Dr. Ott Earns Sabbatical Research Year

You've recently been awarded a year-long sabbatical from UNR. Could you tell us a little about your sabbatical and what you will be doing with your time away from the Center?

I am spending my sabbatical year largely engaged in writing my book, tentatively entitled, "Living with the Enemy: Franco-German Relations in Occupied and Liberated France, 19401946." The book project is based upon several years of archival research in classified documents held in the French National Archives and the Departmental Archives in Pau, located in southwestern France (and where USAC has a study abroad program). The book follows the lives of several people who developed close relations with certain Germans in their midst--for a variety of reasons. I let the characters speak in their own words, as much as possible. Their testimonies appear in court and police records, as well as in personal letters. Some were Basques, some were French, others (including White Russians) were from elsewhere in the world during a turbulent time in contemporary European history. In addition to writing, I am doing further archival research, mainly in France, in order to reread key trial dossiers of suspected collaborationists and documents relating to Nazis who were based in southwestern France during the war. I will also spend a month in Paris as a visiting professor at the School for Advanced Research in Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris, where I will lecture about my current research. In October 2012, I am giving a paper at the annual meeting of the Western Society for French History in Banff, Canada. The paper is based upon one of the book's chapters, "Sex, Vengeance and Duplicity on the Basque Coast: The Strange Case of Dr. Truth."

A great deal of the sabbatical is spent doing research. Could you tell us a little bit about your research project?

This book project grew out of research done for my last book, War, Justice and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 19141945, published in 2008 by the University of Nevada Press in its Basque Book Series. The archives are replete with human stories of desire, despair, hope, vengeance, and determination to survive. People suffered greatly. Some others profited from war and occupation. The topic has immediate relevance for our own times.

Much of your research has been focused on the French Basque Country. Could you tell us a little bit about your relationship to that region and how it has changed over the years?

During sabbatical leave I will also return to Santazi in Xiberoa (French Basque Country) for weekend visits with my adopted family there, whom I have known since 1978. I learned so much from the Santazi people about the German Occupation of Iparralde and will always respect the confidence they (and others in that part of the world) expressed in me as they recounted their experiences in 1901945. Their stories are at the heart of my UNR course on "War, Occupation and Memory," which has a focus on the Basques but also relates to the broader experiences of other groups caught up in that war.

We understand that only a few professors are awarded sabbaticals at UNR each year, could you tell us a little bit about the sabbatical process and how you became one of the recipients?

I am extremely privileged to have been granted permission to take sabbatical leave in 20122013. The University granted permission to fifteen faculty members across the campus. One has to apply to the college and to the university with a detailed statement of intent and a plan for the period of sabbatical. Having completed the research (almost entirely) for the book project I was ready to write and had a clear plan for the manuscript. I am extremely grateful to UNR for this period of reading, writing and research.