Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Montserrat M. Miller

Second Advisor

David R. Woodward

Third Advisor

Karen L. Simpkins

Fourth Advisor

Ellen Furlough

Fifth Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


On Monday night 12 September 1994 President Francois Mitterrand appeared on French national television to discuss his involvement with the Vichy regime during its early years and in particular his postwar friendship with the former Vichy regime’s Police Chief, Rene Bousquet. Rene Bousquet was charged with crimes against humanity in 1989 for his role in the Final Solution in France and was indicted in 1991. He was assassinated 8 June 1993 and never brought to trial. Mitterrand’s controversial friendships and his television appearance to discuss them are emblematic of ambiguities present in French society surrounding historical memory of the period 1940-44 known as ‘"les annees noires”' and the subsequent Liberation. In many ways these years constitute a secret misunderstood period of French history that highlight a nation with a troubled subterranean memory, which historian Henry Rousso aptly calls “Vichy Syndrome”. Rousso uses Freudian theory relating to the role of the collective memory on the unconscious to identify a mixed collection of signs, which Rousso refers to as symptoms, visible in particular in the politicosocial and cultural life in France. These signs reveal the existence of a traumatism engendered by the Nazi occupation and have been maintained and sometimes even developed after the events themselves by the French state. Rousso argues that these symptoms reflect the difficult reconciliation of the French with their history of “les annees noires”. Indeed, until quite recently French history from 1940 onwards was understood by most people in a simplified way.


France – History – German occupation, 1940-1945.

France – Politics and government – 1940-1945.

World War, 1939-1945 – France – History.

Trials (Crimes against humanity).