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Monday, October 17, 2016

Occupied Paris, 1940-44

The German Wehrmacht marches down one of Paris' broad boulevards,
(color photo by Andre Zucca, a French photographer who collaborated
with the Germans to produce propaganda photos of occupied Paris).
On June, 14, 1940, the German army marched into Paris. A little over a year later, on July 16th and 17th, 1942, following German orders, the French police and gendarmes arrested 12,884 Jews, including 4,115 children, all of whom were eventually transported by train to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. Few of the adults and none of the children were ever seen again.
Rather than mount a futile defense of their city, Parisians cried a lot.
As of 1901, the population of Paris had grown to 2,715,000. The city was inhabited by artists from around the world, including Picasso, Modigliani and Matisse. It was the birthplace of Fauvism, Cubism and Expressionist art. Paris authors such as Marcel Proust were exploring new approaches to literature. Then during WW I, Paris sometimes found itself on the front line as it supplied more than 6,000 soldiers at the First Battle of the Marne. The city was also bombed by Zeppelins and shelled by German long-range guns. The years after the war, in France and much of the rest of the world, were known as Les Années Folles (The Roaring Twenties). Paris grew to be a mecca for writers, musicians and artists from around the world, including Ernest Hemingway, Igor Stravinsky, James Joyce, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, and the Surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí.
France was a complex, chaotic political geography of shortages,
chaos, conspiracy, deceit, perpetual fear for nearly four years.
France had first mobilized for war in September 1939, when the Nazi invaded Poland, but the war seemed far away; that is, until May 10, 1940. The Germans attacked France and In short order, defeated the French army. The French government scrambled out of Paris a month later on June 10th, shortly before the Germans occupied the city on June 14th. The French Government moved to Vichy, leaving Paris to be governed by the German military and certain French officials approved by the Germans. For the Parisians, the occupation was a series of shortages, frustrations, fears, and humiliations. A curfew was in effect from nine in the evening until five in the morning; at night, the city went dark. Rationing of food, tobacco, coal and clothing was imposed starting in September, 1940. Every year supplies grew scarcer and the prices climbed higher. A million Parisians left the city for the provinces (above), where there was more food and fewer Germans. The French press and radio contained only German propaganda. But by far, it was the Jews in Paris who suffered most.

Life on the streets of Paris was often a study in contrasts between those who collaborated with the Germans and those who didn't.
(All color photos, above and below, are by Andre Zucca.)
From the very beginning of the Occupation, Jews in Paris were treated with particular harshness. In October of 1940, the German occupation authorities decreed that Jews would be barred from "liberal" professions, such as commerce, and industry, thus affecting lawyers, doctors, professors, shop owners. And, they would also be barred from certain restaurants and public places. As if this wasn't bad enough, their property was seized. It only got worse. In July, Jews were banned from all main streets, movie theaters, libraries, parks, gardens, restaurants, cafés and other public places, and were required to ride on the last car of metro trains. Then on 16th and 17th of July, 1942, secret Gestapo orders sent 13,152 Jews some 20 kilometers north of Paris, while 8,160 men, women and children comprising families went to the Vélodrome d’Hiver stadium, where they were crowded together in the heat of summer, with little food, water, and no hygienic facilities for five days before being sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. The roundup was considered a failure by the Germans, since they had prepared trains for 32,000 persons. Arrests continued in 1943 and 1944. By the time of the Liberation, it was estimated that 43,000 Jews from the Paris region, or about half the total population of the community, had been sent to the concentration camps. Some 34,000 died there.

The yellow Star of David became a virtual death sentence.
While some painters left Paris, many remained and continued working. Georges Braque was on who left, but then unaccountably, returned to Paris in autumn 1940 and quietly continued working. Pablo Picasso spent most of 1939 in a villa in Royan, north of Bordeaux. He returned to Paris and resumed working in his studio on rue des Grands Augustins (a narrow street just south of the Seine near the center of Paris). He frequently received visitors at his studio, including Germans. Some were admiring and some suspicious. Picasso had postcards made of his famous anti-fascist work, Guernica, to hand out as souvenirs to visitors (which was either very brave or very stupid). He often had serious discussions of art and politics with visiting Germans, including writer Ernst Jünger. Although Picasso's work was officially condemned as "degenerate", he continued to sell his paintings at the Hôtel Drouot auction house and at the Galerie Louise Leiris. German treasurer officials opened Picasso's bank vault, where he stored his private art collection, searching for Jewish-owned art they could seize. Fortunately, Picasso so confused them with his descriptions of ownership of the paintings that they left without taking anything. In a similar manner, Picasso persuaded the Germans that the paintings in the adjoining vault, owned by Braque, were actually his own (not too difficult a task in that their styles were virtually identical). Other "degenerate" artists, including Kandinsky and Henri Matisse, sent drawings up to Paris from his residences in Nice. Though they too were officially condemned, both continued to sell their works from the back rooms of Paris galleries.

Adolph Hitler plays tourist along with much of the German Wehrmacht.
In many ways Paris was lucky. Its early surrender largely avoided the mass bombing destruction endured by London. Within a week of his conquest, Adolph Hitler himself arrived to tour the virtually unscathed city joining much of the German Wehrmacht. For the most part, there was an effort on the part of the military to blend in with the French populace (except for their uniforms, of course) causing as little disruption of the Parisian way of life as possible under the circumstances. Unknown artists and students continued to sell their work (mostly to Germans) along the banks of the Seine (below); sidewalk cafes remained open (though coffee and wine was rationed, not to mention quite expensive). The Germans did their best to satisfy the French love of music, movies, opera, and plays, albeit with a distinctly German flavor.

Hitler and the Germans didn't necessarily know much about art,
but they knew what they didn't like.
Yet just below the strained normalcy of the city was the French Resistance. Within days after Paris fell to the Germans, Parisians heard an obscure French brigadier General named Charles de Gaulle, make an appeal from London on the BBC, for his nation to continue the resistance against the Germans. Although very few heard the broadcast at the time, it was widely printed and circulated in the days that followed. Shortly thereafter, the Germans ordered all Frenchmen to turn in any weapons and short-wave receivers they possessed, or face severe punishment. Within Paris, opposition was isolated and slow to build. On August 2nd, de Gaulle was condemned to death for treason, in absentia, by Marshal Petain's new puppet government in Vichy. During the remaining years of the occupation, the Germans found themselves dealing with the French resistance like a thorn in their side, one which grew more and more painful as the war progressed.

A post-war photo of stolen art, stashed away in a church in Elligen, Germany (top). The lower photo is the art collection of just one
man, German Reichsführer , Heinrich Himmler.
One of the greatest art thefts in history took place in Paris during the Occupation. The Nazis looted the art of Jewish collectors on an unprecedented scale. Most of the great masterpieces in the Louvre had already been evacuated to a châteaux in the Loire Valley and elsewhere in the unoccupied zone. They were relatively safe. The German Army was respectful of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and refused to transfer the works in French museums out of the country. However, the Nazi leaders were not so scrupulous. In June of 1940, within days after capturing the city, Hitler ordered that all art works in France, public and private, should be "safeguarded". Many of the wealthiest Jewish families had sent their art out of France before leaving the country, but others left their art collections behind considering themselves fortunate to escape with their lives. A new law decreed that those who had left France just before the war were no longer French citizens, and thus their property could be seized.

The Astronomer, 1668, Jan Vermeer
(Reserved for Hitler.)
The Gestapo began raiding bank vaults and empty residences, collecting the works of art. The pieces left behind in the fifteen largest Jewish-owned art galleries in Paris were also confiscated to be cataloged and stored. They were moved to the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume (The Palm Gallery), a building in the Tuileries Gardens used by the Louvre for temporary exhibits. More than four-hundred crates of art works were brought to the Jeu de Paume by Luftwaffe personnel, unpacked and cataloged. Hermann Goering, the head of the Luftwaffe, visited the Jeu de Paume on November 3rd, then returned on the 5th, spending the entire day there, picking out works for his private collection. He selected twenty-seven paintings, including works by Rembrandt and Van Dyck owned by Edouard de Rothschild, as well as stained glass windows and furniture intended for Carinhall, the luxurious hunting lodge he had built in the Schorfheide Forest in Germany. Another Rothschild-owned painting, The Astronomer (above) by Jan Vermeer, was reserved for Hitler himself. Fifteen railroad boxcars filled with art masterpieces were sent to Germany on Goering's personal train. Goering later visited the Jeu de Paume twelve more times in 1941, and five times in 1942, adding to his collection as new pieces flowed in. Confiscations continued at banks, warehouses and private residences, with paintings, furniture, statues, clocks and jewelry accumulating at the Jeu de Paume. They filled the whole ground floor. The staff at the Jeu de Paume cataloged 218 major collections. Between April, 1941 and July, 1944. The result was 4,174 cases of art works filling 138 boxcars, all shipped from Paris to Germany. Although much of the art was recovered, many pieces remained missing after the war.

French wine and German Beer, photo by Andre Zucca


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