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Black soldiers facing the Reich (J. Chapoutot and J. Vigreux)


Historiography has long forgotten the participation of the 3,000 colonial soldiers who were massacred by military units from the Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS during the campaign in France in May-June 1940. Black soldiers facing the Reich, book edited by Johann chapoutot and Jean Vigreux, is partly the result of a colloquium organized by Jean Vigreux at the Musée de la Resistance en Morvan de Saint Brisson in 2011 and is supplemented by unpublished contributions which aim to shed light on nearly 100,000 forgotten soldiers of the Second World War.

Composition of the book

Published this year by the Presses Universitaires de France, Black soldiers facing the Reich is a small book composed of 6 chapters which are communications from five authors relating to the massacres of Senegalese riflemen in 1940.

Indeed, eminent specialists have looked into the question and we find within the book a host of leading authors on the subject. First the two coordinators of the book, Johann Chapoutot and Jean Vigreux who are both university professors and respectively specialist in the history of Nazism and contemporary Germany and specialist in France in the 20th century. The three other authors contributing to this book, Raffael Scheck, Claire Andrieu and Julien Fargettas, respectively worked on contemporary German history and the fate of French colonial soldiers, on the Occupation and the Resistance and more specifically on the Senegalese Tirailleurs.

In a first chapter, Julien Fargettas recounts the myths and realities that surround this "Dark Force" and constitutes a very interesting first introductory approach to help us place the context of the creation of the Senegalese Tirailleurs and the questions of memories and recognition that surrounds them.

In a second chapter, Johann Chapoutot gives us the Nazi point of view by focusing on anti-black racism present in Germany under the Third Reich. Anti-black racism has, in fact, been the subject of very active racist propaganda which makes it possible to put the status of blacks at the time at the same level as that of the Salves which makes it possible to show that the massacres perpetrated in 1940 are the result of a very virulent contempt for "races" which are considered inferior at the time.

Chapters 3 and 4 are both written by Raffael Scheck and detail for one the massacres of black prisoners by the German army in 1940 and for the other the route of colonial prisoners of war after this same date. The author of these two chapters thus highlights a relatively little studied episode of the Second World, as well as the differences in treatment between white prisoners and prisoners of color, which is also a subject that is still little studied.

Chapter 5 examines the German point of view by studying the Nazification of the Wehrmacht during the campaign in France, which thus led the German army to carry out the deliberate massacres of prisoners of war. Claire Andrieu also deals with the policies of repression of the perpetrators of offenses that were carried out by the Werhmacht in 1941.

Finally, the last chapter of Jean Vigreux returns to one of the massacres of 40, the massacre of 43 skirmishers in Clamecy and on the reuse and memory of this event set up from 1943

Our opinion

Relatively short, perhaps too short, this work is extremely interesting by the theme approached, still relatively little studied today, and by its resonance with the commemorations of the Second World War. The contributions are of high quality, are read very quickly, thus making the reader want to know more about these forgotten episodes of the Second World War and push new researchers to look at a different approach to the 39-45 war. We regret in this sense that the book is not longer, but it constitutes an excellent first approach for informed readers wanting to know more about the racist massacres of 1940.

Black soldiers facing the Reich, Les massacres racistes de 1940, Johann CHAPOUTOT and Jean VIGREUX (dir.), PUF, Paris, 2015


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