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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.