Peschanski, Denis

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Peschanski, Denis




Office—Centre for Social History of the Twentieth Century, Sorbonne University, 1 rue Victor Cousin, 75005 Paris, France.


Writer, historian, and educator. Sorbonne University, Centre for Social History of the Twentieth Century, professor of history.


Et pourtant ils tournent: vocabulaire et stratégie du P.C.F., 1934-1936, Institut national de la langue française, Klincksieck (Paris, France), 1988.

(With Stéphane Courtois and Adam Rayski) Le Sang de l'étranger: Les Immigres de la MOI dans la Resistance, Fayard (Paris, France), 1989.

(Editor, with François Bédarida) Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch, Marc Bloch à Etienne Bloch: lettres de la "drôle de guerre," Institut d'histoire du temps présent (Paris, France), 1991.

Les ouvriers en France pendant la Seconde guerre mondiale: Actes du colloque, Institute d'histoire du temps présent (Paris, France), 1992.

(With Marie-Christine Hubert and Emmanuel Philippon) Les Tsiganes en France, 1939-1946, CNRS Éditions, 1994.

Vichy, 1940-1944: Contrôle et exclusion, Éditions Complexe (Brussels, Netherlands), 1997.

Images de la France de Vichy, 1999, translation by Lory Frankel published as Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor, with Gilles Le Béguec) Les élites locales dans la Tourmente: du Front populaire aux années cinquante, CNRS Editions (Paris, France), 2000.

(With Jean-Marc Berliere) La police francaise, 1930-1950: entre bouleversements et permanences, Documentation francaise (Paris, France), 2000.

La France des camps: l'internement, 1938-1946, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2002.

Des étrangers dans la Résistance, Atelier (Paris, France), 2002.

(Editor) Moscou-Paris-Berlin: télégrammes chiffrés du Komintern, 1939-1941, Tallandier (Paris, France), 2003.

Contributor to Le régime de Vichy et les Français, Fayard (Paris, France), 1992.


Denis Peschanski has documented many aspects of French life in the mid-twentieth century, when Europe was torn by war and France was occupied by the forces of Nazi Germany. La France des camps: l'internement, 1938-1946 tells the story of the various internment camps that existed in France during those years. Not only Jews, but also Gypsies, refugees from the Spanish Civil War, those suspected of Communist leanings, and other people deemed "undesirable" were held in these camps. Peschanski provides the history of these establishments, and takes a look at the difficult moral choices that had to be made by charitable societies who wished to help those held captive in the camps. By doing so, they "gave legitimacy to the process of internment itself," explained Sudhir Hazareesingh in a Times Literary Supplement assessment. In an examination of the architecture, construction, and development of the camps themselves, Peschanski "finds that most camps were hastily constructed in response to a crisis," noted reviewer Donna F. Ryan on the H-France Reviews Web site. Peschanski finds that "none of the French camps had been built with the care employed in German camps designed specifically for concentration, labor, and extermination," Ryan observed, largely because "the French were not engaged in a policy of extermination." When Germans did execute prisoners kept in these camps, they also gave the French reason to despise the camps. "Peschanski finds that French public opinion turned against the existence of the camps following the hostage executions, as the camps came to be seen as Nazi gallows," Ryan stated. Peschanski reports that a diverse population of prisoners led to equally diverse prisoner experiences, from the temporary incarceration of a black marketer to the profound dread of a Jewish prisoner facing a worse fate in Germany. He also notes that a disproportionate number of prisoners in the French camps were women, suggesting that they were specifically targeted for punishment. Hazareesingh called La France des camps "a seminal book, likely to become a standard reference work." Ryan concluded that Peschanski's work is a "well-documented, highly interpretive study, which will be the definitive work for a long time."

In Le Sang de l'étranger: Les Immigres de la MOI dans la Resistance, the author discusses the Main-d'Oeuvre Immigrée (MOI), an organization founded in the 1920s by the French Communist party that was intended to help the many immigrants who came to France after the First World War. Leaders of MOI were arrested and executed by the Nazis in 1943. Reviewing Le Sang de l'étranger for the English Historical Review, H.R. Edward called it an "excellent book," as well as "a powerful and moving tribute to men and women whose history has finally been rescued from anonymity."

In Les élites locales dans la Tourmente: du Front populaire aux années cinquante, Peschanski and coeditor Gilles Le Béguec present works by almost forty researchers from the French Institut d'histoire du temps. The editors and contributors seek to strike a balance of coverage between the large-scale historical events that occurred in France during the middle of the twentieth century and the local politics that fueled everyday life in France from World War II to the Cold War. "They reveal, on balance, more continuities than change over a period covering the Popular Front, the Occupation and Liberation, and the outset of the Cold War," noted Andrew Knapp in the English Historical Review. With some few exceptions, Knapp reported, "the stodgy, apolitical notables of centre-left or centre-right, recalcitrant to any party discipline, were almost as present in 1953 as in 1935."

Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44, offers a "photo essay of the German occupation of France during World War II," noted reviewer Mary Salony in Library Journal. In ten chapters, each introduced by a notable French historian, Peschanski presents striking visual images that document French life under the Germans. He includes images of posters, leaflets, and newspaper clippings, as well as photographs depicting a variety of scenes, daily life, and cultural events from the time period. The photographs demonstrate the level and tenor of the collaboration between the German occupiers and the Vichy government, and some images depict violence perpetrated by the Germans as well as the Resistance. Each photograph includes a lengthy caption describing the subject of the image and its significance. "This is a brilliant, powerful, and painful combination of visual images and the written word," commented Jay Freeman in Booklist.



Booklist, October 15, 2000, Jay Freeman, review of Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44, p. 413.

English Historical Review,October, 1992, H.R. Edward, review of Le Sang de'etranger: Les Immigres de la MOI dans la Resistance, p. 1073; September, 2001, Andrew Knapp, review of Les Élites locales dans la Tourmente: du Front populaire aux années cinquante, p. 1010.

Library Journal, October 1, 2000, Mary Salony, review of Collaboration and Resistance, p. 122.

Publishers Weekly, August 7, 2000, "The Legacies of World War II," review of Collaboration and Resistance, p. 88.

Times Literary Supplement, January 31, 2003, Sudhir Hazareesingh, review of La France des camps: l'internement, 1938-1946, p. 26.


H-France Reviews, (January 16, 2007), Donna F. Ryan, review of La France des camps.