Discussion of responsibility for the defeat of France in 1940 has been a matter of controversy and debate among historians of France. Given the importance of this event in French history, which brought the downfall of the Third Republic, the establishment of the collaborationist Vichy Regime and Occupation by the Germans, these debates have led to accusations of incompetence and even treason. One author has called these individuals the "gravediggers" of France. A number of these individuals were arrested by the Germans in 1943 and assigned to a prison, the Château d'Itter (or Schloss Itter) in annexed Austria from 1943-45. This imprisonment compelled those whom some see as the guilty parties to confront one another and assess their own roles in the conduct of French politics leading up to the defeat and armistice. The paper revisits the way these individuals assessed their roles in the immediate aftermath of defeat, going back to the atmosphere at the time and a reexamination of responsibilities through the eyes of the participants. The article concludes that the severe condemnation of these individuals as "gravediggers" is excessive, reflecting the anger and frustration felt in the immediate aftermath of defeat.
Munholland, John K.
"The Gravediggers of France at the Château d'Itter, 1943-1945,"
Journal of Opinions, Ideas, & Essays: Vol. 1
, Article 5.
Available at: http://pubs.lib.umn.edu/joie/vol1/iss1/5