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Armes de la nuit : WW2 hit-and-run guerilla warfare

World War 2

Armes de la nuit : WW2 hit-and-run guerilla warfare Les Armes de la Nuit, by Jean Bruller, better known by his pen name, Vercors.

During WW2, Bruller was a member of the Free French Forces of the Interior, the Maquis, and as such, took part in the defence of the so-called Vercors Republic, when, following the Allied landings in Normandy, the Maquis units around Grenoble abandoned their previous policy of hit-and-run guerilla warfare, and created a massive fortress out of the Vercors Massif, in the caves of which they had previously established their hideouts.

Lying across their transport routes between the Normandy battlefields, and the French Riviera, the Germans saw this move as a potentially deadly threat. Almost 10,000 German soldiers and 500 French collaborators, supported by artillery, armour, aircraft and troop-carrying gliders, promptly besieged the 4,000 Maquisards, armed mainly with small arms and light weapons, and wholly reliant on Allied airdrop.

On July 21st 1944, the Germans struck, and after just two days, with the FFFI troops scattered, it was obvious defeat was inevitable. The Maquisards decided to disperse, assuming that the Germans would inevitably withdraw.

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However the German troops continued their relentless sweep of the Massif for a fortnight, by which time 639 Maquisards and 201 civilians had been killed, and 500 houses destroyed.

Taking up his literary career after the war, Bruller was mainly preoccupied with the central theme of humanity, and what it means to be human. Given his wartime experiences, it is, perhaps, not surprising that one of his first major novel-length studies of the question, Les Armes de la Nuit (The Soldiers of the Night), explored the effects that war and totalitarianism has on a person’s sense of their own identity and humanity.

The plot centres on the mystery concerning Pierre Cange, a celebrated hero of the wartime Resistance, who has returned home from internment in the notorious Hochsworth concentration camp a very changed man.

The two-part novel recounts the efforts of his family, his fiancee and his best friend, the book’s narrator, to find out exactly what happened to Pierre to create this haunted and unrecognizable ghost of the man they remembered.

This psychological detective story culminates in a horrific climax, which demonstrates in the revelations that the casualties of war come in an infinite variety, and that the greatest of the Nazis crimes was to make their enemies like themselves.

Armes de la nuit : WW2 hit-and-run guerilla warfare Written by Hadrian Jeffs

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