Political

Religion, Collaboration, and Resistance during the Second World War (abstract)

American Catholic Historical Association & American Historical Association read

Panel Abstract:

The collaboration/resistance divide in France could be porous, as the many examples of collabo-resistance illustrate. Double-jeu, duplicity, was the coin of the realm. One revealing indicator is that Vichy France, while de facto a subaltern ally of Hitler, de jure remained in a state of war with Nazi Germany.

The two women and one Jesuit discussed in this session, demonstrate how religious commitments may further complicate this problematic. French Catholicism had long been engaged in resistance — but against a very different opponent. On the eve of the Second World War, fiercely opposed to the state’s aggressive laïcité, some Catholics preferred the Third Reich in Germany to the Third Republic in France. Thus, the natural instinct of such faithful was support for Marshall Philippe Pétain’s policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Yet a spiritual resistance to Nazism, nurtured among French Jesuits by Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), did emerge. This abandoned the obsession with restoring the confessional ancien regime. Instead, it proposed transcending old battles against the Republic through an alternative, a collective spiritual mobilization beyond secular politico-centricity. It drew upon the resources of the Church’s intellectual arsenal — e.g. aspects of theology, ecclesiastical structure, and biblical scholarship — reformulated to meet new challenges. However, since the church of both de Lubac and Pétain was ultimately the same, the new vision could not break sharply with the past. Consequently, both demonstrated significant political similarities, as SARAH SHORTALL’s paper discussing the Jesuit journal of resistance, Témoignage chrétien, (Christian Witness) reveals.

Through the scholar of Cistercian monasticism, Marie Magdeleine Davy (1903-98), BRENNA MOORE addresses a more forceful resource for resistance, mysticism and comparative religion. During the war, Davy sheltered and organized the escape of Allied aviators downed in France even as her scholarship attacked the fantasy of the so-called West, a pure white Christian Europe, propagated by the highly influential Henri Massis. Davy herself acknowledged how her immersion in the texts of medieval Christian mysticism had sustained her rejection of Vichy.

Simone Weil (1909-43), another philosopher-mystic, clandestinely distributed Témoignage chrétien and knew Davy, but her trajectory diverged from both, according to BENJAMIN BRAUDE. She came under the influence of antimodernist acolytes of Massis and the monarchist antisemite Charles Maurras, who illegally fashioned elements of her posthumous oeuvre into a Trojan horse insinuating neo-Pétainism into France at mid-century. Weil’s tortured political-religious behavior during the war and her post-war legacy accentuate the porousness of the divide between opposing and supporting Vichy.

___________

Annual meetings of the American Historical Association and the American Catholic Historical Association (Jan. 2022)

Panel: Religion, Collaboration, and Resistance during the Second World War

Chair: Charles Gallagher,  S.J., Boston College

Papers:

“The Weapons of the Spirit: Catholic Theology and the Resistance to Nazism in France”

— Sarah Shortall, University of Notre Dame

“Mysticism and Resistance: The Case of Marie-Magdeleine Davy”

— Brenna Moore, Fordham University

“The Collabo-Resistance of Simone Weil”

— Benjamin Braude, Boston College

Comment:

Bernard M. J. Wasserstein, University of Chicago

“A terrible responsibility”: In today’s U.S., patriotism is essential — but not easy

Robert Zaretsky read

In early July 1942, a 30-something French Jewish woman and her parents, having fled occupied France months earlier, disembarked in New York City. While the parents were still unpacking, the daughter began to write letters to friends, acquaintances, even strangers to help her return to France.

How Simone Weil taught us to confront a world poisoned with lies.

To an English officer she heard on the radio discussing France, she poured out her heart in near-fluent English.

“It is a very hard thing to leave one’s country in distress,” she Weil wrote. “Although my parents, who wanted to escape antisemitism, put a great pressure upon me to make me go with them, I would never have left France without the hope that through coming here I could take a greater part in the struggle, the danger and the suffering of this war.”

Simone Weil, the author of the letter, then tried to sell its recipient — as she had dozens of others — on the idea of creating squadrons of unarmed French nurses who, garbed in white and led by Weil, would be parachuted onto battlefields to tend to the wounded. Though the idea never got off the ground, Weil did manage to get as far as England toward the very end of that year, and join Charles de Gaulle’s Free French movement. . . .

Forward (July 3, 2022).

“Simone Weil’s Heterodox Marxism: Revolutionary Pessimism and the Politics of Resistance”

Scott B. Ritner

in Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle, eds., Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 185-206

“Introduction: Weil, Politics & Ideology”

Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle

in Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle, eds., Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-24

“Captured Time: Simone Weil’s Vital Temporality Against the State”

Casey Ford

in Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle, eds., Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 161-184.

“Ideology as Idolatry”

Alexandra Féret

in Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle, eds., Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 143-160

“Let Them Eat Cake: Articulating a Weilian Critique of Distributive Justice”

K.G.M. Earl

in Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle, eds., Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 41-60