Marc Bloch - Second World War

Second World War

In 1939 France declared war on Germany after its invasion and occupation of Poland. As France mobilized its troops, Marc Bloch left his position at the Sorbonne and took up his reserve status as a captain in the French Army at the age of 52. He was encouraged at the time by colleagues both in France and abroad to leave the country. He said it was his personal obligation to stand for the moral imperative.

"I was born in France, I have drunk the waters of her culture. I have made her past my own. I breathe freely only in her climate, and I have done my best, with others, to defend her interests."

His memoir of the first days of World War II, Strange Defeat, written in 1940 but not published until 1946, blamed the French military establishment, along with her social and political culture, for the sudden total military defeat and helped after the war to neutralize the traumatic memory of France's failure and to build a new French identity.

Bloch joined the French Resistance in late 1942, driven by ardent patriotism, identification with his Jewish roots and a conception of France as the champion of liberty. His code name was "Narbonne". He was eventually captured by Vichy police and turned over to the Gestapo, which tortured and shot him in June 1944, just as the Nazis realized that the Allies were about to reconquer France; Bloch became a national martyr after the Allied liberation.

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