Every Word You Write … Vichy Will Be Watching You: Surveillance of Public Opinion in the Gard Department 1940-1944: The Postal Control System During Vichy France


Robert W. Parson was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He studied at Phillips Exeter Academy, received his bachelor’s degree in history from Brown University in 1959, and obtained his master’s degree in history from the University of Arizona in 2006. His career in sales, marketing, and management included various positions with General Electric, North American Philips, and Panasonic Corporation of North America. He currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, and Nîmes, France.

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Following France’s military defeat in 1940, Marshal Pétain and his Vichy regime drastically expanded upon the role of a top secret organization known as the Postal Surveillance System. The organization served two purposes: to find out how people felt about Vichy’s policies, including collaboration with Nazi Germany, and to keep an eye on activities the new government deemed suspicious. Over seventy years later the private letters, telegrams, and phone conversations collected through the Postal Surveillance System provide a wealth of information about the dark years of 1940-1944.

Every Word You Write . . . Vichy Will Be Watching You draws from these communications to vividly convey what life was like for the French as they coped with intolerable living conditions. It also details the scurrilous treatment handed out to foreign and French-born Jews by Pétain’s government.

By allowing the stolen words of ordinary French citizens to speak for themselves, Robert W. Parson offers us a view of history that we seldom find in textbooks.


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