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France will never be a nation of cowards Gallic courage, the harvest of centuries of battle, still beguiles the world

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 14: French soldiers march during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris, France on July 14, 2019. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 14: French soldiers march during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris, France on July 14, 2019. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


December 10, 2020   4 mins

The recent deaths of two notable anciens combattants of the French Resistance tell us much about the soul of France. ValĂ©ry Giscard d’Estaing, who died aged 94, was the Grand Old Man of French politics: suave and aristocratic in demeanour (he claimed to be descended from Louis XV), and a figure who brought a certain regal hauteur to the French presidency in the 1970s — although to British comedians his name sounded like the twanging of knicker elastic, perhaps appropriately given his notorious eye for the ladies.

Like so many French politicians of his generation, he had been a resistance fighter and then a highly decorated army officer. He had participated in the liberation of Paris, so his intimate funeral mass in the country church at Authon — albeit one presided over by the Bishop of Blois — felt like the end of an era in French history.

But it was the secular obsequies a week earlier in Paris for another famous figure, Daniel Cordier, that captured the world’s imagination. Cordier, who died aged 100, had been the secretary to Jean Moulin, the First President of the National Council of the Resistance who suffered death by torture at the hands of Klaus Barbie, “the butcher of Lyon”, in 1943. Cordier had a fierce patriotism that evolved from a youthful interest in reactionary royalist politics into disgust with PĂ©tain’s surrender in 1940. Three days after the capitulation, Cordier left France to join up with other Free Frenchmen to continue the fight against fascism. By 1942 he was parachuting into Montluçon as an intelligence operative of the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action.

Cordier was afforded a full state funeral in Paris with both Presidents Macron and Hollande in attendance. The location for the ceremony was amid the austere grandeur of the cour d’honneur in Les Invalides, the setting for great moments in French history from the revolutions of 1789, to the unjust degradation (and subsequent rehabilitation) of Alfred Dreyfus, and the full state honours for that selfless officer of gendarmes, Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame.

Under an unsmiling bronze statue of Napoleon (itself made from Russian and Austrian guns captured at Austerlitz), a grand republican liturgy was conducted with Macron as the chief celebrant. To the slow beat of the black-clad-drums of the Garde Republicaine, Cordier’s tricoleur-draped coffin was borne into the square by ten officer cadets of the St Cyr Military Academy, whose vivid Second Empire uniforms and pantalon rouge recalled the glories of the army of Napoleon III, from the Malakoff to Solferino, and the countless fallen of Guise, and the Marne in 1914, when officers “thought it chic to die in white gloves”.

In fact, the whole spectacle — and the nearby tombs of Turenne, Bugeaud, Foch and Leclerc — is a rebuke to the tedious Anglocentric view that French military history is merely a litany of defeats. The deeds of Cordier and his confrùres in redeeming the ignominy of 1940 are a refutation of that calumny alone. As was the record of those who fought under the Cross of Lorraine, from Bir Hakeim and Monte Cassino to the French First Army that crossed the both the Rhine (capturing Karlsruhe and Stuttgart) and then the Danube in 1945.

So too was the presence among Cordier’s mourners of the Chief of the French General Staff, François Lecointre — the man who led the French Army’s last bayonet charge when his unit cleared a bridge of Bosnian Serbs in 1995 — a reminder of the depth of the Gallic martial tradition, and France’s enduring role as a formidable military power.

Emmanuel Macron is clearly a frustrated thespian (he even married his former drama teacher), but he was born for moments like this. In a touching eulogy — in which he seemed to implicitly link the death of an anti-fascist like Cordier with what he has described as the need to defend the Enlightenment in a ‘struggle against barbarity and obscurantism’ — he remarked that Cordier was a man “with a taste for action and impetuous bravery”, whose life was “an adventure novel”, who nonetheless “always acted out of love: the love of freedom which justifies taking all risks; the love of beauty which led him to revere so many artists; the love of truth that made him write history”.

But the most moving part of the ceremony came next when Macron, usually so loquacious, stood in dignified silence by the coffin as the French Army choir sang the “Chant des Partisans”, the great anthem of the Resistance.

Much like the startlingly homicidal verses of the Marseillaise itself — with all those references to blood-stained flags, cutting throats and watering the fields with (yet more) impure blood — the Partisans’ hymn is similarly sanguinary, including a call to “kill swiftly” with bullet and knife, and picturing “black blood drying on the roads under the sun”. And yet the moving line in the last verse ami, si tu tombes, un ami sort de l’ombre Ă  ta place (“mate, if you go down, another one from the shadows takes your place”) speaks to the enduring power of libertĂ©, Ă©galitĂ©, fraternitĂ©.

As affecting as these lyrics are, there was something too about the unmistakably French faces of the choir, their beautifully precise diction, and the resonance of their voices amid those timeless surroundings that made their performance so emotionally powerful; a force multiplied still further as the camera kept cutting to an old man in a Foreign Legion green beret, sat in a wheelchair, seemingly lost in contemplation. He was the 100-year-old Hubert Germain — Cordier’s comrade and the last of the Companions of the Resistance.

All of this captures something unmistakenly, and touchingly, Gallic. When the British War correspondent Wynford Vaughan-Thomas was attached to the French First Army in 1944 their advance became bogged down on the edge of the famous wine country of Burgundy. Wondering what was wrong, Vaughan-Thomas hastened to the army headquarters to find anxious staff officers pouring over maps, clearly worried that their advance would destroy some of the greatest wineries in the world.

“At that moment a young sous-lieutenant arrived and said, ‘Courage, my generals — I’ve found the weak spots of the German defences: every one is in a vineyard of inferior quality.’ The general made up his mind at once: ‘j’attaque!'”

Like Charles de Gaulle, it is common to hold “a certain idea of France”. Such ideas might be idealistic and romantic, and yet despite our historical rivalry, so many British people are still beguiled by these stories of French culture and French courage. After watching the poignant funeral of Daniel Cordier, many of us might be moved to agree with Thomas Jefferson that “pour tout homme, le premier pays est sa patrie et le second c’est la France”.


Dan Jackson is the author of the best-selling book The Northumbrians: The North East of England and its People. A New History, published by Hurst (2019)

 

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JohnW
JohnW
3 years ago

You should publish something as adulatory about the British armed forces, and send the Guardian and BBC into hysterics.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  JohnW

Absurd!
How many WW2 docs have been made for British TV (including BBC)?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Too many.
Quantity has triumphed over quality.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago

Yeah? And how much much courage did it take to round up and ship to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis over 13,000 of their Jewish citizens, the majority of them women and children? Just search for Vélodrome d’Hiver.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Well that was Vichy France, which the resistance was fighting.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

A good point well made. It wasn’t done by the French, then? My mistake.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

It wasn’t done by the people this article was about.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

In this article, on a quick count, mentions of French/Frenchmen 16, France 6, Resistance/resistance 5.

Vichy France was in, er, France. Administered by, um, Frenchmen.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

The article did mention France, it would be unrealistic for it not to, but it was mostly about the death of a resistance leader. It’s a bit odd then to rant about Vichy. Would every article about Britain be helped by reference to the atrocities of the British empire?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

What atrocities exactly are you thinking of Eugene?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Eugene, you have taken an inordinately long time to prepare your litany of “atrocities of the British Empire”.

Let me put you out of your misery by stating that whatever indiscretions the British may have committed, they pale into insignificance compared to atrocities committed by China on human kind over the past seventy years. Do you not agree?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The latter argument is whataboutism. I mean if you are saying we weren’t as bad as Mao and his 40M dead then it’s not much of a Defense.

As for the atrocities of the British empire there’s history books out there. Not that the empire was all bad but there were definite atrocities.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Eugene, even allowing for your obvious youth, where did you get that simply dreadful word “whataboutism from? Even my mini computer doesn’t recognise it!

What we are talking about here is comparative analysis (CA). Comparing the enormous atrocities of China with the minuscule ones of the late, lamented, British Empire It is the only way to get a tue perspective, or do you beg to differ?

As for your comment “there’s history books out there” you disappoint me. Either you are deflecting or you cannot gather your facts. If you make such a trenchant statement about the ‘atrocities’ you should be prepared to back them them with hard facts don’t you think?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

It’s a form of Tu quoque.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/

My comments on the atrocities were an aside. The poster presented an argument that we could ignore the French resistance because
(What about) the acts of the Vichy regime. I merely said that would be like responding to an article about British resistance to Naziism with mentions of the Empire’s atrocities. I said nothing about China. There’s no need to list all the atrocities for this to work as an argument. I think I’ve already said that China was indeed worse.

Akarsh Gupta
Akarsh Gupta
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I am sorry Mark, but you got to be awfully ignorant to think of British atrocities as ‘miniscule’. Check up with any place, any village in India. And that is just about India. Much of South Asia and Africa would be frowning at you for your statement.

M H Lazlo T. Son
M H Lazlo T. Son
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

And let’s not forgot that even among the Resistance – which barely existed until the French realized that the Allies would eventually beat their Boche occupiers – many were former Vichyistes who opportunistically switched sides like the “courageous” President Mitterrand. Maybe the writer along with others needs to read Robert Paxton’s books on Vichy.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Pointless, The whole European continent turned on the Jews; Poles were very brave – it didn’t stop them for turning on Jews.
And despite British (should I say English?) pretensions your population would have happily turned them over to the Germans if they had occupied the island.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Possibly not. We will never know. Many occupied countries evaded the mass murders of Jews.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Denmark (send them to Sweden) – who are these “many” countries?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The Vatican City?

henri.berest
henri.berest
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

LOL!!!

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  henri.berest

He wasn’t joking. The Vatican did take in jews.

M H Lazlo T. Son
M H Lazlo T. Son
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

The Vatican – Pope Pius 12th Hitler’s Pope as he has come to be known- stayed silent as the Germans rounded up 6000 Roman Jews. To this day, the Roman Catholic Church conceals its role as an accomplice to mass murder. Perhaps this same author can write a similar fantasy article about the “courage” of the Vatican, which just concluded a dirty deal with the Chinese Communist butchers.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

LOL

M H Lazlo T. Son
M H Lazlo T. Son
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Three to be exact: Albania, Bulgaria and Denmark. In countries with “courageous” and “decent” people like the Dutch and the French local police rounded up their Jewish citizens and then handed them over to their killers to be murdered. Great examples of courage.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Nonsense, we leave that sort of stuff to ” lesser breeds” as Kipling so appositely put it.

Perhaps you are referring to the Channel Isles, where there may have been some problem?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Why do you think that was Jeremy?

Your experience as a ‘money lender’ both in the Counting Houses of the
Big Bagel and London, must give you a very special insight, denied to us mere mortals?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

1) They killed Jesus – historical antisemitism
2) They were always seen as clannish (and to certain degree they are)
3) Many (unfortunately) were tied to Communist movements. Though plenty of gentiles did the same thing.
4) Economic interest, locals were able to take jewish property.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Well put, thank you.

Holding such views must have made life in the Big Bagel rather problematic?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I don’t think the Jews would have been happily handed over except by some, and resisted by others. Most would look away. An English resistance would have existed, it was in fact being organised.

The leaders of a Nazi dominated England would have been anti Semitic.

Jacques René GiguÚre
Jacques René GiguÚre
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Exactly what happened in the Channel Islands.

Jacques René GiguÚre
Jacques René GiguÚre
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

The same courage it took the Channel Islands authorities to do the same with Churchill approval (he forbade any act of Resistance in the Islands).

Gary Greenbaum
Gary Greenbaum
3 years ago

Nice, but I suspect the world will still think of the French marching towards the enemy under their pure-white battle flag.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Greenbaum

Too many stupid people out there. It was fascinating to watch the Neocon American chickenhawks bang on about France during the Iraq War.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Puzzling, as the US has much more in common with France than the UK. It’s republic, with a President, and lots of faux-classical buildings and statuary. I’ve never understood why people think the UK and US are similar. Only the US (and perhaps the French) would tolerate carving Presidents’ heads into a rock. No British person would see the point. I suppose Communists (and many French are such) might do it.

If one is tempted to want a Republic, just repeat the following question to oneself. Trump or Biden? Biden or Trump? Trump or Biden…

Blair or Cameron? Cameron or Blair?…

Christin
Christin
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Mt. Rushmore was undertaken as a private venture on private land. Only after twelve years was the project assumed by the National Park Service. Another private monument of Crazy Horse is underway nearby. You say such projects wouldn’t be “tolerated” in the UK. I take that to mean that the “government” would attempt to control what happens on private property.

Joseph Berger
Joseph Berger
3 years ago

in so many ways this is a sad article, paying deserved tribute to those who did resist, who did fight, when the country as a whole collapsed, and welcomed the nazis in.
that failure, that led to the sending of thusands of Jews to their death, can never be forgiven.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

“…can never be forgiven.”
You can not, but most of the world (99%?) has moved on. I doubt it that Russians or Chinese or Brazilians care AT ALL about it.

Christin
Christin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You take your cues from the CCP? How nice for you.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Christin

Yes,

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Russians would care about sending thousands to their deaths? Or China? Seems like you’ve missed a few history classes.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Fine, let’s say that Albanians don’t care about Vichy and the Jews.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You’re projecting aren’t you? But you don’t dare say it out loud.

Are you talking about the Albanians who THIS YEAR unveiled a new memorial to victims of the Holocaust. The country of Albania which was the only European country to wind up with more Jewish people after the Holocaust? You picked another bad example. You have quite a talent for that.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

No the government of Albania did – the 3M Albanians – the people- don’t care at all.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

When did you speak to them? Dates for each person please.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

pathetic.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

To claim you know what the people in Albania, all of them, think? Indeed. Very pathetic.

M H Lazlo T. Son
M H Lazlo T. Son
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You are truly ignorant, the Albanians should be a model for the cowardly Europeans in having saved not only their own Jewish population but those who took refuge in their country.

J D
J D
3 years ago

Sadly past history. Today France can’t keep the barbarians from beheading educated men who dare talk about a magic book.

Vilde Chaye
Vilde Chaye
3 years ago

Yes, the “surrender monkey” meme lacked historical context. Historically the French were excellent fighters.

Richard Gandy
Richard Gandy
3 years ago
Reply to  Vilde Chaye

True,but by the same token their last 3 big wars saw a ignominious defeat to Prussia in 1871, a victory with British, Commonwealth and key US help in WW1 and the country taken in 6 weeks in WW2. Their grand military history really comes from Napoleons time

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Gandy

They did show immense bravery against overwhelming odds to overcome the Rainbow Warrior during Mitterand’s time. Not for nothing did Mitterand’s adoring troops refer to him affectionately as ‘le petit philanderer’.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Surprised you are on the side of Greenpeace. Is this a note from the past?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Ah Mitterrand, what an apposite reptile to describe modern France.
First he is an enthusiastic Vichy official, then, on realising “that stinker Hitler” has obviously lost the war, he deftly changes sides and “Voila ” He is in the Resistance!

Later in 1959, in a farcical attempt to boost his career he arranges a ‘bogus assassination’ attempt in the Avenue de l’ Observatoire, and is found out, but predictably the prosecution is dropped .

However poor our post war may have been, Eden, Wilson, Heath, Blair etc, we have nothing to compare with the late Francois Mitterrand.

henri.berest
henri.berest
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Comment of the year!

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Gandy

And the time of Louis XIV and before him the 100 Years War

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Gandy

Prussian/Germans were (and still are) the finest fighting men the world has ever produced in the modern era. Hence the French results.

And let’s not pretend that the British army performed any better against the Germans. There were plenty of chances (Norway, Greece, Dunkirk) for the British Army to have their Stalingrad….we know what happened.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Is this precisely what I said to you the other day?
Yet, you seemed to doubt it then.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I didn’t! You are confusing fighting competence with warmongering (cultural trait.)
Has Prussia/Germany fought more wars than Russia? NO! Do we call Russians warmongers? Not that I am aware (feel free to correct me).

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

We certainly did up to 1914, you must recall the Great Game?

Post 1918, thanks to the cancer of Marxism spreading throughout our revered Institutions we have given the Russians an easy ride, despite their blatant barbarism.

Christin
Christin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Lol.

Vilde Chaye
Vilde Chaye
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Gandy

That doesn’t take away from the toughness of the soldiers. It was France that did all the heavy lifting in the first 2 years of WWI, and even in WWII, dispirited as they were, the soldiers were brave; it was the leadership that was pathetic and defeatist. As for “key U.S. help,” that’s a bit much. It’s true that the entry of the U.S. into the war was what convinced the Germans finally to basically surrender, but the actual U.S. contribution was minimal. The Brits of course stepped up to the plate after 1914, but for the first two years, it was the French who held back the German army.

tim cole
tim cole
3 years ago
Reply to  Vilde Chaye

I was surprised to learn that they turned back after making huge inroads after Germany’s invasion of Poland. Could have changed the course of the war.

Vilde Chaye
Vilde Chaye
3 years ago
Reply to  tim cole

“Huge inroads” is quite an exaggeration. I think they advanced a few miles, and retreated very quickly.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
3 years ago
Reply to  Vilde Chaye

The expression was “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”

Vilde Chaye
Vilde Chaye
3 years ago

well they do eat a lot of different kinds of cheese. De Gaulle famously remarked “How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?”

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Good news. This courage will be needed for the EU army.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Europe needs Bundeswehr to be more like Wehrmacht (not against the fellow Europeans though).

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Yes, they should also read up on what Kaiser Bill said to them, in his exhortation on their departure to help crush the Boxer Rebellion.

Something about an iron fist in a velvet glove as I recall. How very apposite for a man with a withered arm don’t you think?

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And there’s the rub. Germany likes to call the shots for everyone. It still today has a more authoritarian bent than almost any country in Europe. Not sure anyone in Europe would be happy to see the return of the Wehrmacht.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

“And there’s the rub” – no there is not. One constant complain (from the people IN THE KNOW ) is that Germany doesn’t lead enough.
As i wrote “…not against Europeans”.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Germany leads everything it wants to. It leads the EU for example. Nothing happens in the EU that Germany doesn’t want to happen. In fact, the complaint is often that Germany is TOO determined to be the EU decision maker, not that it is reticent to lead.

If Germany wanted to spend the money to build an EU army, you can be sure that it would be leading it. You don’t imagine they’d let the French lead it, do you?

And there’s the rub. Some people aren’t all that comfortable with a militarized Germany. After all it’s still full of Germans. It wasn’t only Europeans that Germany has a history of being aggressive with, so that comment is rather short-sighted.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

“It wasn’t only Europeans that Germany has a history of being aggressive”
“Some people” also believe that the earth is flat, we ignore the IDIOTS
LOL! Namibia?
P.S Every European country has a history of aggression against neighbors.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You don’t count the Americans killed by Russia? The Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders? Wow.

Name a European country with a history of aggression against its neighbors similar to the Germans.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Name a European country with a history of aggression against its neighbors similar to the Germans.

France, England (vs Scotland and Ireland)
Russia
Sweden (Yes Sweden)
Poland

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Sweden and Poland killed 6 million people? Never knew that any of the others started, not one, but two world wars. You’re digging a huge hole. And ought to quit now.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

You asked for history of aggressions. I gave you the list. You managed to switch to casualty numbers …nice try,

I don’t know who you are but my guess is that you are a baby boomer, grew up in the 50s/60s reading WW2 comics and you are gloriously fighting WW2 – in 2020.

P.S. I also wrote Russia – and you managed to ignore it.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

No, I didn’t ask for a list of aggressions. (You edited your post above. Originally your first sentence read “You asked for a list of aggressions”. When I posted this comment you edited your post because you knew you’d made a mistake. )

I also didn’t ask for history of aggressions. I asked you to name a country with a history of aggression against its neighbors similar to Germany. Similar to Germany. That’s the relevant bit.

You named several countries that didn’t come close to genocidal massacre of 6 million people. You also failed to mention any country with an extended reach of murders similar to Germany. When did Poland or Russia kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, Canadians and Australians? France do that? Sweden?

Do you understand what genocide is? Because you do not appear to. No other country in the entire world started not one but two world wars.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago

1) The genocide perpetrated by Hitler’s Germany is a different matter to making war against neighbouring countries. In fact, it started out by making war against German citizens inside Germany (Kristalnacht).

2) When Germans killed Americans, Canadians or Australians they were not in North America or Australia, and these countries are hardly neighbours of Germany. So what do these deaths have to do with agression against neighbours?

It seems to me that there is some confusion. I’m not trying to say that Germany was blameless, or anything like that, but that one should give the right names to things.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

1) precisely my point, thanks for reinforcing it. No other European country has done not only that but also started two world wars.

2) These deaths also separate Germany from other European countries.

Perhaps you simply haven’t followed the conversation. But rather than reiterate my points, let’s see if unlike Jeremy, you can name a European country that has come any where near the aggression against its neighbors that Germany has. Note, it would have to include genocide outside the country as well as inside the country as you correctly note Germany committed. I don’t personally find genocide more acceptable than war itself. Do you?

Germany itself recognizes its unusual place in history.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago

France. Napoleon invaded all of Europe. France was the largest continental power until Germany united under Bismarck.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Don’t recall reading that Napoleon killed six million people.

M H Lazlo T. Son
M H Lazlo T. Son
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And Muslims were so kind and gentle to their neighbors? The most brutal colonialists in world history spreading Islam with the sword and the arrow.

Paul pmr
Paul pmr
3 years ago

The French have some great qualities, but military courage or military success are not among them, apart from Napoleon. In the 18thC and 19thC, French military ambitions were largely thwarted. In WWI, the French army almost collapsed in the mutinies of 1917, leaving the British army to keep up the pressure on the Germans. In WWII, the French armed forces were defeated by the Germans and France was occupied. For every resistance fighter, there were numerous collaborators.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul pmr

They did kick us out of America!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul pmr

French casualties in WW1 were 2x as high as Britsh.
And there were plenty of chances for the British (Norway, Greece, France, N Africa, Singapore) to have their own version of Stalingrad….we know what happend.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Losing twice the casualties of the British is not an example of military success. You’re making Paul’s point.

tim cole
tim cole
3 years ago

Tell that to the Americans. And with good reason.

takzula
takzula
3 years ago

I would urge you to seek out The Battle of Algiers:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
3 years ago

thanks for this, makes me wonder sadly if the same would happen in Britain.

takzula
takzula
3 years ago

The French. What a bunch of ******
What they did in Algeria was nothing less than what the Nazis did to them JUST NINE YEARS after the end of WWII.
Cowardly, vain, imperialist fascists.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  takzula

France brought civilization to Algeria.
Huge difference!

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Decolonisation was attended by violent rioting. I suppose you would have wished to see it put down. In India on the other hand….

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And yet the British are condemned for civilising much of the world

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Murray

British (and the French) failed.
Think of Pakistan

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  takzula

Don’t forget Indo-China just before that.

Jacques René GiguÚre
Jacques René GiguÚre
3 years ago

The “impure blood” in the Marseillaise is not about the ennemy but about the people, those of unpure non noble birth, shedding their blood for their country.
Sparing the best vineyards was about not destroying valuable economic property whose export would be vital to postwar reconstruction.

anthony tebbs
anthony tebbs
3 years ago

For those (and there must be at least a few) who seek an accurate view
of the history of Angle/French relations I recommend That Sweet Enemy

by historians Robert Tombs (British) and Isabelle Tombs (French). You
may be surprised.

https://www.penguinrandomho

Charles Rense
Charles Rense
3 years ago

People don’t fully comprehend the scale of French casualties in the Great War. The lost a generation of young men in that war, meaning twenty years later they simply could not field enough soldiers to stave off the Germans. WWI was, for them, a pyrrhic victory. They didn’t even expect miracles from the Manginot line. That was just a desperate measure to make the most of the what few men they had, and at best it was hoped it would hold off the Germans long enough for the proverbial cavalry to come, which it turns out it could not. At least not yet.

The rest of the tale is told by the map. There’s is a large chunk of land right in the middle of western Europe, bordered by Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, massive borders with Germany and Austria, and coastlines on the English channel, the Atlantic, and the mediteranian. These were easy vulnerabilities to exploit given their undermanned forces.

However, as the Germans flooded in (while mired in a second front with Russia), they would inherit that vulnerability. And as tough as the fighting was on D Day and beyond, would an allied victory even been possible had the Germans not spread themselves so thin by taking France?

Perhaps we can call the French surrender in WWII a pyrrhic defeat.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Rense

French military leadership in 1870, 1914 and 1940 was particularly woeful. The disasters and debacles were very largely self inflicted

Take 1914, the French High Command’s strategic plan was a madcap scheme Plan XVII which called for all out attack into the well prepared Germans in Alsace Lorraine, this achieved little beyond very high casualties. They thought the French soldier irresistible in attack, unfortunately against machine guns, artillery and barbed wire, it was not so. And worse the French left themselves wide open to the German right wheel through Belgium, which resulted in the loss of large French real estate. So they were on the back foot from then on trying to win back the lost territories.

Unfortunately however they were not equipped for modern war, as their artillery principally comprised the quick firing 75mm gun, an excellent weapon for dealing with German infantry in the open field, it was hopeless when the Germans were dug in in fixed positions as they were after the Battle of the Marne, it’s trajectory was flat and its payload too small. But in 1915 the French had to keep attacking, for political reasons and also because the Germans had a complete advantage in heavy artillery, which could have been used to great effect had they chosen to attack the French army in their trenches. The result was a series of French offensives in 1915 carried out with little effective artillery preparation which resulted in massive casualties for little ground gain and no proportionate attrition of the German forces – they lost about 3 to 1.

So in these follies lay the demographic and moral damage which so enfeebled France after the war, and indeed by 1917 after the Nivelle Offensive debacle the French Army had had enough of attacks on German defences.

1940 was not dissimilar in terms of the ineptitude of the French military leadership – and the lack of preparation for a modern war actually, but better led and organised it it would have by no means been impossible for the French and British to have halted the German attack in May 1940

john freeman
john freeman
3 years ago

Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! The officers were pouring over maps: but what were they pouring?

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago

They’re not cowards. Compared to the more phlegmatic Brits, they are mercurial, and the Parisien sort who rule are full of amour propre. They also lack a Protestant sense of guilt. When things go wrong they shrug ‘Bouffe’ and move on.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago

It’s sobering to recall that at the beginning of May, 1940, Britain was set to follow France into a negotiated defeat by Germany. Thanks to Churchill, Attlee and the others, and no thanks to Halifax and his gang of upper-class, pro-German, anti-semitic, defeatist sympathisers.

takzula
takzula
3 years ago

This article..
Do also explain what the French were doing occupying the Ruhr in the 1920’s.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  takzula

Apparently using somewhat dark skinned troops from Africa to harass German virgins.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

Cheese eating surrender monkeys the lot of em.