Charlemagne’s crusaders: French collaboration in arms, 1941–1945

James G. Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Military collaboration is one of the least acknowledged aspects of France under the Occupation. Yet from summer 1941 France raised a number of fighting units for Hitler’s armies, each with its distinctive mission and each drawing the Vichy regime deeper into collaboration with Nazi Germany. This article discusses that process and its diverse implications. It shows how the Paris collaborationists used military engagement to pressure the Vichy government into more activist collaboration and explores the divergent perspectives in which this was viewed from Berlin, Paris and Vichy; it considers the mobilising myths, motivations and misapprehensions behind military collaboration; and it identifies some of the anomalies of that collaboration, with its reconceptualising of France and Other, friend and foe, belonging and alienation. Those French ‘patriots’ who fought in German uniform would become effective exiles from a homeland they departed to ‘defend’ only to see it ‘liberated’ by their ‘enemies’. Exposing the divisions and the delusions underlying military collaboration, the article sheds light on conflicting political calculations and shifting allegiances in occupied France.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-105
Number of pages23
JournalFrench Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


  • Bolshevism
  • collaboration/collaborationism
  • France
  • Germany
  • military
  • occupation
  • Vichy government
  • Waffen-SS
  • Wehrmacht


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