The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection is a comprehensive collection of books and pamphlets in French on the Second World War, the occupation and the liberation, published during a period of just over two years, from August 1944 to the end of 1946.
In early 1945, over two million French men and women were yet to return to France from exile or deportation. These people were divided across several categories: deportees on political or racial grounds, conscripted or volunteer workers for the Third Reich, and prisoners of war. They were keen to tell their stories and the speed with which survivors’ accounts were published was remarkable. By the end of 1946, the public’s interest in survivor testimony was waning, possibly because of the difficulties to admit France’s responsibilities, an issue that continues to have relevance in political, historical and cultural debates in France today.
With works such as Pelagia Lewinska’s testimony (September 1945), the first book published in France by an Auschwitz survivor, and an incredible copy of the first edition of Ravensbruck signed by both Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion; from the luxury fundraising gala albums, often illustrated by famous artists, to comics, poems and scientific studies written by the prisoners themselves, the Chadwyck-Healey collection is a fascinating repository of material rarely seen before, and of stories that remain deeply personal and vivid. It includes accounts of survival and deprivation, but also celebrations of life, hope and friendship.
The collection is not confined to works of literary merit or importance. There are books by Camus, Cocteau, Giraudoux and Sartre but the majority are by French men and women about whom little is known, with a high number of self-published books. Drawing on selected material, including personal narratives and memories of people involved in and affected by the Second World, Dr Defrance will discuss how the French used the medium of the book to express what had happened to them at this critical moment in history,when the country was just beginning its long recovery.
Dr Sophie Defrance has studied Political Sciences and History in Paris, where she has worked as a Research Associate for French Resistant, Daniel Cordier. She completed a PhD in History at Cambridge in 2008, and has since then worked on Special Collections for Cambridge University Library and various Cambridge college libraries. From 2016 to 2018, she has been in charge of the cataloguing and publicising of the Charles Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection.
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