The Quest for Masculinity in a Defeated France, 1940-1945

TitleThe Quest for Masculinity in a Defeated France, 1940-1945
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsCapdevila, Luc
JournalContemporary European History
Date Published11/2001

This article provides a detailed analysis of the individuals who enrolled in Vichy fighting units at the end of the German occupation. Those groups were mostly created in late 1943 and early 1944 and acted as effective subsidiaries to German troops, treating civilians and partisans with extreme violence. The enrollment of those men was a consequence of their political beliefs, notably strong anti-communism. But the fact that their behavior seems born of desperation (some were recruited after D-Day) is a hint that it was shaped according to other cultural patterns, especially an image of masculinity rooted in the memory of the First World War and developed, among others, according to fascist and Nazi ideologies: a manhood based on strength, the violence of warfare and the image of the soldier. This article provides an analysis based on judiciary documents from the time of the purge, with a careful reconstruction of personal trajectories and self discourse in order to understand the masculine identity these sometimes very young men tried to realize through political engagement in the guise of warriors.

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