The Hunt for Nazi Spies
Fighting Espionage in Vichy France
Simon Kitson informs this remarkable story with findings from his investigation—the first by any historian—of thousands of Vichy documents seized in turn by the Nazis and the Soviets and returned to France only in the 1990s. His pioneering detective work uncovers a puzzling paradox: a French government that was hunting down left-wing activists and supporters of Charles de Gaulle’s Free French forces was also working to undermine the influence of German spies who were pursuing the same Gaullists and resisters. In light of this apparent contradiction, Kitson does not deny that Vichy France was committed to assisting the Nazi cause, but illuminates the complex agendas that characterized the collaboration and shows how it was possible to be both anti-German and anti-Gaullist.
Combining nuanced conclusions with dramatic accounts of the lives of spies on both sides, The Hunt for Nazi Spies adds an important new dimension to our understanding of the French predicament under German occupation and the shadowy world of World War II espionage.
“The pungent details give Kitson’s book a particular force: the incidents of head-shearing, the intimations of torture, the leakages back to the German authorities of the places where the spies were held, the contempt of the Vichy secret services for British agents. . . . All these elements make an English edition of the book a necessity.”
“Zooms in . . . on the vexed questions of spying and counterespionage under Vichy, affording an extended example of the kind of detailed research that must underpin any reinterpretation of the années noires.”
“Previous historians of Vichy espionage have had to rely largely on the (often-self serving) memoirs of French secret agents. Kitson is the first person to have tested these accounts against the historical record deriving from the rich body of archives recently repatriated to France from the former Soviet Union. The result of that important original research, The Hunt for Nazi Spies is a distinguished and skillfully written work."
"Mr. Kitson's book is a flawless piece of professional history: original, thorough, subtle, appropriately measured. It has been and will continue to be admired for these reasons alone. There is also much to interest the contemporary student of intelligence, particularly in Mr. Kitson's discussion of a counterintelligence bureaucracy 'weakened by puerile rivalries.' It may, however, be overlooked by readers of popular fiction. It shouldn't be. A reader willing mentally to supply just a few lines of dialogue here and there will find between the lines of this book a dark and cynical spy novel filled with all the wretchedness of human nature, one all the more disturbing for being true."
Glossary and Abbreviations
Chronology of World War II France
1 Organizing German Espionage
2 Becoming a Spy
3 The Structure of French Counterespionage
4 Secret Service Ambiguities
5 Everyday Counterespionage
6 The Fate of the Spies
7 Understanding Vichy's Policy