The Literature of the Liberation Collection aims to collect books that reflect the attitude of the French following the liberation of Paris: as the nation began to recover from—and come to terms with—the German occupation (and active French collaboration). Most of the books in the collection (and that we highlighted in the exhibition) are therefore about the French—what they suffered, how they can recover, and how they relate to their recent history. One book that is striking for its different subject matter is Hitler a menti : ce qu’il a dit, ce qu’il a fait / Pierre Deboeuf (Liberation.c.401).
The book is made up of quotes from Hitler’s writings and speeches, from before and during the war. They are grouped thematically “Hitler pacifiste”, “L’anschluss”, “La guerre contre la Russie”, etc., with subtitles introducing topics in which the author wishes to highlight Hitler’s lies. The bulk of the book is then followed by appendices that provide the same treatment to the words of Mussolini, Laval and Pétain.
This is all fairly unusual. The book was published in 1945—by which time the Germans had already been pushed out of France. The tide of the war had long since turned, and as many books in this collection show, many in France were already breathing a sigh of relief that they’d been released from the German occupation. So why publish a book ‘disproving’ Hitler’s lies? Was the author (Pierre Deboeuf) concerned about a potential resurgence in support for the fascists? Or about those who had collaborated with the German occupation re-writing history? Or maybe he had collected most of the quotations in this book under the German occupation as an act of subversion, but he was unable to publish the book until after the liberation? My layman’s view of the prevailing mood in France in 1945 is that the fact that Hitler lied wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.
The final quotation from Hitler is from 1st January 1944, and the author follows this by saying:
Après le débarquement du 6 juin 1944, une seule bataille, celle de Normandie provoquait l’effondrement du ‘mur de l’Ouest’ et permettait aux Alliés de chasser le Boche de la terre de France. Les Allemands se battent maintenant chez eux. Hitler ne mentira plus longtemps… (page 53)
Who was Pierre Deboeuf ? There is no information in the book. There is no further information on who he was at the BNF (the French national library) besides the fact that there are two other books that are probably by the same person in their catalogue. There is no further information about Deboeuf or why he wrote this curious little book.