March 29th, 2016
As I dive deeper into my research of Vichy France and the Vel d’Hiv Roundup I am becoming painfully aware of just how little secondary source material there is. The entirety of the conversation of France’s occupation is controlled by Robert O. Paxton’s work. The work that exists outside of his own has likely been reviewed by him and some even contain forwards by him. While this makes understanding shifts in the conversation on the event easier it also does not help with a diverse conversation. Any questions that crop up as I move along remain mostly unanswered. A boiling point was reached with the Literature Review. As the UMW page states, the Literature Review needed to either cover the paper’s main focus or a single aspect of it. I had no choice but to focus on the Vichy aspect.
In doing my Literature Review solely from this single aspect of the Vichy perspective, I do feel like I best understand the most important components of the event I am focusing my project on. The secondary sources explained the French government’s involvement as well as how French responsibility was seen before, during, and after the German occupation. However, many sources focus and discuss memory of the occupation and how America has presented France as lying or hiding their responsibility or past while, in France, the subject and its primary sources have been analyzed by people in every field (or no field at all) to the point that there is so much secondary material it that there is an argument that the truth is being buried under opinions. All of these secondary sources have been thoroughly interesting, each is detailed and provides interesting perspectives on a touchy subject, but the primary sources that have turned up as I continued to dig through the library have been the most rewarding.
The diary of an American that married a Frenchman after she moved to France and they then joined the French Resistance is not only unique in its circumstances but its perspective. A collection of translated letters from France also provides a unique look at life during this time period. There are not only letters from Paris but from the Germans controlling parts of the government and France. Not every source has been without its flaws, namely a multi-volume “collection of documents” actually turned out to be blips of interviews from Vichy and Nazi sympathizers that were trying to protect their reputations before the truth came out about their involvement in the German’s “Final Solution.” Moreover, that source was also compiled by the daughter and son-in-law of one of the complicit French government officials.
Finding unbiased and translated sources have been one of my biggest hurdles. However, following the trail of footnotes and endnotes in the two dozen books with chapters or sections on the Vel d’Hiv does seem to be paying off. Now my attentions have turned to a rough draft of the final paper in order to create a solid presentation of the topic. As I sit behind mountains of books, I cannot help but wonder what I have gotten myself into. The subject is interesting, if not extremely depressing, and only made more frustrating by the discrepancies in the source materials from the number of people taken to whether they were French or non-French. As I continue to find sources, adding them to a timeline, and attaching where they get their data from I hope to uncover some sort of trend in this small change as well as others. For now, it is nose to the page, fingers to the keyboard, and all highlighters on deck as I push along through the material.
March 9th, 2016
At this very moment, roughly fifteen students are panicking about a literature review paper. That could be a slight exaggeration. Surely, at least one person has it together… or it could be a scientific fact. I will let you decide. My own literature review has begun. Four pages may not seem like a “beast” of a paper, but without a focus, it can certainly stress out a rambler, like me. I am waiting for a final word on my revised hypothesis and thesis. Knowing a bit more than the average person on my topic, the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, I repeatedly found myself wanting to share every speck of information I could find. What that left me with throughout my Project Proposal Paper was a vague mess. A vague mess, obviously, leaves a term project in the mud. While I look forward to further diving into the material, I hope that will be without a resounding belly flop.
In an attempt to clean off the mud I have decided to reuse some of the History 297 Colloquium tactics in order to better sift through my sources. Having already created an annotated bibliography I will compile the sources into a timeline of all my secondary sources. Upon further reading of these sources, I will be able to establish a clear image of what, precisely, are the arguments of each author. If my revised hypothesis and thesis are approved, I aim to uncover what is missing from the story of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup. In being acquainted with the topic nearly all the material I was previously aware of focused on the experience of the Parisian Jews captured and later exterminated. Robert O. Paxton, chief historian of this topic, has this focus in some of his work but has also addressed the Vichy Regime. However, there are voices missing, namely those of Parisians that witnessed the event and the French Resistance fighters that were already established in the Paris Underground. Does the absence of their perspectives alter the reality of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, a historic moment for France that has only recently began to be discussed? I believe that my research will show that it does.
February 11th, 2016
My research paper project has been approved. It will be about the event known as La Rafle or, in English, the Vel d’Hiv Roundup. This was an event in which French police working under the Vichy regime systematically collected the Jewish residents of Paris and shortly thereafter sent nearly all of them to Auschwitz concentration camp for extermination. The working title of the paper is “Vichy and the Vel d’Hiv: Examining the German Occupation of Paris” and a complete written proposal and presentation will be given within the next week. Primary sources will mainly include diaries and interviews, as well as newspaper articles, government records, and books that were written by survivors.