chapter  6
Women and the Purges
Pages 24

As the L iberation approached , members of the milice, the PPF and their families, and others who had been closely associated with the Germans became aware that they were in danger. Some left with the German convoys, finding work and accommodation in Germany where they remained until the end of the war. O thers tried to escape to Spain over the Pyrenees or to Switzerland. Most ultimately ended up in the courts on their re turn , and many o f those accused of serious crimes were sentenced in their absence (par contumace) . The departure of the Germans and the arrival of the FFI or Allied

troops was seen as cause for celebration across the country. People took to the streets with French flags and m et in the main central squares to celebrate their newly-found freedom . At the same time, a wave of reprisals against those who had helped the Germans began almost immediately. The initial spontaneous movement, which became known as the ‘wild purges’ (lepuration sauvage), was violent and motivated by revenge. Almost as soon as the prisons were emptied of Resisters, they were filled again with collaborators. Young men, often last-minute additions to the ranks o f the Resistance, supposedly FFI, wandered around the towns and the countryside brandishing rifles, anxious to find victims to help prove their alle­ giance to the cause o f Resistance. Aarest centres were established and in a m atter of days the tables had been turned; the hunters became the hunted . Some of those who had helped the Germans and who had been directly implicated in batdes that had taken place no t long before lost their lives. From as early as July 1944, special military tribunals and courts martial were established particularly in areas where there was an intense maquis presence. A lthough these did no t always have proper jurisdiction, they tried renowned collaborators on a local level. Many passed and carried out a series of death sentences.