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Paris at War

Paris at War


David Drake

ISBN 9780674504813

Publication date: 11/16/2015

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Paris at War chronicles the lives of ordinary Parisians during World War II, from September 1939 when France went to war with Nazi Germany to liberation in August 1944. Readers will relive the fearful exodus from the city as the German army neared the capital, the relief and disgust felt when the armistice was signed, and the hardships and deprivations under Occupation. David Drake contrasts the plight of working-class Parisians with the comparative comfort of the rich, exposes the activities of collaborationists, and traces the growth of the Resistance from producing leaflets to gunning down German soldiers. He details the intrigues and brutality of the occupying forces, and life in the notorious transit camp at nearby Drancy, along with three other less well known Jewish work camps within the city.

The book gains its vitality from the diaries and reminiscences of people who endured these tumultuous years. Drake’s cast of characters comes from all walks of life and represents a diversity of political views and social attitudes. We hear from a retired schoolteacher, a celebrated economist, a Catholic teenager who wears a yellow star in solidarity with Parisian Jews, as well as Resistance fighters, collaborators, and many other witnesses.

Drake enriches his account with details from police records, newspapers, radio broadcasts, and newsreels. From his chronology emerge the broad rhythms and shifting moods of the city. Above all, he explores the contingent lives of the people of Paris, who, unlike us, co­uld not know how the story would end.


  • David Drake writes a narrative of the capital during [World War II] that, by catching the mood of those Parisians who wrote diaries and journals of the Occupation, restores a humane sense of reality to a story that can easily be reduced to one of derring-do (on the part of resisters) or cloak-and-dagger machinations (on the part of Laval, his enemies on the Right, and the German officials who alternately loathed and manipulated him). Built up on a deep engagement with the practical problems of living in Paris, as well as an elegant account of how Nazi authorities squabbled over its management, Drake’s book is hugely readable and satisfyingly detailed.

    —Julian Wright, Times Literary Supplement


  • David Drake has taught at universities in London and Paris and has published widely on French intellectual and cultural history.

Book Details

  • 592 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press