Robert Brasillach (French pronunciation: [ʁɔbɛʁ bʁazijak] (listen)) (31 March 1909 – 6 February 1945) was a French author and journalist. Brasillach is best known as the editor of Je suis partout, a nationalist newspaper which came to advocate various fascist movements and supported Jacques Doriot. After the liberation of France in 1944 he was executed following a trial and Charles de Gaulle's express refusal to grant him a pardon. Brasillach was executed for advocating collaborationism, denunciation and incitement to murder. The execution remains a subject of some controversy, because Brasillach was executed for "intellectual crimes", rather than military or political actions.
Robert Brasillach (1938)
|Born||31 March 1909|
|Died||6 February 1945 (aged 35)|
Fort de Montrouge, Arcueil, France
Born in Perpignan, he studied at the École normale supérieure, at the time a school of the University of Paris, and then became a novelist and literary critic for the Action française of Charles Maurras. After the 6 February 1934 crisis in the Place de la Concorde, Brasillach openly supported fascism. His politics are shared by several of the protagonists in his literary works, notably the two male main characters in The Seven Colours (see below).
Brasillach wrote both fiction and non-fiction. While his fiction dealt with love, life and politics in his era, his non-fiction dealt with a great variety of themes, ranging from drama, great literary figures and contemporary world events. His work in the realm of cinema history (see below) was particularly influential.
Brasillach was fascinated by the cinema and in 1935 co-wrote a detailed critical history of that medium, Histoire du cinéma (re-edited in 1943), with his brother-in-law, Maurice Bardèche. This work remained the "most prominent aesthetic history of film for at least a decade", and a work that exerted considerable influence, via its impact on Georges Sadoul (who nonetheless disliked the authors) until the 1970s. Unlike several other authors and critics of the time, Brasillach did not see cinema through an overtly political lens, although the 1943 re-edition of his work did contain certain anti-Semitic comments not included in the original. Despite being fervent nationalists and personally believing that each nation and people had a unique cinema, the authors instead focussed on international trends rather than local particularities. Brasillach frequented Henri Langlois' Cercle du cinéma (Cinema Circle). His personal tastes are detailed in his major work on cinema and in numerous articles of the period. These tastes ranged from Russian cinema (Battleship Potemkin and Alexander Nevski) to classics such as Charlie Chaplin, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, René Clair and Jean Renoir and to certain Hollywood films, such as those of John Ford, Frank Borzage and King Vidor. Brasillach was drawn to originality and explored foreign cinema, and became the first major critic in France to address Japanese cinema, namely Yasujirō Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Heinosuke Gosho. While in prison, he worked on a third edition of his work on cinema and started to adapt a work on Falstaff which he hoped to film with Raimu.
He became an editor of Je suis partout, a fascist paper founded by dissidents from the Action Française and led by Pierre Gaxotte. Brasillach was attracted to the fascistic Rexist movement in Belgium, and wrote an article and later a book about the leader of the movement, Leon Degrelle. Brasillach admired what he perceived to be Degrelle's youth and charisma and Degrelle's insistence on being neither left nor right, supporting striking workers, encouraging love of God, the King and family and desiring to see the establishment of an anti-Communist and anti-capitalist, Christian-influenced corporate state. Degrelle went on to collaborate with the German occupation of Belgium and served in the Waffen-SS. Brasillach was also greatly impressed by José Antonio Primo de Rivera and his Falangist movement. By contrast, he described Mein Kampf as a "masterpiece of cretinism" in which Hitler appeared to be "a sort of enraged teacher."
A soldier in 1940, Brasillach was captured by the Germans and held prisoner for several months after the fall of France. At his trial the prosecution alleged that his release was due to pro-German articles written while in captivity. He was freed in early 1941 and returned to his editorial duties at Je suis partout. He wrote in favor of the Vichy regime but later embraced a more wholehearted germanophile policy of collaboration and Nazi policies and criticized the Vichy state. He joined a group of French authors and artists in a trip to meet with German counterparts in Weimar and in November 1942 he supported the German militarisation of the unoccupied zone (Case Anton) under the Vichy government because it "reunited France".
He visited the site of the Katyn massacre, toured the Eastern Front, visited French volunteers and wrote, on his return to France, that he had gone from embracing a collaboration due to reason and rationality to being a collaborator for reasons of the heart ("De collaborationiste de raison, je suis devenu collaborationiste de coeur.") He called for the death of left-wing politicians and in the summer of 1944 signed the call for the summary execution of all members of the French Resistance. He considered himself a "moderate" anti-Semite and was replaced as editor of Je suis partout in 1943 by the even more extreme Pierre-Antoine Cousteau. He was a member of the Groupe Collaboration, an initiative that encouraged close cultural ties between France and Germany. He went on to work for various journals, including Révolution nationale and le Petit Parisien. After the liberation of Paris Brasillach hid in an attic, joking in his diary: "Jews have been living in cupboards for four years, why not imitate them?" He gave himself up on September 14 when he heard that his mother had been arrested. He spent the next five months in prison and continued his literary endeavours while incarcerated.
Brasillach was tried in Paris on 19 January 1945. His judge had served under Vichy. The prosecutor re-iterated Brasillach's vehement anti-semitism, linked his praise of Germany and denunciation of the Resistance to SS massacres in France and played upon homophobic sentiments by repeatedly drawing the jurors' attention to the author's homosexuality, noting, inter alia, that he had slept with the enemy and approved of Germany's "penetration" of France. In so doing the prosecution was making hay with Brasillach's own words, as he had suggested, as Liberation approached, that France had slept with Germany and would remember the experience fondly. Brasillach was sentenced to death. Brasillach responded to the outrage of some of his supporters then in attendance by saying "It's an honor!"
The sentence caused an uproar in French literary circles and even some of Brasillach's political opponents protested. Resistance member and author François Mauriac, whom Brasillach had savaged in the press, circulated a petition to Charles De Gaulle to commute the sentence. This petition was signed by many of the leading lights of the French literary world, including Paul Valéry, Paul Claudel, Albert Camus, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Arthur Honegger, Jean Anouilh and Thierry Maulnier. De Gaulle did not comply and Brasillach was executed by firing squad in Montrouge. It has been argued that De Gaulle refused to spare Brasillach because the author had on numerous occasions called for Georges Mandel's execution. De Gaulle admired Mandel, a prominent conservative politician (who happened to be Jewish), and who was murdered by the Milice during the closing days of the Occupation. Brasillach called out "But all the same, long live France!" ("Vive la France quand même!") immediately before his execution. He was buried in the cimetière de Charonne in the 20th Arrondissement of Paris. His brother-in-law, Maurice Bardèche, was later buried next to him.
Brasillach sought to protect his own legacy as his life drew to a close. He composed several works while awaiting trial and execution, including a collection of verse and a letter to French youth of the future, explaining and justifying his actions (Lettre a un soldat de la classe de soixante (Lettre), see below). In Lettre he was unrepentant about his fascism, his anti-semitism or his wartime activity, although he insisted that he had no idea that French Jews were being sent to their deaths when they were deported.
His biographer Alice Kaplan noted that his death made him the "James Dean of French fascism" and a martyr to the extreme right. François Truffaut was both aware and appreciative of Brasillach, stating that Brasillach and Pierre Drieu La Rochelle shared similar political beliefs and that "views that earn their advocates the death penalty are bound to be worthy of esteem."
A group called Association des Amis de Robert Brasillach celebrates the author's work and legacy.
Below is a list of Brasillach's oeuvre (fiction, non-fiction and poetry), including posthumous works. Certain works have been briefly summarized.
Events from the year 1909 in France.1945 in France
Events from the year 1945 in France.1945 in literature
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1945.Alice Kaplan
Alice Kaplan is the John M. Musser Professor of French and chair of the Department of French at Yale University. Before her arrival at Yale, she was the Gilbert, Louis and Edward Lehrman Professor of Romance Studies and Professor of Literature and History at Duke University and founding director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies there. She is the author of Reproductions of Banality: Fascism, Literature, and French Intellectual Life (1986); French Lessons: A Memoir (1993); The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach (2000); and The Interpreter (2005), about racial injustice in the American army witnessed by Louis Guilloux. In March 2012, Kaplan's book about the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, Dreaming in French, was published by the University of Chicago Press. A French edition of Dreaming in French, entitled Trois Américaines à Paris: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, Angela Davis, was published by Éditions Gallimard in October 2012, translated by Patrick Hersant.
Kaplan is also the translator into English of Louis Guilloux's novel OK, Joe, Evelyne Bloch-Dano's Madame Proust: A Biography, and three books by Roger Grenier: Piano Music for Four Hands, Another November, and The Difficulty of Being a Dog.
Kaplan's research interests include autobiography and memory, translation in theory and practice, literature and the law, twentieth-century French literature, French cultural studies, and post-war French culture. Her recent undergraduate courses include courses on Camus, Proust, and Céline; theories of the archive; French national identity; “The Experience of Being Foreign”; and “Literary Trials.” Upcoming courses include “The Modern French Novel” (with Maurice Samuels) and a film course on French cinema of the Occupation. She currently sits on the editorial board at South Atlantic Quarterly and on the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is represented by the Marly Rusoff Literary Agency.Charles Lescat
Charles Lescat (19 February 1887 – 1948) was an Argentine citizen, who studied in France and wrote in Je suis partout, the ultra-Collaborationist review headed by Robert Brasillach.
Born as Carlos Hipólito Saralegui Lesca in Buenos Aires, he was a volunteer during World War I in France. There, Lescat became a personal friend of Charles Maurras, leader of the Action française (AF) monarchist movement. Part of the AF, he presided over the administration council of Je suis partout, and was editor in chief of this review for a time. In 1941 he published an anti-Semitic book titled Quand Israël se venge (When Israel takes revenge), through the Éditions Grasset publishing house.
At the Liberation of Paris, he took refuge in Germany before travelling to Francoist Spain. He arrived in Uruguay in 1946, and later established himself in Juan Peron's Argentina. There, he organized one of the ratlines used by collaborators and Nazi fugitives. Lescat helped Pierre Daye find refuge in Argentina.
Lescat was sentenced to death in May 1947 by the High Court in Paris, but, despite extradition requests from France, was never extradited. He died in Argentina in 1948.Cultural Amnesia (book)
Cultural Amnesia is a book of biographical essays by Clive James, first published in 2007. The U.K. title, published by MacMillan, is Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time, while the U.S. title, published by W.W. Norton, is Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories From History and the Arts. The cover illustration was adapted from a work by German Modernist designer Peter Behrens.Fausta Garavini
Fausta Garavini (born 1938, Bologna, Italy) is an Italian writer and translator.
She studied French and Occitan literature at the University of Florence She later worked as a literature professor at this university and as an essayist in several publications like "Paragone", "Nuovi Argomenti", "Revue d'histoire littéraire de la France" and "Littérature".Henri Béraud
Henri Béraud (21 September 1885 in Lyon – 24 October 1958 in Saint-Clément-des-Baleines) was a French novelist and journalist. He was sentenced to death – later commuted to life imprisonment – for collaboration with the Germans, in 1945.Je suis partout
Je suis partout (French pronunciation: [ʒə sɥi paʁtu], lit. I am everywhere) was a French newspaper founded by Jean Fayard, first published on 29 November 1930. It was placed under the direction of Pierre Gaxotte until 1939. Journalists of the paper included Lucien Rebatet, Alain Laubreaux, the illustrator Ralph Soupault, and the Belgian correspondent Pierre Daye.Jean Madiran
Jean Arfel (14 June 1920 – 31 July 2013), better known by his pen name Jean Madiran was a French far right nationalist and a traditionalist Catholic writer who was born in Libourne. He has also used the pen name Jean-Louis Lagor.
During the German occupation of France, Madiran was the private secretary of Charles Maurras and was awarded the Order of the Francisque, the decoration, in the form of a stylised double-headed francisca, that was granted by Vichy France. He contributed to the newspaper Action Française. This was the organ of the movement of the same name and was published from 21 March 1908 to 24 August 1944.
After the Second World War, he retired to Madiran in southwestern France (whence his pen name) and became noted as a journalist and essayist. In 1948, he published his first book, La Philosophie politique de saint Thomas (The Political Philosophy of Saint Thomas), under the pen name Jean-Louis Lagor and with a preface by Maurras.
In 1956, Madiran and Louis Salleron co-founded Itinéraires, a review of Catholic themes which later became a leading organ for criticism of the reforms within the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council of 1962–65.Itinéraires originally appeared monthly, but after the 1988 Ecône Consecrations became quarterly. Madiran remained its editor until publication ceased in 1996. He was also one of the founders in 1982, of the daily newspaper Présent, of which he was editor in chief. This publication is associated with the Front National, but refused to take sides in the conflict between Jean-Marie Le Pen and Bruno Mégret, whereupon Le Pen called for it to be boycotted.
In an article published in Itinéraires, Madiran declared:
If we are asked to state what we are and what our position is, our answer must be understood. Our answer modifies François Brigneau's formula or rather completes and develops it in its full truth: "We are to the right of the far right." This does not mean that we despise indiscriminately everybody and everything that official jargon calls "the far right". Here again we reject the arbitrary left-wing attitude that inspires and imposes a classification at variance with the truth. In reality there is no extremism, right-wing or other, in wishing a society based on "Work-Family-Fatherland", "Serve God First".On 6 February 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the execution, for collaboration with the German occupation, of Robert Brasillach, the poet, writer and journalist supporter of Action Française, Madiran, with François Brigneau and others, organised a meeting in Paris, at which Madiran declared: "Young people who are here this evening, we entrust to your hands the remembrance of the National Revolution, we entrust to you the remembrance of the France that awaits, hopes for and desires its liberation."La Gerbe
La Gerbe (French pronunciation: [la ʒɛʁb], The Sheaf) was a weekly newspaper of the French collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II that appeared in Paris from July 1940 till August 1944. Its political-literary line was modeled after Candide and Gringoire, two right-wing newspapers founded in the interwar period.
Founder and editor was the writer Alphonse de Châteaubriant, and chief editor was Marc Augier. Also involved in the management was the German journalist Eitel Moellhausen, who wrote under the pen names Aimé Cassar and Pierre Cousinery. Gabrielle Storms-Castelot, the mother of André Castelot and mistress of Châteaubriant, was director's secretary.
The first issue of La Gerbe, announced by a huge poster campaign in Paris, consisted of only four pages. But within three months the publication's size had reached ten pages and its circulation 100,000. In 1943 it sold 140,000 copies.The newspaper's title was taken from Châteaubriant's 1937 naively pro-Hitler book La gerbe des forces. But it also alluded to the position it advanced: France, destined to be an agrarian country, should become a part of the new Europe created by Hitler. Violently anticommunist, antirepublican and antisemitic, and hostile to the Popular Front, the newspaper drew its ideology from Fascism and more particularly from Nazism.
According to La Gerbe, the country had to undergo a "national alignment" and had to fight with all its strength against individualism. Châteaubriant's vision of Hitler was that he would form a unified Catholic Europe as it last existed under Charlemagne.Openly eugenic and racist, the newspaper made its columns available to Georges Montandon, and declared in its edition of 7 November 1940: "The time has come to say that Apollo and Pallas Athena are the images of the Nordic man and the Nordic woman, an affirmation that was impossible at the time of the Jewish conspiracy."
Like its founder, La Gerbe synthesized Catholicism and racism. The newspaper demanded that the mass should accentuate what would bring it closer to a racist ceremony (21 November 1940) and asked: "Joy, said Father Janvier in one of his talks, is the motor of life. Did Hitler say otherwise when he said 'Kraft durch Freude' [i.e. Strength Through Joy]?"
Strongly pro-nazi intellectuals writing for the newspaper included Drieu La Rochelle, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Robert Brasillach. Other writers were the pro-nazi Henry de Montherlant, Jean Giono, and the more ambiguous Marcel Aymé, Jean Anouilh and Colette. Further contributors included Paul Morand, Lucien Combelle and André Castelot, who was in charge of the theatre reviews. It was closely associated with the Groupe Collaboration, an initiative established by Châteaubriand in September 1940.La Gerbe was subsidized, and in some sense created, by the German embassy, with Châteaubriand serving as a front for the ambassador Otto Abetz. As the only French newspaper created by the German occupants, it was meant to replace Candide and Gringoire. Some of the newspaper's last editorials referred to the Allied bombings as terrorism. After the Liberation of Paris the police searched the offices of La Gerbe in Rue Chauchat, which were then taken over by a newspaper of the French Resistance.Le Crapouillot
Le Crapouillot was a French magazine started by Jean Galtier-Boissière as a satiric publication in France, during World War I. In the trenches during World War I, the affectionate term for le petit crapaud, "the little toad" was used by French soldiers, the poilus, to designate small trench-mortars.Les Parents terribles
Les Parents terribles is a 1938 French play written by Jean Cocteau. Despite initial problems with censorship, it was revived on the French stage several times after its original production, and in 1948 a film adaptation directed by Cocteau himself was released. English-language versions have been produced under various titles including Intimate Relations and Indiscretions.Les Sept Couleurs
Les Sept Couleurs is a French publishing house of the extreme right founded by Maurice Bardèche in 1948.Maurice Bardèche
Maurice Bardèche (1 October 1907 – 30 July 1998) was a French essayist, literary and art critic, journalist, and one of the leading exponents of neo-fascism in post–World War II Europe. Bardèche was also the brother-in-law of the collaborationist Robert Brasillach, executed after the liberation.Pension Mimosas
Pension Mimosas is a 1935 French drama film directed by Jacques Feyder. Based on an original scenario by Feyder and Charles Spaak, it is a psychological drama set largely in a small hotel on the Côte d'Azur, and it provided Françoise Rosay with one of the most substantial acting roles of her career. It was produced by the French subsidiary of the German company Tobis Film.Pierre Daye
Pierre Daye (1892, Schaerbeek, Belgium – 1960, Buenos Aires, Argentina) was a Belgian journalist and Nazi collaborator. As supporter of the Rexist Party, Daye exiled himself to Juan Peron's Argentina after World War II.
In World War I Daye served in the Belgian Army on the Yser Front and in East Africa. In 1918 he published a book about his experiences in the Battle of Tabora.
Pierre Daye was in charge of foreign politics in the Nouveau Journal, a newspaper supporting the National Socialist thesis created in October 1940 by Paul Colin and under the direction of Robert Poulet.Daye was a shareholder in the Editions de la Toison d'Or created during the war (out of a total of 150 shares, 135 were owned by the Slovak group Mundus, which was responsible to the Reich Foreign Affairs Minister headed by Joachim von Ribbentrop.) .
Daye was a correspondent of Je suis partout, the ultra-collaborationist French language review headed by Robert Brasillach. He was sentenced to death as a collaborator on 18 December 1946, by the Brussels War Council.After the war, he fled to Argentina with the help of Charles Lescat, who also worked at Je suis partout. There, he took part in the meeting organized by Juan Perón in the Casa Rosada during which a network (colloquially called ratlines) was created, to organize the escape of war criminals and collaborationists. Along with countryman René Lagrou and others such as Jacques de Mahieu, Daye became central to the Nazi escape routes.In Argentina, Daye resumed his writing activities, becoming the editor of an official Peronist review. He returned to Europe where he wrote his memoirs, and died in 1960 in Argentina.Six Hours to Lose
Six Hours to Lose (French: Six heures à perdre) is a French romance film from 1946, directed by Alex Joffé, written by Alex Joffé and Jean Lévitte, starring André Luguet. The film starred Louis de Funès. The film was based on the novel of Robert Brasillach, with the same title Six heures à perdre, edited posthumously in 1953.Épuration légale
The épuration légale (French "legal purge") was the wave of official trials that followed the Liberation of France and the fall of the Vichy Regime. The trials were largely conducted from 1944 to 1949, with subsequent legal action continuing for decades afterward.
Unlike the Nuremberg Trials, the épuration légale was conducted as a domestic French affair. Approximately 300,000 cases were investigated, reaching into the highest levels of the collaborationist Vichy government. More than half were closed without indictment. From 1944 to 1951, official courts in France sentenced 6,763 people to death (3,910 in absentia) for treason and other offenses. Only 791 executions were actually carried out, including those of Pierre Laval, Joseph Darnand, and the journalist Robert Brasillach; far more common was "national degradation" — a loss of civil rights, which was meted out to 49,723 people.Immediately following the liberation, France was swept by a wave of executions, public humiliations, assaults and detentions of suspected collaborators, known as the épuration sauvage (wild purge). This period succeeded the German occupational administration but preceded the authority of the French Provisional Government, and consequently lacked any form of institutional justice. Approximately 10,500 were executed, before and after liberation. "The courts of Justice pronounced about 6,760 death sentences, 3,910 in absentia and 2,853 in the presence of the accused. Of these 2,853, 73 percent were commuted by de Gaulle, and 767 carried out. In addition, about 770 executions were ordered by the military tribunals. Thus the total number of people executed before and after the Liberation was approximately 10,500, including those killed in the épuration sauvage", notably including members and leaders of the milices.