Imagine yourself in Europe in the closing days of the Second World War.
Millions have died or been forced from their homes as refugees, soldiers,
prisoners, or slave laborers, and economic and political structures have
begun to collapse. The clash of ideologies and a swarm of subsidiary civil
wars have left little common moral ground to the survivors. Peace has not
yet officially arrived, although you have been liberated from enemy occu-
pation and the battle has moved on to other territory. How would you
and your neighbors regather yourselves into a community in the wake of
such a cataclysm? How would you bridge the gulf between war and peace
to embark on social, cultural, and political reconstruction?
More specifically, imagine yourself in France during the apres-liberation,
the liminal period between the liberation of most of the country in the
summer of
and the January
resignation of Charles de Gaulle
from the presidency of the Gouvernement provisoire de la Republique
frans:aise (Provisional Government of the French Republic,
though for the most part spared the full brunt of the war, France emerged
from it in a state of political and social fragmentation and of economic dis-
repair caused by government collaboration and the depredations of Ger-
man occupation. Nazi Germany had defeated France in
in a matter
of weeks, leading to the division of the country into several occupation
zones and to the creation of the collaborationist Etat frans:ais of Marshal
Philippe Petain, better known as Vichy France. When the Allied armies
invaded Normandy and Petain retreated with the Germans in
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