DR. VALENTIN SCHNEIDER
Historian Second World War
Guest researcher at the National Hellenic Research Foundation, with a project entitled "Database of German military and paramilitary units in Greece 1941-1944/45", fully financed through the German milistry of Foreign Affairs / German embassy in Athens / German-Greek Future Fund.
Post-doc researcher at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, with a project on the German presence in Attica and the Saronic Gulf between 1941 and 1944.
Ph.D. (Politics and International Relations), University of Nottingham:
"A total reversal of the balance of power? German prisoners of war in Normandy, 1944-1948."
This dissertation explores the relation between French national identity, constructed around the idea of hereditary enmity with Germany, and the behaviour between French and German prisoners of war as individuals in Normandy between 1944 and 1948. This question is important since it is widely accepted that Franco-German relations reached an all-time low during World War II, especially in areas like Normandy that had been heavily occupied between 1940 and 1944. This position is examined through an entangled analysis of low and high level records both from German and French sources, but also from American, British, and Swiss origins. It appears that individual Franco-German relations depended on the distance between the French official discourse of national recovery and the reality experienced by the civilian population. During the Allied presence in Normandy, contradictions were obvious and the relations between French and German prisoners of war in Allied hands were marked with violence. When discourse and reality began to overlap, after the transfer of the prisoners to French custody, individual Franco-German relations normalised. This rapid evolution points to the symbolic character of the enmity between French and Germans, used as a tool to reinforce the national cohesion in times of threat.
Ph.D. (History), University of Caen Normandy:
"The German presence in Normandy (1940-1948). A crossed approach of a forced Franco-German cohabitation."
Normandy experiences a massive German presence between June 1940 and December 1948. After the military defeat of France in June 1940, numerous German troops occupy the region over four years, first to prepare an invasion of England, then to protect the coast from an allied landing. Whereas 6 June 1944 marks the beginning of the end of the occupation regime, it also conditions the continuity of the presence of German soldiers in the region. Initially placed under the authority of the Allies, the German soldiers in Normandy become prisoners of war used as labour during the pursuit of the war against Germany. Transferred to French custody from 1945, they are then employed within the civil economy. Whereas the contacts between French and Germans have never been as numerous as during the Second World War, this period is often presented as the paroxysm of a Franco-German antagonism born during the 19th century. Based upon a crossed reading of French and German sources, this study investigates the nature and the evolution of the relations between natives and foreigners during this forced cohabitation of more than eight years. The detailed analysis of the quantitative and structural aspects of the German presence, very heterogeneous in space and time, should allow us to gauge to zones of contact between both groups and to distinguish between, on one side, the public opinion and the collective behaviours, generally hostile to the Germans, and, on the other side, the individual attitudes towards the other within the private sphere, much more nuanced.
This research was funded by the Region of Basse-Normandie.
Master's degree (History), University of Caen Normandy.
Born in Euskirchen (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany).