Hearing a recent conversation about collaboration, I made myself unpopular by suggesting that, if Britain had succumbed to Nazi rule, our own people would have behaved pretty much as the French did. Anthony Eden is seldom quoted with respect these days. Yet the former foreign secretary made an impressive contribution to Marcel Ophüls' great film on wartime France, Le Chagrin et la Pitié. He said, in impeccable French: "It would be impertinent for any country that has never suffered occupation to pass judgment on one that did." Here was wisdom.
It is extraordinarily difficult to resist tyranny ruthlessly enforced, especially in a densely populated country with little wilderness. In order to eat and provide for one's family, it is necessary to earn money. All commerce and industry must be conducted according to the will of the occupiers. A man who owns a business will find that he has no business, his employees no work, if he does not accept dictation. Members of a family that owns a house are liable to find it burnt about their ears if they commit, or are even deemed to have acquiesced in, acts of resistance. Some people may feel brave enough to accept such consequences for themselves, but would they inflict them on their children?