DURING THE WAR
presents some information on the subject of culture during the Vichy
years. It is currently divided into the following sections, (although
there are plans to develop it further over time):
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Changes in the cultural domain:
interference : Censorship
Germans introduced censorship which targeted two elements: firstly what
was considered anti-German, taking a very broad definition of the enemies
of Germany and secondly, for ideological reasons, anything which was
was a censoring of films and books. So called ‘Otto lists’ were
published in September 1940 and again in 1942 and 1943 which listed books
considered anti-German or anti-Nazi. These were to be destroyed. This
affected many books published before the war, including not just fiction
but also history text books which spoke too much about German losses. As a
means of control, The Germans could cut the supply of the scarce commodity
of paper to publishers who failed to conform to the regulations in force.
Some artists and performers were banned. Political reasons also dictated that certain films, books or other cultural manifestations could not be shown at all. Many authors deliberately avoid certain types of references to allow their material to get passed the official censor.
cultural output was banned for perverse reasons. Marcel Pagnol’s film
‘La fille du Puisantier’ was banned in the occupied zone in
reprisal for Vichy banning a German film in the South. The Germans banned
any film starring the actors Michele Morgan or Claude Dauphin because of
the political stance of these artists.
course censorship was also aimed heavily at Jewish works or those with
pro-Semitic references. Permission to perform plays written or even
translated by Jews was not granted in the Nazi-occupied zone. Jewish
artists were refused permission to exhibit. The theatre which bore the
name of the great actress Sarah Bernhardt was renamed as the théâtre
de la cité because Berhardt was Jewish. The Germans were
horrified to discover that the French actor Harry Baur was actually
Jewish. This caused outrage amongst Nazis because he made a film in
Germany and actually met Hitler. Albert Camus’ novel Le Mythe de
Sisyphe was only published in 1943 after the author agreed to remove
all references to the Jew, Kafka.
were banned in most of the cultural industries not only by the Germans but
also by the Vichy government which had its own inherent anti-Semitism.
Professional identity cards were required of anyone working in the cinema
or theatre and these were only delivered upon presentation of birth
certificates. This meant that Jews could only work secretly in the culture
industry and often had to rely on friends and colleagues to give them the
opportunity to work behind the scenes. Some of you may have seen the
Truffaut film ‘Le dernier Metro’ which deals with the question
of the theatre in occupied France and the effects of occupation on Jews
within the theatre.
was not just French works or French artists who were affected by the
censorship. British films were banned and this was extended to American
films after 1942. In the category of those who were considered enemies of
Germany were German authors such as Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann whose
works were supposed to be destroyed. Films featuring some well known
adversaries of the nazi regime were banned- for example those featuring
Marlene Dietrich. On 27 May 1943, the Nazis organised a secret burning in
Paris of some of the paintings of Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Juan Miro.
The exiled Spanish painter Pablo Picasso was in France during the
occupation. He was suspect in the eyes of the Nazis because one of his
most famous paintings was ‘Guernica’ which depicted the bombing
of this Spanish town in April 1937 by German planes serving the
nationalist cause of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
He was no longer able to exhibit his works publicly.
in the cultural domain:
was also a widespread pillaging in the cultural domain by the Nazis. More
than 20000 objects of art were stolen from France during the occupation
and were despatched either to German museums or to the private collections
of leading Nazi dignitaries. Many of these objects were stolen directly
from Jewish collections. Field Marshal Hermann Göring,
one of the most senior Nazis, acquired ten Renoirs and ten Monets for his
Changes in the cultural domain:
intrusion into Cultural sphere
a limited extent the Germans also tried to impose their culture on the
films never found a French audience. The most famous of the German films
was Le Juif Suss by Veit Harlan.
This was based on a rewriting of the book by the Jewish German Lion
Feuchtwanger but it was now reworked to give a strongly anti-Semitic tone
telling the tale of a German whose daughter is raped by a Jew and the
Jew’s failure to admit to his crime despite damning evidence. It was
very crude propaganda. Initially people did go out of curiosity but fairly
rapidly word spread as to how crude it was and audiences dropped
dramatically. The German attempts to impose their own films were not very
successful. Although 56% of the films distributed were German in 1941 this
had fallen to 22% by 1943 since French audiences snubbed them. Similarly,
the reactions of the public to openly biased pro-German cinema news reels
consisted of laughter, boos, whistles and animal noises during the
projection of these news reels with the result that the authorities insist
that lights be left on during their showing so as to detect those making
music however flourished like never before. Military concerts were given
and the classical music of Beethoven enjoyed great success. The German
Institute in Paris organised cultural festivals like the Mozart week in
July 1941 when the Chamber Orchestra of Berlin gave concerts in Paris. 71
concerts were organised by the German institute in the 13 months running
from May 1942 to July 1943. The Germans ability to attract people to these
concerts was a sign of how universally popular German classical music was.
Ironically the BBC world service used the first four notes of
Beethoven’s fifth symphony to begin their resistance broadcasts which
were transmitted into occupied Europe. This was because these notes
represent the morse code for the word ‘victory’, inferring of course
Allied victory. Beethoven’s Fifth symphony paradoxically became a symbol
of freedom against the Nazis.
Changes in the cultural domain:
occasion extreme collaborators would make their presence very felt during
performances. Sometimes they would even disrupt cultural events of
which they disapproved. Collaborationist gangs caused Jean Cocteau’s
Machine à Ecrire’ to
be closed down in 1941 by shouting abuse at the actors. A lot of the
official press criticism was in the hands of these rabid far-right wingers
and that obviously had its effect on their content.
Changes in the cultural domain:
cultural output was very difficult because of shortages and restrictions.
In the artist Picasso’s work done in Paris during the occupation the
shortages are revealed in some of the materials he uses for his sculptures
which include cardboard, empty cigarette cartons and match boxes.
December 1940, the art workshops in Montparnasse and Montmartre stopped
painting nude models. This was less because of the moral prudery of the
time and more because the studios were finding it hard to find fuel for
need paper and this was in very short supply.
locations could not be used in the making of films- for example for
security reasons the Germans banned the making of films around the
were also shortages of staff for productions as Germans sent large
sections of the French population to work in factories in Germany.
rationing was the order of the day and this led to some bizarre measures
in productions. Marcel Carné’s film Les Visiteurs du Soir which
was made in 1942 contained a banquet scene. In order to stop the hungry
film crew stealing the fruit from the set the Director injected it with
problems meant that there were sometimes power cuts in cinemas and
theatres. Cinemas had to reduce the number of showings. Indeed they also
had to declare a day without cinema (Tuesdays).
increase in audience for cultural events masks the fact that it was
physically difficult to attend many of these events. The Germans imposed a
curfew which made it particularly difficult to attend shows. Missing the
last metro in normal periods might mean having to walk home. During the
occupation it could lead to your arrest.
the later stages of the occupation the Gestapo and the Police would
sometimes organise round ups in theatres and cinemas.
was also subjected to very heavy Allied bombing during the Second World
War. This bombing was designed to hit military installations and factories
working for the Germans. But very often these targets were missed. To give
you an idea of the extent of this bombing by the British and Americans
around 60 000 French civilians were killed by Allied air raids. This is
about the same number as the number of Britons who were killed by German
bombing during the war. Allied air raids destroyed some museums, cinemas
and theatres, particularly in 1944.
there were material considerations which caused changes in the cultural
world. But this being a Nazi occupation there were as you might expect
also political intrusions in the cultural world.
of culture during Vichy years
all the political interference and the material difficulties the years
1940-44 were in many ways years of great cultural vitality in France.
There were massive increase in theatre going and attendance of museums and
cinemas. Cultural life was a refuge and a distraction and highlighted a
desire to escape the hardships of everyday life.
early 1940s form part of the ‘golden age’ of French cinema. French
studios produced 225 films and 400 documentaries during the ‘dark
years’. Established cinema directors like Carné and Grémillon were
joined by talented youngsters such as Henri Decoin, Robert Bresson and
Henri-Georges Clouzot. Some of the films made during the period are
considered as classics for example Decoin’s Les
inconnus dans la maison, Clouzot’s Le
Corbeau and Carné’s Les
visiteurs du soir. Cinema audiences grew from 220 million in 1938 to
over 300 million in 1943.
cinema benefited from the elimination of some traditional competitors. For
diplomatic reasons, American cinema was no longer distributed in France.
German cinema initially tried to fill the void but their films were not
very good and as has already been mentioned were too crude. This left the
market open to French film makers. French films represented a third of
film production for France in the pre-war period. Now 60% of films shown
were French. Most of these films avoided open reference to the present.
Indeed only 10 of the films made explicitly referred to the war or the
period of occupation. This allowed the cinema to be a way of getting away
from the hardships of everyday life.
theatre had never been as popular as during these occupation years. In the
years 1940-44 over 400 plays were produced in Paris. This was the period
in which the first plays of Sartre and Monterlant were performed. There
were also new plays by Cocteau and Anouilh.
plays by Jean-Paul Sartre (Les Mouches, Huis Clos), Henri de
Montherlant (La Reine Morte) and Jean Anouilh were the sign of
theatrical vitality. The big hit of 1943 was Jean-Louis Barrault’s
adaptation of Paul Claudel’s Le soulier de satin. In the
provinces, touring theatre companies such as La Roulotte (‘the
the cinema, the theatre benefited from the fact that its buildings were
heated. Given the shortage of fuel and firewood this meant that many
people would prefer to go to heated public places rather than waste their
limited supplies heating their homes.
novelists were emerging such as Albert Camus, (L’étranger and Le
Mythe de Sisyphe, both 1942) and Marguerite Duras (Les imprudents).
songs by singers such as Tino Rossi or Charles Trenet mirrored a longing
for better days.
was an increase in the number of visitors to Museums.
was popular because it offered an outlet for escape. It provided warm
spaces in which people could get away from the problems of fuel shortages.
The cultural sphere offered entertainment and diversion.
of the cultural output of the time offered simple escapism, a chance to
forget for a brief moment the difficulties of occupied life.
order to satisfy this need for escapism most authors avoided engaging in
films or plays are set in the context of the period. Indeed costume dramas
become increasingly popular.
available to cultural figures: silence
much of the public were attending cultural events as a means of escapism
it was still often difficult for those engaging in cultural activity to
or withdrawing from the cultural domain into the private sphere, was a way
of not compromising oneself. In reality this was much more an option for
intellectuals and artists who were independently wealthy than for the mass
of cultural figures who had to produce in order to feed themselves. Moving
to another profession was difficult in 1940 because of unemployment and in
any event assumed that the cultural figure was qualified to do something
else. But if you chose to express yourself it was difficult not to take
sides. It was difficult to avoid compromises if your performance or
production was published.
cultural figures opted for silence. One who did so was the poet Rene Char
who chose to join a maquis group and only to publish once
Liberation was achieved.
was a tradition of intellectuals engaging themselves in public affairs.
This was a legacy of the Enlightenment period of the 18th
Century when intellectuals had been an important factor in paving the way
for the French Revolution. Given this tradition some authors,
intellectuals or artists chose in the Vichy/occupation context to take
sides for or against Vichy and for or against the Nazi occupier. Some
chose collaboration, some chose Resistance and some were more ambiguous.
Types of cultural collaboration:
cultural exchanges and visits
and artists were invited to German organised events, such as gallery
openings and cultural receptions. This raised a question of personal
responsibility. Did simple attendance at such events not imply complicity
or at the very least acceptance of the Germans, their presence and their
policies? The communist Claude Morgan wrote in 1945 that the writer Henri
Montherlant had given his consent to Auschwitz simply by attending
receptions at the German institute.
events organised by the Germans to which the French were invited there
were also examples of joint cultural events.
August 1942 the French pianist Alfred Cortot gave a joint recital with the
German soloist Wilhelm Kempf. This piano recital accompanied the opening
in the Orangerie Museum in the Tuileries in Paris of an exhibition by the
German sculptor Arno Breker- one of Hitler’s favourite artists. The most
famous French sculptor of the day, Arisitide Maillol, made a special trip
to Paris for the occasion to praise Breker’s sculptors of naked Aryan
males. Breker returned the compliment by praising Maillol’s statues of
French and German governments subsidised many Franco-German cultural
events. There were cultural exchanges as German artists and entertainers
were welcomed in France and their French counterparts engaged in good will
tours of Germany. Some
singers and filmstars agreed to make cultural tours of Germany.
singers such as Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet and Maurice Chevalier made
trips to Germany to play concerts. Those who participated in such tours
justified their actions as simple curiosity, by a desire to keep the
banner of French culture flying and the promise of getting POWs released.
But undoubtedly their acceptance of these tours lent credibility to the
Germans used all such cultural exchanges as massive publicity stunts,
including footage of them in their newsreels.
photos of film stars such as Junie Astor, Albert Préjean, Suzy Delair,
Viviane Romance and Danielle Darrieux leaving for goodwill tours of
Germany in March 1942 were not well received by public opinion.
Forms of Collaboration:
intellectuals viewed Berlin as the new Athens, in other words as the
source of intellectual inspiration. Many of those intellectuals and
artists with leanings to the extreme right before the war followed this
logically into intellectual collaboration during the occupation. It
was mainly in the Literary sphere that intellectuals engaged in openly
pro-German positions. The common thread between these collaborating
intellectuals is that they were attracted to fascist ideals. They were
generally anti-Semitic and attached to the ‘virile’ aspirations of
Nazism. They were convinced that France was threatened by communism and
decadence. Most of them saw Vichy as too tame in its promotion of
Some writers favourable to Collaboration
began his career as a journalist with the newspaper Action Française in 1929. This was the newspaper of Charles Maurras’
Action Française political
grouping which was an extreme-right organisation bringing together mainly
was veterans around nationalist themes such a return to France’s
traditional rural values and anti-Semitism. The Action
Française grouping was extremely anti-Republican putting its faith
instead in return to a Monarchy.
the occupation went to Vichy and try to secure a post within Vichy’s
propraganda ministry. But he was rejected and so left for Paris to be with
other like-minded collaborationists. He became a major contributor to the
collaborationist newspaper Je Suis
Partout writing both on the arts and on political questions. He also
contributed towards other collaborationist newspapers such as Le
Cri du people and Le Petit Parisien.
July 1942 Rebatet published one of the best selling books of the
occupation, Les décombres
(‘rubble’, ‘debris’). This was a personal memoir coupled with a
wide-reaching critique of the current state of France. In it he underlined
his desire to see a German victory in the war and presented a denunciation
of Republican decadence, especially that of the Popular Front. He felt
that this decadence had caused France to lose its virility. Rebatet was of
the view that French art had been undermined by Jewish influence.
ideology was virulently anti-Semitic and he even criticised Maurras for
lack of racism. He was also strongly opposed to democracy claiming not to
have a ‘single democratic blood
cell in his veins’. He became increasingly fascinated with Nazism.
was sentenced to death in November 1946 but pardoned and released in 1952.
After his release from prison he returned to film criticism.
Ferdinand Céline, (1894-1961)
was the nom de plume of Louis
was injured during the fighting of 1914 and awarded a military medal for
bravery. After the war Céline
returned to his studies and trained as a Doctor.
was from 1932 that he began to be acclaimed as a writer. That year his
text Voyage au bout de la nuit
came out and this is still recognised as a classic today. The novel is an
extremely pessimistic account relating the effects of the experience of
the First World War on his hero. The
novel was particularly noted for its styles which broke with the tradition
of using highly formal language and included popular slang language.
until 1936 Céline was a writer associated with the left. But after a trip
to the Soviet Union that year he broke off relations with the left and
began a shift to the far right. On his return from Moscow he wrote an
anti-Communist pamphlet entitled Mea
Culpa. At this point he gave up his position as a Doctor in the town
of Clichy and launched into virulent attacks on the literary world. These
attacks were tainted with blatant anti-Semitism as manifested in his Bagatelles
pour un Massacre of 1937. He was increasingly mixing in anti-Semitic
circles and anti-Semitism reared its head again in L’Ecole des Cadavres in 1938. Indeed anti-Semitism became a staple
of his writing during the occupation as in Les
Beaux Draps of 1941. In 1941 Céline was reported to have asked what
the Germans were waiting for to carry out a programme of Jewish
the Liberation of France he took refuge in Copenhagen in 1945 but returned
to France in 1951 after benefiting from an amnesty.
Drieu la Rochelle
was obsessed by the idea of French decadence. From the 1930’s he became
attracted to fascism, joining Jacques Doriot’s Parti Populaire Francais
(PPF) briefly. He then became head of the French Hitler youth movement.
For Drieu fascism was synonymous with energy, youth and virility. He
became an advocate of a Nazi style revolution to allow France to be able
to play a role in Hitler’s Europe. He was never very sympathetic to
Vichy seeing it as too tame.
became the editor of the Nouvelle
Revue Française (NRF)- a literary monthly review founded in 1908
started by a group of intellectuals gravitating around Andre Gide. Before
the occupation this review had tried to preserve an apolitical image.
Although it was closed down by the Germans in September 1940 it restarted
under pressure from German ambassador Otto Abetz who saw it as a key to
intellectual collaboration. It was then that Drieu was made editor.
NRF’s increasingly collaborationist line alienated much of its pre-war
readership. It now included pro-fascist and anti-Semitic texts. The
failure to preserve the NRF’s reputation and Germany’s defeat in the
war caused Drieu to make three suicide attempts. The last of these in 1945
was drawn from the ranks of the Maurrasian intellectuals, supporters of Action
Française. In the
1930’s Brasillach worried that France was drifting and denounced the
country’s decadence. He became editor of the pro-fascist and
anti-Semitic newspaper Je suis partout in 1937.
France fell in 1940 Brassilach was keen that the country should play a
role in Hitler’s new order and he sought to mobilise European
intellectuals in an anti-Bolshevik struggle. He was increasingly critical
of the reactionary nature of Vichy’s Révolution
had solid credentials as a writer having published Les
Sept Couleurs in 1939 and Notre
Avant Garde in 1941 allowing him to become a prominent voice of
was executed for ‘intelligence with the enemy’ in February 1945 after
a highly publicised trial.
Why did cultural figures Resist?
those reasons for Resistance which were common to all the population, many
cultural figures also felt strongly attached to notions of freedom. They
resented interference in their domain.
intellectuals were pushed towards Resistance by the Vichy or Nazi regimes.
For instance, André
Gide was initially favourable to the Vichy regime. But many of those close
to the regime viewed him with suspicion partly because he was protestant.
He was also homosexual and the extreme right had portrayed him as a
corruptor of youth. Vilified by the regime he became a Resistance writer.
of Resistance: The exile of cultural figures
considerable number of cultural figures decided that the best course of
action was to opt for foreign exile. Exile was a way of publicly refusing
to compromise oneself to the constraints of operating in under Vichy or
Nazi restrictions. By continuing their cultural output from abroad they
highlight that Vichy could not claim to speak for the whole of French
is the case for example for the surrealist writer André
Breton who set off for the United States. America was also the destination
for the artist Marc Chagall had initially been reluctant to leave because
he felt that French nationality would protect him from anti-Semitism. It
was not until he was convinced of the contrary in March 1941 that he
decided to leave.
and artists had advantages in escaping Nazi occupied Europe- they could
often take advantage of contacts to use as sponsors in a host country in
order to obtain visas. A special organisation called the Emergency Rescue
Committee, privately funded from New York, was set up in Marseilles to
attempt to organise the departure of leading intellectuals and cultural
figures threatened by the Nazis. The leader of this committee was the
journalist Varian Fry who managed to help around 1500 people to escape
including a number of Nobel prize winners and important cultural figures.
not everyone viewed exile in a favourable light. There was a very real
dilemma for the intellectual or entertainer. Was not exile a form of
desertion? Did it not amount to abandoning the cultural field to the
Germans? For some staying in France was in itself an act of courage. The
Spanish painter Pablo Picasso spent the occupation in Paris. He was
suspect in the eyes of the Nazis because one of his most famous paintings
was ‘Guernica’ which depicted the bombing of this Spanish town in
April 1937 by German planes serving the nationalist cause of General
Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
He was no longer able to exhibit his works publicly and his
premises were frequently raided by the German police. He managed to
survive the occupation peacefully.
all of the exiles accepted Gaullism as a viable alternative to Vichy.
Saint-John Perse refused to follow de Gaulle considering him too faithful
to the pre-war Prime Minister Reynaud. André
Maurois continued to profess an admiration for Pétain, because he
remembered that his own entry to the Académie Française had been
facilitated by Pétain. However, some exiled cultural figures did declare
their loyalty to de Gaulle- for example Henri Focillon, Jacques Maritain
or Georges Bernanos. Claude Dauphin and Pierre Dac wrote for the BBC. The
actor Jean Gabin joined the Free French Navy to fight an active military
role in the war.
Literature : Poetry
form of Literature was particularly adapted to the Resistance and that was
poetry. Poems tended to be short which meant that they didn’t use as
much paper, an important consideration during a time of shortage. This
also made them easier to distribute. The RAF would drop copies of poems
into France during their bombing raids. Using poetic rhythm and rhyming
made poems particularly easy to remember thereby facilitating their
transmission by word of mouth.
were also particularly used to making a pittance because this was a
literary genre where earnings were traditionally poor. This adapted the
poets themselves to the needs of a clandestine lifestyle. The poets most
associated with Resistance are Paul Eluard and Louis Aragon.
Resistance poetry was published officially but contained coded messages.
Poetry as a style had traditionally expressed things ambiguously, an
ambiguity necessary if it was going to get passed the censor. In his poem
poétique’ published in 1942 Louis Aragon, a poet with
communist sympathies, made reference to ‘nos amis morts en mai’. The Vichy censor passed the poem
because the line could refer to those who died in the battle of France in
1940. However, it was actually a reference to some communist intellectuals
executed in May 1942. Aragon stopped publishing legally in March 1943 and
thereafter produced only clandestine poems.
Le Silence de la Mer
Le silence de la mer
was the first Resistance short story and was written by Jean Bruller under
the pseudonym of Vercors. It was published in 1942 by a new clandestine
publishing house, Les Editions de
Minuit which was to bring out more than 20 books during the
tells the story of a man and his niece who have a German officer billeted
on their home. The German officer, Werner von Ebrennac, is noble and
portrayed in sympathetic terms. He wants to reach out to his two French
hosts. He hopes to be accepted by them. He speaks at length of his love of
French culture. The uncle and niece do not speak to him and try to ignore
his presence. But it is obvious that the niece is harbouring a fascination
for him, that she is attracted to him. The music of the German composer
Beethoven lies open on the piano and she appears moved by Werner’s
cultured speech. But von Ebrennac’s idealism founders when he makes a
trip to Paris and speaks with other soldiers from the German army. They
mock him for his naïve belief that France and Germany can coexist and let
him know that their only intention in France is to destroy the country
utterly. When Von Ebrennac returns to the house he is totally
disillusioned. He informs the uncle and niece of his experience and tells
them that he has volunteered to be transferred to the Russian front, an
act which at the time was seen as suicidal.
Resisters criticised the book at the time for portraying the German so
sympathetically but there was good reason to do so. When the Germans first
arrived in France, German soldiery tried to behave in a civilised manner.
For the French who had been raised on tales of German savagery in the
First World War this was a surprise. In the initial period, the expression
sont très corrects’ was
frequently heard coming from French lips. This was beginning to change in
the summer of 1941 when Vercors wrote his book and the author was trying
to remind his readers that you shouldn’t be taken in by a civilised
appearance- we are led to believe that ultimately such appearances are
deceptive. The couple of French people maintain their dignity by not
speaking to von Ebrennac despite his sympathetic appearance. Only when he
leaves does a word pass the niece’s lips and that is the word
‘adieu’. The message is simple: whatever attractions the Germans may
hold the French should not succumb.
a resistance message it met with mixed reactions from resisters. The
Gaullists praised it because it was the symbol of maintaining French
dignity in spite of the German presence. The communists criticised it,
seeing it as a form of ‘attentisme’. They felt that maintaining
resistance on this passive level lacked dynamism and was unlikely to force
the Germans to leave.
in outlawed types of cultural entertainment
the war dance evenings had been a popular entertainment amongst young
people. These were now banned by both the Germans and Vichy. The Germans
were worried that such gatherings might cause unrest. Vichy had more
moralistic concerns. Such pleasure-seeking activities were a symbol of the
Republican regime they spurned. It was considered obscene to allow such
activities while so many Frenchmen were absent as Prisoners-of-War.
Moreover it was feared that they might promote promiscuity and even
fraternisation with German soldiers. By 1942 Vichy’s restriction on
dance evenings was being increasingly flouted. Clandestine dances were
organised in remote houses and isolated barns. It would obviously be going
too far to describe such activity as Resistance but it was certainly a
form of youthful counter-culture to the moralistic preaching of Vichy.
particular category of clandestine dancer became famous during the
occupation period. These were a group of middle class rebels known as the
Zazous. They danced to Jazz and Swing music, had long hair in the style
which had been made popular by Oxford University students, they carried
umbrellas which had been popularised in France by Neville Chamberlain in
the 1930s and developed their own slang incorporating English terms. Again
the Zazous weren’t actually Resisters but rather simple pleasure seekers
but their anglophile associations and their behaviour considered as
decadent by moralists caused them to be hunted down by collaborationist
youth groups who would beat them up and cut their hair off.
in Culture under Vichy
existence of censorship placed constraints on those engaged in culture.
Authorised cultural output could only express opposition to the occupiers
or the Vichy regime in a coded form. It had to be ambiguous.
Indeed culture in an occupied country is often very ambiguous.
Ambiguous in both its meaning and its very existence.
existence of cultural events in a time of occupation is open to divergent
interpretations. Should it be seen as a bold assertion of the continuance
of a French tradition of entertainment in spite German presence? Or should
the organisation of cultural events such as music hall shows or Paris
night club soirées be interpreted as laying on entertainment for enemy
troops, since many German officers attended such shows?
could read the same cultural events in diametrically opposed ways. Nowhere
was this more the case than in the diverse interpretations given to the
cult of Joan of Arc during the occupation. Joan of Arc was a peasant girl
in the 15th century who had led an army against the British which managed
to lift the siege of the town of Orleans during the Hundred Years War.
Both Vichy and the Resistance claimed her heritage. Vichy stressed the
virtuousness of this pious virgin and underlined that she was fighting the
British, the enemy of Vichy’s ally the Germans. For the Resistance on
the other hand what was important in the story of Joan of Arc was that she
had been fighting the invader and that when she had been captured by this
invader it was because of a collaborator. It was inevitable therefore that
when any cultural work used the image of Joan it would be interpreted in
divergent ways. This was the case of Claude Vermorel’s play Jeanne
avec nous. Slightly before writing the play in 1938, Vermorel had been
pressing for a Franco-German youth theatre to improve cultural relations
between the two countries. When his play was finally staged in 1942, it
received favourable reviews from the collaborationist press, Lucien
Rebatet viewing his character of Joan as a ‘patroness of French
fascism’. But in fact after the war the play was interpreted very much
as a Resistance play.
Chevalier’s 1941 song ‘Notre
Espoir’ was initially taken as
a Pétainist message but later sung in expectation of the Liberation.
Films like Jean Gremillon’s ‘Le
ciel est a vous’ was also
open to diverse interpretations. Similarly Marcel Carne’s ‘Les
visiteurs du soir’. The same was true of plays like Jean Anouilh’s
Antigone or Henry de
Montherlant’s ‘La Reine Morte’.
Novels like Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s ‘Pilote
de Guerre was received well by both Vichy and the Resistance.
claimed to have included covert messages in their texts.
post-Liberation Purge of intellectuals and artists
purge of intellectuals was particularly severe. Intellectuals in France
were held in high regard. But this prestige brought with special
responsibilities. The French liked their intellectuals to become engaged
but they would also be very hostile to them if they engaged on the wrong
of the most engaged writers were purged and in some cases shot. The most
famous of these being the execution of Robet Brasillach.
Indeed the purge of writers was much more severe than that suffered
by, say, industry leaders. They had publicly engaged themselves whereas
industry leaders could claim that they were compelled into collaboration
and that they were simply trying to keep the French economy buoyant and
French people in jobs. Also the industry leaders were felt more essential
to post-war rebuilding than a bunch of right wing intellectuals.
personalities in the cultural sphere also saw their careers ruined by
choices they had made during the occupation. The actress Arletty’s
reputation in France was ruined by her love affair with a German officer
and her presence in various gala events organized by the German embassy.
Following her arrest at the Liberation she dismissed the idea that her
sexual choices undermined her patriotism. As she declared at the time: ‘Mon
cœur est français mais mon cul est international’.
She was effectively an outcast from the French cinema after the war.
Nevertheless Arletty starred in the American film ‘The Longest Day’
which documents the D-Day landings of June 1944, ironically playing the
role of a member of the Resistance.
cultural legacy of the Vichy
1944 there was an important purge of writers of the right or the extreme
right who were seemed to have compromised themselves during the occupation
engagement had always been much more obvious on the left than the right
but it had existed on the right. In the years immediately following Vichy
the wartime engagement of people like Drieu la Rochelle discredited right
wing engagement. It was also to have more immediate effects on many of the
intellectuals of this political persuasion.
of them were purged and in some cases shot. Indeed the purge of writers
was much more severe than that suffered by, say, industry leaders. They
had publicly engaged themselves whereas industry leaders could claim that
they were compelled into collaboration and that they were simply trying to
keep the French economy buoyant and French people in jobs. Also the
industry leaders were felt more essential to post-war rebuilding than a
bunch of right wing intellectuals.
other great legacy of the Vichy years was on the left wing intellectuals.
Those who had participated actively in the Resistance furthered the myth
of the duty of engagement of left-wing intellectuals. Indeed this notion
was central to the philosophy of existentialism which gained ground after
the Second World War. At the heart of this philosophy was the idea that
one is judged by one’s actions and this is how one liberates oneself. It
is easy to see the link between this and the attempts of the Resistance
during the war to get people to actively fight the occupier. It was
Jean-Paul Sartre who became the chief spokesperson of this philosophy.
This must be seen as somewhat ironic because it is difficult to argue that
he really put this concept into practice during the war. His Resistance
consisted largely of supposedly coded messages within his works which were
so obscure as to be only picked up on by the initiated.
introductory notes are taken mainly from:
Le théâtre dans les années Vichy,
1940-44, Paris, 1992.
& Olivier Wieviorka, Vichy 1940-44, Paris, Perrin, 1997
Azéma, et al, Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy
France, 1940-1944, Harry
N. Abrams, 2000
Bertin-Maghit, Le cinéma sous
l’occupation, Paris, 1989.
L’art de la défaite, 1940-44,
Journal, 1942-45, Paris, 1989.
Jean-Paul & Michèle Cointet, (eds), Dictionnaire historique de la France sous l'Occupation, Paris, Tallandier, 2000.
Artists under Vichy : A case of
prejudice and persecution, Princeton, 1992.
Cinema of paradox : French
filmmaking under the German occupation, New York, 1985.
L’édition française sous
l’occupation, 1940-44, Paris, 1987.
De Blum à Pétain, Cinéma et société
française, 1936-1944, Paris, 1984.
and P. Marsh (eds), Collaboration in
France: Politics and Culture during the Nazi Occupation, Oxford, 1989.
France, the dark years, Oxford, OUP, 2001
and J-R Ragache, La vie quotidienne
des écrivains et des artistes sous l’occupation, Paris, 1988.
Rioux (ed), La vie culturelle sous
Vichy, Paris, 1990.
Shapiro, La guerre des écrivains,
1940-1953, Paris, 1999.
La France de Pétain et son cinéma,
D. Veillon, Vivre et survivre en France, 1939-1947, Paris, Payot, 1995, p 137.
COMMENT & DEBATE
extract from Michel Winock, Parlez-moi de la France, Seuil, Paris, 1995, pp 144-145
vague de l'antisémitisme moderne en France date des années 1880. A cette
époque de régime républicain mal assuré et de dépression économique-
ces années mêmes qui ont vu naître les courants populistes dans notre
pays- Edouard Drumont, sans donner vraiment le signal de départ de
l'antisémitisme, en a fait un des thèmes majeurs de ce qui allait
s'appeler le nationalisme. Sa France juive, où il dépeignait la
patrie en proie à 'l'invasion juive', connut un franc succès, et ses
livres suivants permirent à Drumont de passer pour une sorte de prophète,
défendant tout à la fois l'Eglise catholique persécutée et le prolétariat
exploité. Une bonne partie des écrivains français ont été plus ou
moins contaminés par la judéophobie. Ce fut le cas de Barrès, de
Maurras, et plus tard de Céline, Drieu la Rochelle, Brasillach.... L'un
des plus grands écrivains, Céline, a été frappé de malédiction à
cause de ses pamphlets antisémites, dont ses Bagatelles pour un
massacre restent, si l'on peut dire, un modèle du genre. Et que dire
d'écrivains délicats, intimistes, peu versés dans la politique, comme
un Marcel Jouhandeau, qui se prend à publier, en 1937, un livre sur le
Péril Juif? Je ne crois pas que les Français, pris dans leur
ensemble, aient été plus antisémites que d'autres, mais des écrivains
français parmi les plus talentueux y sont tombés, parfois avec une rage
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CULTURE DURING THE VICHY YEARS
|Below you will find a broad bibliography of questions related to this topic, drawn from texts regularly cited with regard to this subject. It is by no means exhaustive. But it is hoped that those who access this page will co-operate in building on this information. If you know of any other works on subjects related to these themes, please let me know at S.K.Kitson@bham.ac.uk, so that I can update the list. Similarly if you notice any errors in the list below, please let me know. When addressing titles to me it would be easier if you respected the format adopted here (ie Author's family name/ Author's Christian name/Title (in italics)/ Name of publisher/ Place of publication/Date of publication). Thanks for any help you can give.|
ADDED (Serge), Le théâtre dans les années Vichy, Ramsay, Paris, 1992
ATACK, (Margaret), Literature and the French Resistance: Cultural Politics and Narrative Forms 1940-1950, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1989.
BERTIN-MAGHT (Jean-Pierre), Le cinéma sous l'occupation, Olivier Orban, Paris, 1989
BERTRAND DORLEAC, (Laurence), L'art de la défaite, Seuil, Paris, 1993
CONE, (Michèle), Artists under Vichy, Princeton UP, Princeton, USA, 1992.
CORNICK, M., 'Resister and Knight of the Round Table: Jean Paulhan at the Liberation', chapter in H. R. Kedward and Nancy Wood (eds.), The Liberation of France: image and event (Berg, 1995), 183-196.
DOMPNIER, (N), Vichy à travers chants: pour une analyse politique du sens et de l'usage des hymnes sous Vichy, Nathan, Paris, 1996
GUIRAUD, (Jean-Michel), La vie intellectuelle et artistique à Marseille (1940-1944), Laffitte, Marseille, 1999
HIGGINS (Ian), Anthology of Second World War French Poetry, Methuen, London, 1982
KEDWARD (H R) & AUSTIN (R), Vichy France & the Resistance: Culture & Ideology, Croom Helm, 1995
RIOUX (J-P) (ed), La vie culturelle sous Vichy, Complexe, Brussels, 1990
SHORT (KRM), Film & Propaganda in World War Two, Croom Helm, London, 1983
SICLIER (Jacques), La France de Pétain et son cinéma, Henri Veyrier, Paris, 1990
SIMONIN (Anne), Les éditions de minuit, 1942-1955, IMEC Editions, 1994
VEILLON (Dominique), La mode sous l'occupation, Payot, Paris, 1990
silence de la mer, Albin Michel, Paris, 1951
Josephine Baker Biography
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
Biography: Samuel Beckett
Georges Bernanos (1888-1948) Novelist and essayist
Albert Camus. A page with links to people interested in
and information about Albert Camus. Contains a bibliography, links to
other Camus pages, and a list of people looking for Camus-related
Albert Camus - Biography
André Malraux: A Biography by Curtis Cate.
Thelonious Monk - An appreciation of the great jazz
pianist and composer.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980).
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