Paris under the Nazis

vichyfrance.jpgAfter France rolled over like the majority of Europe and The Nazis marched underneath the Arc D’Triumphe, the country sacrificed any notion of their fighting prowess. It certainly doesn’t help that they started Vietnam in 1954 and then bailed on the US to pick up their pieces.

I’m not sure why and it’s certainly not true, but the image of the petulent Frenchman always comes to mind, you know the one where they’re willing to throw verbal epithets with wild arm motions, but as soon as you punch them in the lip they go running?

Which is odd, because Parisians were the nicest people (next to the Irish) I had the fortune of meeting during my jaunt through Europe. They totally destroyed any notion of the snobby Frenchman and if there is one country I would be excited to visit again it’s France. Plus, their culture really is the bees knees.

Cultural histrionics aside, because of a new exhibition of color photographs of Vichy France by Andre Zucca, some French have regained their fighting spirit. Unfortunately, about 70 years too late.

Paris deputy mayor Christophe Girard, who heads the city’s culture department, has even suggested shutting down the show of work by French photographer Andre Zucca unless the organizers seek to counterbalance the cheery vision on display.

“It doesn’t explain enough that this was Nazi propaganda, and this makes me vomit… As it stands, we’re looking at revisionist history,” Girard told Reuters on Monday.

Called “Parisians under the Occupation”, the 270 color photos depict a wartime Paris with more emphasis on joy than the jackboot — which Girard says is inappropriate for an occupation still painful in French collective memory.

“We plan to discuss the matter with historians and see if we can modify things to save the exhibition. But if we can’t, I’d like to see it closed,” Girard said.

Photography was forbidden in occupied Paris, but Zucca, a Frenchman who died in 1973, obtained permits and supplies from his employer — the Nazi propaganda magazine Signal.

Well, okay. We’ll begrudgingly concede the point. Propaganda aside, the photographs should be seen, but maybe they could arrange another exhibition next door of all the atrocities that Hitler and croonies allowed to happen. The biased photos do offer a look at a very dark period of French history, even if it’s not the history that officials would have everyone remember. And that’s essentially what propaganda is.

If you are cultured and can read French, there’s more information here. I clicked on the link and then remembered too late that I’m an unedumacated American and so trying to read the funny language did me no good.

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