chapter  4
12 Pages

Liberation: freedom, hope and relief

Whichever assessment one accepts, it is clear that this was an epoch-defining moment: like 1789, a landmark in French history whose significance and importance can be viewed in a whole range of different arenas. It is tempting to see the Liberation as an ‘ending’—a fullstop that marks the termination of the wartime period. However, in a sense, the Liberation was much more than that, and should perhaps be viewed as a ‘beginning’. (To keep the punctuation metaphor going: it could be seen as the start of a new sentence rather than the final stages of an old one.)

It is also very easy to fall into another trap: to believe that the Liberation was exclusively about joy, elation and untrammelled freedom, and to overlook the fact that, in reality, the years 1944, 1945 and 1946 were extremely difficult. Of course the Liberation period incorporated bliss and exultation, but it was also synonymous with violence and national division. It was a time, moreover, of wholesale recriminations; there was a constant fear of civil war and an ever-present awareness that France, if she was to survive in the post-war world, would have to put all her energy into national economic reconstruction. In this sense, the Liberation was a time of great trauma and tribulation, and not just unadulterated happiness and relief.