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A killing machine and a corrupter

Stephen Hornsby-Smith


Germany was the source of Nazism, Britain didn't call time early enough to prevent it spreading, Vichy France bottled it and the Manhattan project in the USA used ex Nazi scientists to terrify cold war opponents after Nazi Germany fell.

With this backdrop, Marcel Ophuls made a documentary about Vichy France, the Free French, and the French Resistance at a time when no one wanted to confront their role in collaboration with the occupying Nazi's. Hell did he take a risk. The shrug of the shoulders, general evasiveness, being vague,accidentally on purpose unable to remember, and turning a blind eye to collaboraters.of the Nazis. Collaboration was also camoflaged by anglophobia. It seems that Britain destroying the French fleet is something that all french men could rally against. Would the French have done the same if things were reversed? Surely the point is would Hitler honour his word not to assume control over the French fleet after France officially surrendered to the Nazi's? Ask Chamberlain or the Czechs, or ask Marshall Petain who would have (albeit further down the track) have offered Hitler the French fleet as a mark of cooperation, which in my books means collaboration with the Nazi's pure and simple.

If Britain had lost, collaboration to me would have meant that my 10 year old father(1940) would have been hunted and annihilated in a death camp. Thank God we don't live under such totalitarianism today. But just as Ophuls film warned us about corruption, cynicism and arbitrary misuse of power, we in Britain have to be so careful. Who would ever suspect that a nation of democracy hard- won over millenia , could manipulate or collaborate with the powerful against the unsuspecting individual? Britain as a nation of moderation , could unwittingly be harbouring all sorts of evil. Ophuls is especially candid about those collaboraters who merged back into anonymity, success to mask their past. The last present I got from a relative who worked for the French Resistance as a member of the SOE was a book retelling the SS murdering a whole French village for not giving up their Resistance fighters - what would we have done? I don't want to grandstand here, but this isn't "none shall pass" or "Long live the resistance", but like Ophuls I say simply open your eyes. Whilst Vichy France drank to the health of the collaboration, Resistance fighters had opened their eyes and stared hard into the face of Nazi's and their collaboraters until their eyes were guaged out. Perhaps the only thing that those less courageous of us can do is to open our eyes.

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