The Arty Semite

Historian Marc Bloch and Family: Still Fighting the Good Fight

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
wiki commons

On March 3, to commemorate the centenary of the first publication by French Jewish historian Marc Bloch, CNRS editions reprinted Bloch’s “Historical Miscellanies” (Mélanges historiques). Carole Fink’s 1991 “Marc Bloch: A Life in History” from Cambridge University Press explains how Lyons-born Marc Bloch was an admirably lucid, groundbreaking historian, as well as heroic man of action, fighting in two World Wars before being tortured and shot as a Resistant by the Germans in 1944.

Bloch’s scholarly achievements, such as “Feudal Society”; “French Rural History: An Essay on Its Basic Characteristics”; and “The Historian’s Craft” are still celebrated by today’s historians, such as in Susan Friedman’s 2004 “Marc Bloch, Sociology and Geography: Encountering Changing Disciplines” from Cambridge University Press. Yet atypically, Bloch’s most stunning book was inspired by his personal experiences in the Second World War, “Strange Defeat” (L’Etrange défaite), written in 1940 after the German invasion, still available from Norton Publishers as well as in the original language, from Les editions Folio Gallimard.

This strikingly insightful study was written, as Bloch’s preface admits, without any certainty that it would ever be published or read beyond its author’s circle of friends and family. Nowadays, Bloch’s works are so appreciated that they are routinely quoted for nefarious political purposes. Such was the claim of Suzette Bloch, a journalist and Marc Bloch’s granddaughter, who co-authored an open letter in Le Monde newspaper in November, 2009:

Leave Marc Bloch Alone, Mr. Sarkozy (Laissez Marc Bloch tranquille, M. Sarkozy).

French leftists and others have long been concerned by President Sarkozy’s misuse of quotes by leftist, often Jewish, statesmen such as Léon Blum and Pierre Mendes-France, as well as Bloch, to justify current French anti-immigrant policies, which some critics liken to unabashed xenophobia. Suzette Bloch asserts that her grandfather would not have approved of Sarkozy’s “morbid nationalist ideology” (l’idéologie nationaliste malsaine) nor the President’s “hymns to an inward-looking, perennial, and Christian France” (la France repliée, chrétienne et éternelle).

When in 2006, the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro launched a campaign to reinter Bloch’s remains in the Panthéon, France’s mausoleum for its most historically distinguished citizens, the notion went nowhere, despite the support of such leading historians as Annette Becker, Ran Halevi and Pierre Nora. Any such honor would require family approval, clearly not forthcoming under this French administration. As the newly available “Historical Miscellanies” remind us, Bloch’s greatness is not dependent on official approval from all-too-temporal politicians.

Watch Suzette Bloch read her 2009 open letter to President Sarkozy, “Leave Marc Bloch Alone.”

Watch Marc Bloch’s son Étienne Bloch discussing his father’s work at a 2004 colloquium in Spain.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Suzette Bloch, Marc Bloch, Nicolas Sarkozy

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.