London, May 25 : Many years before being called 'one of the world's most romantic city', Paris, under Nazi occupation, was 'one big romp', with women sleeping with anyone who could help them through financially difficult times, suggests a new book.
The new book, '1940-1945: Annees Erotiques' ('erotic years'), authored by Patrick Buisson, suggests that the German occupation of France encouraged the sexual liberation of women.
The claims of the book have shocked a country still struggling to come to terms with its troubled history of collaboration with the Nazis.
The book depicts life in Paris as one big party is at odds with the collective memory of hunger, resistance and fear.
"It is a taboo subject, a story nobody wants to hear. It may hurt our national pride, but the reality is that people adapted to occupation," Times Online quoted Buisson, as saying.
Many might prefer to forget but, with their husbands in prison camps, numerous women slept not only with German soldiers - the young "blond barbarians" were particularly attractive to French women, says Buisson.
"They gave way to the advances of the boss, to the tradesman they owed money to, their neighbor. In times of rationing, the body is the only renewable, inexhaustible currency," he said.
Cold winters, when coal was in short supply, and a curfew from 11pm to 5am also encouraged sexual activity, says Buisson, with the result that the birth rate shot up in 1942 even though 2m men were locked up in the camps.
The book has stirred painful memories. One French reviewer called it "impertinent" and another accused Buisson of telling only part of the story by focusing on the "beneath the belt" history of the occupation.
In the book, Buisson writes: "In the summer of 1940, France was transformed into one big naturist camp. The Germans seemed to have gathered on French territory only to celebrate an impressive festival of gymnastics."
The author said he did not want to make light of a tragic part of French history, but there was a need to correct the "mythical" image of the occupation.
"In this horrible period, life continued," he said.