Les Parisiennes

Les Parisiennes

How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation

Book - 2016
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"What did it feel like to be a woman living in Paris from 1939 to 1949? These were years of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation and secrets until-- finally-- renewal and retribution. Even at the darkest moments of Occupation, with the Swastika flying from the Eiffel Tower and pet dogs abandoned howling on the streets, glamour was ever present. French women wore lipstick. Why? It was women more than men who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis-- perhaps selling them their clothes or travelling alongside them on the Metro, where a German soldier had priority over seats. By looking at a wide range of individuals from collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes to teachers and writers, Anne Sebba shows that women made life-and-death decisions every day, and often did whatever they needed to survive. Her fascinating cast of characters includes both native Parisian women and those living in Paris temporarily-- American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, and fashion and jewellery designers. Some women, like the heiress Béatrice de Camondo or novelist Irène Némirovsky, converted to Catholicism; others like lesbian racing driver Violette Morris embraced the Nazi philosophy; only a handful, like Coco Chanel, retreated to the Ritz with a German lover. A young medical student, Anne Spoerry, gave lethal injections to camp inmates one minute but was also known to have saved the lives of Jews. But this is not just a book about wartime. In enthralling detail Sebba explores the aftershock of the Second World War and the choices demanded. How did the women who survived to see the Liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Although politics lies at its heart, Les Parisiennes is a fascinating account of the lives of people of the city and, specifically, in this most feminine of cities, its women and young girls"--Publisher's website.
"Paris in the 1940s was a place of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation, and secrets. During the occupation, the swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower and danger lurked on every corner. While Parisian men were either fighting at the front or captured and forced to work in German factories, the women of Paris were left behind where they would come face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis, as waitresses, shop assistants, or wives and mothers, increasingly desperate to find food to feed their families as hunger became part of everyday life. When the Nazis and the puppet Vichy regime began rounding up Jews to ship east to concentration camps, the full horror of the war was brought home and the choice between collaboration and resistance became unavoidable. Sebba focuses on the role of women, many of whom faced life-and-death decisions every day. After the war ended, there would be a fierce settling of accounts between those who made peace with or, worse, helped the occupiers and those who fought the Nazis in any way they could."--Dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, 2016
Edition: First U.S. edition
ISBN: 9781250048592
1250048591
Branch Call Number: 940.5344 SEB
Characteristics: xxii, 457 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm

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EmilyEm
Jun 21, 2017

Journalist Ann Sebba takes on the ambitious task of documenting women of many persuasions during the Occupation of Paris in WW II. Her writing tells of choices made, knowing or unknowingly, too collaborate or resist, and the importance of the fashion industry to the city and the world once the war ends. Interesting.

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TheresaAJ
Feb 01, 2017

Sebba has written a comprehensive social history of Parisian women from 1939 through 1949 in three parts -- War, Liberation, and Reconstruction. From high society women to working prostitutes, the author has detailed the stories of Nazi victims, Nazi collaborators, and those between the two extremes. As Sebba writes in the final paragraph, "But surviving in occupied Paris for many women demanded some sort of choice, some sort of decision, about how they would accommodate living with the Germans. It is not for the rest of us to judge but, with imagination, we can try to understand." Maps, illustrations, extensive notes, and a bibliography detail the amount of care and work that went into this book.

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