Cover image for Unarmed against Hitler : civilian resistance in Europe, 1939-1943
Unarmed against Hitler : civilian resistance in Europe, 1939-1943
Sémelin, Jacques.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Sans armes face à Hitler. English
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, [1993]

Physical Description:
xii, 198 pages ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D810.P76 S4613 1993 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Resistance in German-occupied Europe is generally understood as insurrectional violence. However, as soon as the war broke out, thousands of people engaged in civil disobedience---manifested through strikes, demonstrations, and the activities of medical organizations, courts of law, and churches. Jacques Semelin gathers evidence for the untold story of a movement that took place in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark as well as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Germany itself. A widespread campaign contested authority and paved the way for later armed resistance and the eventual defeat of the Nazis.

This study goes beyond historical interest. It is ethical in scope and deals with civilian strategy at large. To what extent is society prepared to face aggression, whether external or internal? As such, it is of value not only to military historians and other students of World War II, but it provides thoughtful approaches for political scientists and others concerned with contemporary issues of violence and civil disobedience.

Author Notes

JACQUES SEMELIN is a historian and political science researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris. A post-doctoral fellow of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard, Dr. Semelin's earlier works include Pour Sortir de la Violence and La Dissuasion Civile .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Even in the early days of WW II, when a German victory seemed close at hand, civilians throughout occupied Europe sought to resist the Nazis. After the Germans massacred their intellectuals the Poles created an underground system of schools and universities, while the French responded to compulsory labor with widespread strikes. And, as is well known, the Danes went from one act of obstruction to another, culminating in the deliverance of virtually the entire Jewish population of the country. With great clarity and scholarship, Semelin goes beyond historical particulars to define the basic principles that underlay civilian resistance. At the outset, symbols were important (French children tended to turn up dressed all in white, and in blue, and all in red on July 14), and the sense of unity and purpose that symbols created was a prerequisite for more audacious acts of resistance later on. Furthermore, the Germans often fell out among themselves as to how to respond to acts of resistance. This is an exceptional work, one that shows how important the resistance was--and not just in military terms--even before the tide of war changed in 1943. General, advanced undergraduate, and above. S. Bailey; Knox College

Table of Contents

The Main Traits of the Nazi Occupation in Europe Which "Resistance"
The Complexities of Noncooperation
The Question of Legitimacy Elements of Social Cohesion
The Role of Opinion Civilian Resistance Agains Repression Civilian Resistance to Genocide Which Role for Which Results?
Conclusion :The New Field of Civilian-Based Defense Strategies
Appendix: Elements of Methodology: List of Examples Studies