As part of the 1968 generation, my parents would reject my grandfather’s sometimes ugly Gaullism, and it would become a friction between father and son for many years. My father pivoted into Marxism-Leninism, and raised me to be one, while my grandfather kept looking back to La Republique as it was before the war with more and more nostalgia.
Everything in the 4th Republic was a compromise with modernity that set my grandfather’s nostalgia for what had been lost against that modernity. I mean, here was a man who couldn’t do what was usual in those days, and force his Norwegian wife to move to France.
Instead, he moved to Norway because he could not face the collaborators in his family and in his town who, in his view, had betrayed La Republique so grievously. Rather, then, he must move to Arctic Norway which was more pure, and simpler. Its citizisens had been outright conquered, and had resisted fiercely, and the Nasjonal Samling-people were fewer and reviled.
My grandfather died in the 1990s, and I never did know him that well. My father moved to Sweden to look for work, and met my mother there at some protest or other. Father made a life here, in Sweden, and meeting grandfather was rare and far between. But lately, with the political situation we have, I’ve been thinking about what he would have made of all this.
I inherited my grandfather’s medals, and one of them is the one given to all who fought for the Free French during the war, when they clawed back inch by inch the external possessions of France, and then France itself. From Algiers to Asia to Nantes. One by one the Vichy-regime holdings fell until by 1944 there was only pieces of France itself left.
But there is one thing I think that my grandfather would not be surprised by, and it was a thing he kept with venom and hate throughout his later years.
That was how France had betrayed the Republic and all it stood for by accepting that most hated Vichy regime. And here we are again, where the inheritors of Vichy, Front Nationale, have a chance to win the presidency.