing the file.[1] The arbitrary nature of 
> these denaturalizations should come as no surprise, given that we 
> know the bureaucracy of the Vichy government was staffed by people 
> who held a wide range of opinions on all subjects, including 
> immigration.[2] Moreover, it is problematic to say that the French 
> Republic had been unequivocally welcoming to immigrants before 1940. 
> Republican policies of exclusion and surveillance meant that, while 
> Vichy's anti-Semitic legislation was new, the spirit behind it was 
> not. While a full discussion of these nuances was probably not 
> warranted in Koreman's book, it is possible to note the continuities 
> between the Third Republic and Vichy, as well as the evolving nature 
> of the wartime regime, without detracting too much from the 
> narrative. 
> Koreman's account of the astounding accomplishments of Dutch-Paris 
> also reminds us that the success or failure of rescue can be relative 
> to the perspective of the person doing the telling. Historians of the 
> resistance have long grappled with the pros and cons of relying on 
> archives kept and curated by resisters themselves. Koreman herself 
> even identifies archival gaps--the lack of German sources about the 
> repression of resistance--so she has considered some issues of 
> representation. Her research highlights the excellent reputation of 
> Dutch-Paris and its use by other resistance networks to get their own 
> families out of France. One example offered in the book is 
> Marie-Madeleine Fourcade (Meric at the time), the head of a very 
> large resistance network, who needed to get her two children out of 
> France once her security was compromised. She turned to Dutch-Paris 
> at the suggestion of Gilbert Beaujolin, the treasurer of her network, 
> Alliance. The Dutch-Paris archives tell us these two children were 
> successfully smuggled out of France by members of the line. In her 
> own memoirs, Fourcade writes that the line got stalled up, thanks to 
> a backlog of evaders and the increasing surveillance of the Germans. 
> She goes on to say that her children eventually crossed the border 
> alone, that the peasants to whom they had been confided simply 
> pointed out the border, many kilometers in the distance, and the 12- 
> and 10-year-old children smuggled themselves across.[3] The 
> difference in these accounts is not one that Koreman necessarily 
> should have known about--it would be virtually impossible to verify 
> each rescue. It is, however, a good reminder of some of the dangers 
> inherent in this kind of research. 
> Notes 
> [1]. Claire Zalc, _Dénaturalisés. Les retraits de nationalité sous 
> Vichy_ (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2016). 
> [2]. Eric Jennings also describes contradictory attitudes of various 
> Vichy bureaucrats when confronted with the question of facilitating 
> emigration out of France or keeping immigrants interred in local 
> camps. Eric Jennings, _Escape from Vichy: The Refugee Exodus to the 
> French Caribbean (_Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018)_._ 
> [3]. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, _L'arche de no__é_ (Paris: Fayard, 
> 1968), 413. 
> Citation: Valerie Deacon. Review of Koreman, Megan, _The Escape Line: 
> How the Ordinary Heroes of Dutch-Paris Resisted the Nazi Occupation 
> of Western Europe_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2019.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53240
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 
> License.

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