Tag Archives: France
The comparatively static nature of the front line in the west for much of the war meant that, after the first three months, most of France and Belgium was not directly in the fighting zone. But for those trapped in the areas of German occupation the war took on another meaning. Some were interned in concentration camps and others held as hostages. For the remainder, the pattern of the day was set by German time; they required passes in order to go about their daily business; family life was disrupted as women were deported as labourers; class was reversed as bourgeois families found themselves short of food and humiliated by the invaders.
What happened to Napoleon Bonaparte‘s relatives after he lost power in France? They could not stay in France but, perhaps surprisingly, they came to little harm – with the exception of Napoleon’s brother-in-law, Joachim-Napoléon Murat. Murat fled to Corsica after Napoleon’s fall. He was executed in Naples sin 1815. Famously, his last words were: “Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face. Fire!”
France was England’s principal rival in the race to found colonies in North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. French adventurers were at the forefront of exploration of the New World and soon established control over extensive territories. Yet despite having a larger population than England, France was far less successful in encouraging emigration to its colonies.
Seventy years ago, interned by the Germans in Buchenwald concentration camp, the Dutch professor Peter Geyl tried out on the inmates his view that the place of Napoleon in history should be reconsidered in the light of Hitler’s tyranny. Although Napoleon was not the author of genocide and was wedded to equality and the rights of man, Geyl nevertheless thought that Napoleon was responsible for murder and massacre on a grand scale.