Friday, March 26, 2010

Paris during the Occupation

French photographer André Zucca got himself a job as the Parisian correspondent for the Wehrmacht's magazine Signal in World War 2 and this enabled him to not only freely take photos outside after it was restricted as from September 1940, but also to obtain rare Agfa colour film, and took over 1,000 slides of Paris during the German occupation.

Even for the Nazis, Paris was a special place. Hitler made his sightseeing tour on 29 June 1940 and told Albert Speer it was the world's most beautiful city (although his Berlin when finished would be much more impressive). Goebbels came the following month and finding the city to be "un-usefully sad" ordered that everything be done to restore gaiety and animation. It thus became a centre for both French and German culture - music, opera, art, literature as well as cuisine and nightlife, and for the Wehrmacht it was a posting without equal in Europe. Goebbels encouraged that every German soldier be sent there at least once under the slogan "Jeder einmal nach Paris." Following liberation in August 1944, Paris assumed a similar role for Allied troops, particularly as it had survived almost unscathed.

170 of the colour slides plus 6 of the b/w photos that André Zucca took between 1940 and 1944 have been turned into this book, Les Parisiens sous l'Occupation, which together with the commentary from Jean Baronnet, provide a fascinating study of Paris during the war years.

French war graves were constantly tended by the Wehrmacht - this was the charm offensive

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