Legacies of the Second World War: Representations of the Theft of Jewish Property in Recent French Crime Fiction

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Abstract

How can crime be defined in times of war? How does the theft of goods and property from Jews during the Second World War fit into various different discourses — fictional, ethical, legal, historical? Working with a small corpus of five crime fiction texts published between 1999 and 2005, this article explores the highly mediatized issue of the spoliation and plunder of valuables from Jews in France under the Occupation. The crime fiction narrative is revealed to differ significantly from the official French government Mattéoli report on the subject, which equates plunder (pillage) with the Nazis and makes minimal mention of French perpetrators. Beyond constituting a supplement (or complement) to the official narrative, the fictional corpus displays a marked concern for intergenerational relations and troubled and troubling aspects of the legacy of the war years. Although all five texts in the corpus offer closure of sorts, a careful reading of the representation of provenance suggests that a concern with cultural heritage, or patrimoine, may muddy the ethical waters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-509
JournalFrench Studies
Volume66
Issue number4
Early online date27 Aug 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

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