Soon after the German occupation of France, 51-year-old Jean Texcier, who worked at the French Ministry of Trade, created a list of tips for the “occupied population.” He printed his advice on flyers that were later stuffed into mailboxes, slid under doors, and placed on chairs in cafes and restaurants:
Street sellers offer [the Germans] maps of Paris and phrasebooks; buses pour out incessant waves of them in front of Notre-Dame and the Panthéon; there is not one of them who has not got a camera to his eye. Be under no illusion: they are not tourists.
They are the victors. Act correctly with them. But don’t go beyond their desires. Don’t go out of your way.
If one of them speaks to you in German, make a sign of impotence [non-comprehension], and without remorse be on your way.
If they ask for a light, offer your cigarette. Never, not for a long time, have we refused a light to anyone—not even to our most mortal enemy.
If they think it useful to spread defeatism among the citizens by offering concerts in public places, you are not obliged to go. Stay at home, or go to the countryside to listen to the birds.
Reading our newspapers has never been good if one wanted to learn how to express oneself correctly in French. Today, the Parisian daily newspapers no longer even think in French.
Act with total indifference; but nurture secretly your anger. It will be useful [in the future].
You moan because they ask you to return home at 11 p.m. Don’t you understand that this means you can listen to English radio?1
A group of young people created a similar flyer in Poland at about the same time. It included the following advice:
Polish is your mother tongue. You shall not learn the language of the enemy under the knout. Even if you speak his language, you should not use it. Do not make the aggressor’s unwanted stay in your Fatherland any easier. Answer all questions in Polish: “I don’t understand.” You should not give the enemy an address nor show him the way (unless it is wrong). Restrain your inborn Polish courtesy and hospitality. For you, the occupying soldier, the enemy official, and the occupier’s celebrations should not exist. Maintain reserve and seriousness on the streets and in public places, do not laugh or talk loudly: you might end up in one of the enemy’s perfidious propaganda films. . . . You are expected neither to deal with nor to provoke the invader. You should be calm and collected. No laughing. You should never forget for a moment who has destroyed your country; who has robbed and murdered your compatriots, who has kicked and abused your brothers and sisters.2
Compare the two sets of advice given to the occupied populations. Do they have similar goals?
Historian David Drake refers to Texcier’s suggestions for how to live under German occupation as acts of “passive resistance.” What do you think that means? What might “passive resistance” accomplish? What is the difference between “passive” and “active” resistance?
What do these pamphlets suggest about the pressures of living in an occupied country? What do they suggest about the differences between living in occupied France and occupied Poland?
What elements of the pamphlets most stand out to you? In what ways do the authors of the pamphlets suggest resistance? In what ways do they suggest that individuals should accommodate the German occupiers by adjusting their own behavior?
1Jean Texcier, “Advice to an Occupied Population” (Conseils á l’occupé), July 1940. Quoted in Ronald C. Rosbottom. When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940–1944 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2014).
2Quoted in Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000), 414.