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Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940 (1946)

de Marc Bloch

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Marc Bloch wrote Strange Defeat during the three months following the fall of France, after he returned home from military service. In the midst of his anguish, he nevertheless "brought to his study of the crisis all the critical faculty and all the penetrating analysis of a first-rate historian" (Christian Science Monitor). Bloch takes a close look at the military failures he witnessed, examining why France was unable to respond to attack quickly and effectively. He gives a personal account of the battle of France, followed by a biting analysis of the generation between the wars. His harsh conclusion is that the immediate cause of the disaster was the utter incompetence of the High Command, but his analysis ranges broadly, appraising all the factors, social as well as military, which since 1870 had undermined French national solidarity. "Much has been, and will be, written in explanation of the defeat of France in 1940, but it seems unlikely that the truth of the matter will ever be more accurately and more vividly presented than in this statement of evidence." — P. J. Philip, New York Times Book Review "The most wisdom-packed commentary on the problem set [before] all intelligent and patriotic Frenchmen by the events of 1940." — D. W. Brogan, Spectator… (mais)
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En la obra de Marc Bloch, para algunos el mejor historiador del siglo XX,este texto ocupa un lugar muy especial. La extraña derrota es su último libro, aquel en que quiso contarnos sus experiencias del hundimiento de Francia en 1940: de una extraña y vergonzosa derrota que vivió como capitán de Estado Mayor. A este texto impresionante, que viene a ser como el examen de conciencia de un pueblo, se le han añadido los escritos políticos clandestinos de los años en que luchaba la resistencia, hasta que fue torturado y ejecutado por la Gestapo en junio de 1944.Éste es un gran libro de historia que analiza una sociedad en crisis que se rindió demasiado fácilmente al empuje hitleriano. Pero es también la reflexión de un intelectual que asume la responsabilidad de quienes no se atrevieron a implicarse en los problemas de su tiempo y exige al historiador que contribuya a modificar la conciencia colectiva.

Más información en: https://elpais.com/diario/2004/10/12/catalunya/1097543242_850215.html ( )
  MigueLoza | Dec 27, 2020 |
This is a fascinating testimony about the factors in the French army, government and society in general that, according the author, accounted for the French collapse and premature (in Bloch's opinion) surrender in the face of the German invasion in 1940. Marc Bloch was a veteran of the trenches of World War I and by trade a highly respected historian, so analysis of the type he undertook here was his stock and trade. When war was declared in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, Bloch returned to the military as a reservist, and was set to work as an officer working out the tracking and distribution of petrol supplies for the French First Army. As such, Bloch was in a position to see first-hand the hardening of the arteries that had taken place within the French military, both during the long period of inactivity known as the Phony War and then during the tragically short period of actual fighting once Germany invaded. Bloch describes, here, the scene on the beaches during the Dunkirk escape. Among those taken off the beaches, Bloch spent a short time in England, and then returned to what he thought would be the battle to defend his country. Attempts to assemble French troops to create a counter-attack came to an end with the capitulation by the French government. Bloch describes his thought process at the time, feeling that the honorable thing to do would be to allow himself to be captured as a soldier. But he had five children, and didn't think abandoning them for the duration of the war for the sake of symbolism was the right thing to do. Do to the fact that he was by this point a middle-aged man, he was able to simply put on civilian clothes and disappear in plain sight without drawing suspicion from the occupying forces who were soon everywhere. Eventually, he made his way home. Living in Vichy France and trying to return to his academic work, Bloch (according to the wikipedia page on his life) found his activities greatly curtailed by the Vichy regulations that severely limited where and how Jews could find work. When the German army rolled into Vichy in 1942, Bloch joined the underground. He was caught and executed in 1944.

This book was written in 1940, almost immediately after the French surrender. There are a few footnotes that Bloch entered to amend or add to the information presented in around 1942. Bloch discusses a great many reasons that came together to create a France wholly incapable of fighting off the German Army. A top-heavy military structure with too much jealousy and too little cooperation between branches, a complacency born of a wholesale refusal to take a clear look at the way warfare had changed since the first world war, the widespread loathing for and distrust of the working classes and the democratic process in general among the country's governing and industrial classes, to the extent, Bloch says, that some even thought that not only was it inevitable that Germany's autocratic system would defeat France, but that perhaps it was preferable that they would. In the field, according to Bloch (and he certainly wasn't alone), the French Army was done in by a lack of adequate training and equipment, poor leadership in crucial posts, and the dismay and sometimes even panic derived from the surprising speed and fury of the German attack (which Bloch takes pain to point out should not have been surprising). Bloch describes commanders who ordered withdrawals from perfectly defensible positions without orders and before the German army had even arrived because they couldn't imagine their troops (or themselves) standing up to such a lightning attack. In addition, the refusal to look clearly at how war was evolving added to the French leaderships' refusal to bulk up their supply of tanks and aircraft. (Elihu Root, in his The Secret History of the War, reviewed above, finds even more sinister sources for these withdrawals, claiming that they were ordered by traitors within the French high command. Root has a similar theory about the refusal to modernize the French Army. Bloch doesn't quite go that far, but in 1940, writing from home, he wouldn't have the evidence Root might have had for that surmise.)

Bloch takes the reader on a tour of French pre-war society, taking industrialists, labor leaders and academics (including himself) to task for the ways in which the nation fell short and laid themselves open to defeat. Bloch goes on to provide a more global context with a final section acute and highly readable political philosophy. The combination of Bloch's status as an expert historian and as a first-hand participant in so many of these events, plus Bloch's lucid and enjoyable writing style, makes this an entirely fascinating testimony and analysis of a fascinating if tragic historical saga. ( )
1 vote rocketjk | Jul 19, 2020 |
Marc Bloch made his reputation in Medieval history, but as a good Frenchman he re-enlisted for his second world war, in 1939. On the spot for the astonishing collapse of the French army in 1940, he whiled away his time in a prison camp by penning this memoire of the campaign. Involved in resistance activities, he was shot by the Germans in 1944. The book deals with a number of the grievances felt by the French after the fighting in the spring of 1940, and explores the reasons that both parties, the French and the English, may have felt after the spring campaign, and the Dunkirk evacuation. Gerard Hopkins' translation has given us a book well worth reading, a worthy contribution to the literature of WWII. I reread this book in 2013, and it held up well. ( )
  DinadansFriend | May 8, 2018 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Bloch, MarcAutorautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Hoffmann, StanleyPrefácioautor principalalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Altman, GeorgesPrefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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Contains the following works / Comprend les œuvres suivantes : L'étrange défaite ; Le testament de Marc Bloch ; Ecrits clandestins (Pourquoi je suis républicain ; L'alimentation humaine et les échanges internationaux, d'après les débats de Hot Springs ; La vraie saison des juges ; Un philosophe de bonne compagnie, A propos d'un livre trop peu connu ; Sur la réforme de l'enseignement).
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Marc Bloch wrote Strange Defeat during the three months following the fall of France, after he returned home from military service. In the midst of his anguish, he nevertheless "brought to his study of the crisis all the critical faculty and all the penetrating analysis of a first-rate historian" (Christian Science Monitor). Bloch takes a close look at the military failures he witnessed, examining why France was unable to respond to attack quickly and effectively. He gives a personal account of the battle of France, followed by a biting analysis of the generation between the wars. His harsh conclusion is that the immediate cause of the disaster was the utter incompetence of the High Command, but his analysis ranges broadly, appraising all the factors, social as well as military, which since 1870 had undermined French national solidarity. "Much has been, and will be, written in explanation of the defeat of France in 1940, but it seems unlikely that the truth of the matter will ever be more accurately and more vividly presented than in this statement of evidence." — P. J. Philip, New York Times Book Review "The most wisdom-packed commentary on the problem set [before] all intelligent and patriotic Frenchmen by the events of 1940." — D. W. Brogan, Spectator

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