Michael Mills wrote:
I also understand that the controversy between the Alsatians and the Limousins was to some extent affected by the political situation in the immediate post-war period. From my information, the Limousin was a leftist area, supporting the Socialist and Communist Parties, while Alsace was a conservative area, supporting the Gaullists. The people of Oradour suspected that the pardoning of the Alsatian SS-men was a payoff to Alsace by the Gaullist Government for its political support.
I believe that is accurate, particularly when colored by the phrase "to some extent". The Limousin was indeed primarily leftist and Alsace relatively Gaullist and conservative. And, if I recall correctly (my notes unfortunately don't show the breakdown of the vote in the Assemblée Nationale) the support for the bill to pardon the malgré-nous came primarily from the Gaullists and center and moderate right wing parties, and the opposition primarily from the left (as well as from a few of the deputés who although very far right were also traditionally anti-German). But I don't believe, particularly in view of the unusually large number of abstentions, that the division was clear cut on a Left-Right basis.
Moreover, although I spoke in my earlier post of a De Gaulle Government, that was not technically correct, and I apologize for oversimplifying. De Gaulle himself had, of course, resigned in a huff in early 1946 and had formed the RPF (Rassemblement du Peuple Français) in 1947 to be the official Gaullist party. In early 1953 the Gaullists held 118 seats and were the largest party in the Assemblée Nationale, but the Government itself was a coalition headed by René Mayer. Mayer had rallied to De Gaulle in June 1940, but had subsequently formed his own party (Rassemblement des Gauches Républicaines-RGR) which was closely allied to, but not part of, the RPF, although many of his Ministers were members of the RPF. (Alas, the confusion and complications of French politics, and the musical chairs played in the French cabinets in those days!!!) Mayer had been instrumental in adopting the legislation passed in 1951 in amnestying and reconciling members of the former collaborationist Vichy Government and thereby attempting to solidify all Frenchmen toward the concept of a unified French nation, entitled to take its appropriately high place in the affairs of the world. But this was also the Gaullist dream as well.
But to the issue directly at hand. IMHO it is almost always hard to generalize in French politics on a simple right versus left basis. Although the notion that "all politics is local" probably has less force in France than in the US, in my opinion it had a great deal of force in the reaction to the verdict in the 1953 Bordeaux trial.
On the one hand, Alsace had been tragically torn by its history post the Franco-Prussian War. It was bitterly opposed to being annexed by Germany, although that opposition had been significantly diluted (but not by any means overcome) after over 40 years as a part of the German Reich. During World War I Alsatians fought on both sides. And after the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the same was true. One of the most poignant experiences I had in France was to visit the military cemeteries, both French and German, in some of the small towns in the heights of the Voges mountains of Alsace, where many of the family names, obviously Alsatian, were identical in both cemeteries. And often the war memorials in the village squares carried the names of native sons who had fallen fighting for either side.
So immediately after WWII there was, I think, an inbred and long standing acute sensitivity and sorrow in Alsace about the fact that so many of her sons had been forced to fight and and even die for Germany, a country that many not only did not love, but heartily disliked or even despised. This IMHO was the dominant factor which led to the almost universal condemnation in Alsace of the outcome of the Bordeaux trial, which transcended the political leanings of the region. There was even a serious movement among the Alsatians to separate the region from France as a result of the Bordeaux judgement, which was about as anti-Gaullist a sentiment as one could imagine.
On the other hand, although the Limousin was indeed heavily leftist (the Resistance there having been virtually dominated by Communists), the region had suffered more than most any other from atrocities committed by the SS - particularly the Das Reich Division - and was accordingly extremely bitter and clamboring for retribution, and not just along political party lines. I don't have any facts to confirm it, but my hunch is that the French Government's support for the amnesty granted the malgré-nous significantly increased the leftist tilt in the Limousin.
It can of course be argued that the Government's support for the amnesty was based on purely political considerations - ie. to maintain the support of the Alsace region for the Government coalition, and tilted toward De Gaulle, administration. But I personally think that is by far too cynical a view. By 1953 I sincerely believe that the Gaullist, and certainly René Mayer's, major ambition was to restore a France unified as a nation, placing the multifold divisions created by its defeat in WWII and the resulting Vichy government behind it, and capable of taking its rightful place as a major power in Europe and indeed the world.
So here I am again, quibbling, and at frightful length, about a detail of probable of little, if any, interest if even to a few, but, as the scorpion said "It's in my nature."