Before coming to France, I must admit that I had a percentage of received opinion in me about the lack of resistance to the Germans by the French at the beginning of the Second World War. Not long after arriving, a TV series called ‘Un village français’ started to be screened. It told the story of fictional everyday characters, the doctor, the schoolteachers, the mayor etc., in a village on the demarcation line between occupied France and Free France. As each character’s life unfolded, it became increasingly clear that every day decisions were far from black and white. In the unoccupied British Isles (Channel Isles excepted) everything was morally clear. We were the ‘good’ guys and the enemy were the ‘bad’ guys. What should the young schoolteacher do when a music loving young German soldier offers to mend her radio for her? What should Mr Swartz do when the Germans want to buy wood from his timber mill, and he is to be paid in deutschmarks? Is he a collaborator? Does he have any choice? Even the cold, heartless, cruel French detective falls in love with a Jewish woman and shoots Nazis to protect her. Every character has continual moral dilemmas that have consequences for him/her and then their family members. It was an eye-opener. The series has won awards and I hope that one day it will appear in English. Living on what was the front line of the First World War, we are constantly reminded of the damage done in 1914-18. Arras, St Quentin, Reims and other towns on the front line were in parts razed to the ground. Some villages disappeared completely only to live on in people’s memories by having their name added to the name of the adjacent village. It must have been very hard to have just finished reconstructing only to have another war declared 20 years later.

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