The author takes us back to a time in history that caused the people of many countries to undergo changes and loses of lives that they would never forget. Sudden Courage takes us into France, we meet the youth of France who sparked a movement that would change the course of their history after the German invasion of 1940. These young people as you get to know them felt betrayed, when the old military establishment called the Maginot line could not defend against the invading power. Each one of these young people wanted to make their mark and defend their country but not everything goes according to plan. They formed what came to be known as the Resistance. Then we hear and see newspapers, underground newsletters and as we see it happening when it’s described the assassination of a German soldier, which would bring heavy and catastrophic results. But, the deadliest person and dangerous of the time was Hitler who pushed occupation forces. Retribution was nothing compared to the execution of 50 hostages and anyone that dared to break curfew became a hostage and then D-Day. Taking place Sudden Courage follows the youth of France after the German invasion of 1940.
The Germans dissolved Vichy and occupied the south then the Resistance became more serious. Railroads taken over; bridges blown up done in cooperation with the Allied forces in preparation for the 1944 Normandy landings. The Nazi occupation is at the heart of this novel as 100’s of young French people under 21 devoted their time and energy to take on what the German’s were dishing out. The German armies entered France on June 14, 1940. Eight days later France signed an agreement which would change the course of the world and by accepting Nazi Occupation for five years. At that time the people of France became to go back to their normal way of living but within every country and no different in this one there are some young people that disagree with what their government does and created resistance organizations or pre-existing groups that worked against the Vichy government. Journals, diaries, letters and interviews with survivors are shared within this book as he creates a timeline of events that explains how these young people deviated and diverted their time from leaving classes and assignments to forging documents and stealing Nazi secrets. As you meet these young people who tried to make a difference some thought they would escape punishment while others were shipped to prison camps, shot or worse. Defining the resistance, we understand from the way the information is presented that it was started by the communists. They ran and dominated many trade unions and could bring their way of running their trade unions to fruition. They had an unusual relation with Degaul’s government and focused on the tradition bound ideals of Old France.
The young people in France during WWII were primarily concerned in trying to find their identities and where they belonged in this world filled with turmoil and strife. They tested authority, wanted to create and establish their own independence and put their idealism into action.
Throughout the novel the author talks about the resistance that many though involved weapons but in this case it was different. Undermining the control of the Occupier using propaganda, sabotage and other means while some were somewhat effective against the Germain forces, Rosbottom, states, “ the activities of these resisters expressed a will to do something and thereby resonated with many French citizens. The shock to the world when you read the section titled Sudden Courage allows you to understand why the world was shocked and blindsided when in the spring of 1940 the Germans did an end run around France’s huge network of defensive fortifications. The border known as the Maginot Line and the evacuation of hundreds or thousands of British troops and took nearly 2 million French troops prisoner. The shock was felt when the French government was disbanded, and a new state formed under the leadership of Petain. He tells how a collaborate agreement was signed with the Third Reich. It did something to France that would change the lives of so many as she became divided in an Occupied Zone in the north and Free Zone in the4 south headquartered in Vichy.
Imagine how the French felt when the German’s entered and the consequences were devastating to their families and friends. He talks about the Nazis and how they tightened their grip and hold on France it is scary and frightening just reading about it even now. German activities were taken from the French police and the German army to the SS and its Gestapo police and Jewish people over the age of 6 were humiliated and forced to wear a yellow star. Then huge roundups of Jews in Paris and many placed in concentration camps. So many would die there. He recounts these actions appalled but those who witnessed the atrocities were more than shocked and there were many arrest and deportations of friends. He also talks about the hard resistance that included assassination, major sabotage and train derailments but I would be remiss if I did not name those young people who died for their beliefs. The key figures were Guy Moquet who was the youngest of the resistors and died at the hands of the Germans at 17. The section titled Blind Resistance brought chills and tears to my eyes as Jacques Lusseyran was a powerful force who lost his site as a young child and used his other sense to help him create the largest groups of young resisters in Paris. With the support of his friends, and those that joined the groups he established he was able to create a huge network. But he managed to survive almost a year and a half under horrific conditions in Buchenwald where he became a leader.
Germain Tillion, Marc Bloch, Raymond Ruffian only 11, Andre Kirschen, Maroussia Naitchenko, Micheline Book, Roger Fichtengerg only 19 years old in 1940 becoming from a family of assimilated Jews who had been French for many generations. Adolpho Kaminsky, A writer and thinker named Someone Weigh, Robert Lynen, Jean-Raphael Hirsch the youngest resister the author talks about in this book, Thomas Elek and Annie Kriegel. She was the author of memoirs focusing on the psychology or resisters and the author includes her accounts of witnessing the round=up and separation of Jewish families in Paris. Genevieve de Gaulle the niece of Charles de Gaulle was arrested in at the age of 22 in 1943 after two years of resistance work. Sent to a camp along with so many others who died there.
The pictures and photos included bring the movement and the story to light as we see those that were taken and killed for fighting for their beliefs. He includes pictures of the prisoners and the camps too. “ I know no better definition of the encourage that these young people felt. Fear was always present fear of the police, of course , but also fear of failure, of letting comrades down, of inadvertently releases information or betraying a trust.” The unselfishness of these young people, their courage that arose in response to unexpected events and unanticipated tears in the fabric of life. Who will ever come to terms with the outcomes, the deaths and the knowledge that so many died because of their Sudden Courage? Author Ronald C. Rosbottom takes us right to the front lines and allows readers to experience the time period, the events and their resistance along with the young men and women that died for their visions and beliefs.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews