Re: “Choosing Disobedience,” by Erna Paris

While my family spent a year in France in the 1970s I spent some time sitting on Juno Beach, and tried to understand why there was such a difference in attitude between the Dutch and the French, the Dutch were so friendly and appreciative of Canadians, the French quite the reverse. With a couple of notable exceptions, the French petits commercants – butchers, bakers, hatrdressers, etc – were very friendly, but middle and upper class French wanted nothing to do with us, and that includes the professional people with whom my husband worked. Our rather indifferent ability to speak the language could not be the only reason for this coolness. I have since come to believe that the American decision to allow de Gaulle and Leclerc to be the first to enter Paris following the German retreat was not a wise move but in fact a disastrous one. De Gaulle and Leclerc did not liberate France, and by lying to themselves about it they missed the opportunity to start to face the rather shoddy behaviour that had taken place in occupied France. A little humility would have been a good first step. Perhaps a French speaking Canadian regiment would have been a good choice for that entry, and might have provided a reminder of considerable Canadian blood shed to liberate Caen a short time before. Certainly that slate was cleared and no thanks was ever given to their saviours. Perhaps too we might have been spared that boorish behaviour of de Gaulle in Quebec City during our hundredth birthday celebrations. Certainly the Germans, with a much more shocking past have done a better job of coming to terms with their shame than have the French. Unlike London, Paris may have been been relatively untouched by the war, but one is tempted to suggest that Parisians lost a part of their souls.

I am not in a position to judge the accuracy of much of the other sections of the article, but I am loath to accept much of Mr Hansen’s remarks at face value if he can be so wrong about the French.

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