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Nazi Paris

Nazi Paris: The History of an Occupation, 1940-1944

Allan Mitchell
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Nazi Paris
    Book Description:

    Basing his extensive research into hitherto unexploited archival documentation on both sides of the Rhine, Allan Mitchell has uncovered the inner workings of the German military regime from the Wehrmacht's triumphal entry into Paris in June 1940 to its ignominious withdrawal in August 1944. Although mindful of the French experience and the fundamental issue of collaboration, the author concentrates on the complex problems of occupying a foreign territory after a surprisingly swift conquest. By exploring in detail such topics as the regulation of public comportment, economic policy, forced labor, culture and propaganda, police activity, persecution and deportation of Jews, assassinations, executions, and torture, this study supersedes earlier attempts to investigate the German domination and exploitation of wartime France. In doing so, these findings provide an invaluable complement to the work of scholars who have viewed those dark years exclusively or mainly from the French perspective.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-858-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    The notion of Vichy France is of course a complete misnomer. All of France was never governed from Vichy, and between June 1940 and November 1942 even the Unoccupied Zone south of the demarcation line was not really autonomous. For more than four years Nazi Germany ruled France, and it did so from Paris, which remained as always the heart and soul of the French nation. For the military administrators of the German Occupation, Vichy was a sometimes troublesome but temporary convenience that relieved part of the strain on their inadequate manpower resources. Besides, whenever important business had to be...

  5. Part I: Taking Over (June 1940–June 1941)

    • Chapter 1 Law and Order
      (pp. 3-12)

      Brilliant as the planning and execution of German military operations had been in May and early June of 1940, the same cannot be said of the Occupation that followed. France had fallen, but now it needed to be governed. Entering into the details, one can only be astonished at the lack of foresight and the extent of resulting administrative confusion. An early indication was that the first official military staff communiqué from occupied Paris was released on 14 June as German troops were still entering the city, yet a second did not follow until more than a week later. In...

    • Chapter 2 Rules and Regulations
      (pp. 13-19)

      The German presence changed the appearance of Paris. After nearly a century since Baron Haussmann’s rebuilding of the city, during which time thousands of private dwellings were heated with bituminous coal and few edifices were cleaned, the capital had a general pallor of dull gray—appropriate, it seemed, for the period of Occupation. Otherwise, much was different. Most conspicuous to the visitor were perhaps the thickets of black-and-white German direction signs on every street corner, pointing the way to this or that military post. Nor to be overlooked were huge banners, hanging from the façade of the National Assembly building...

    • Chapter 3 Economy and Armament
      (pp. 20-26)

      The confusion and lack of planning so evident in other aspects of the Occupation were also apparent in German attempts to secure a grip on the French economy. In most regards, France’s pre-war infrastructure remained intact. Farms and factories had rarely been damaged. However, transportation was a problem because rail junctions had been destroyed by the retreating French army and bridges had been purposely collapsed or buckled in combat, often falling so as to block waterways. The highly inefficient consequence was an initial dependence on trucks, which meant that supplies of food and fuel were slow to reach Paris. Meanwhile,...

    • Chapter 4 Culture and Propaganda
      (pp. 27-36)

      In the context of the Occupation, the juxtaposition of propaganda and culture was self-evident. For the Germans, culture was propaganda and vice versa. But the problem of managing the public sphere and of influencing public opinion in Paris was far more perturbing for the occupiers than that simple formulation might imply.

      It is well to begin with high culture, in particular, the performing arts of opera, music, and theater, and to observe that the French capital has seldom in its history witnessed such a glorious display of creative endeavor as during the Occupation. Within weeks after the German entry into...

    • Chapter 5 Germans and Jews
      (pp. 37-44)

      In the little town of Breisach, overlooking the Rhine near Freiburg-im-Breisgau, there is a tiny plaque inscribed in remembrance of the German Jews expelled to France in 1940. Everything is said in one simple sentence: “In memory of the Breisach Jews who on 22 October 1940, together with all Jews from Baden, the Palatinate, and the Saarland, were deported to the camp at Gurs in the French Pyrenees.” Among other things, this inscription is a testimony to the incoherence of German policy regarding the treatment of Jews in France during the early months of the Occupation. Was it actually the...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  6. Part II: Cracking Down (June 1941–November 1942)

    • Chapter 6 The Hostage Crisis
      (pp. 47-54)

      A profound surprise.” That is how the Prefect of Police summarized reactions in Paris to the arrival of the astounding news on 22 June 1941 of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Until that date the internal situation in occupied France had been dominated by the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, which dictated a measured restraint on the part of French Communists in their opposition to the Occupation. Now all previous bets were off.¹ It did not take long to detect signs of increased Communist activity, especially in the traditional working-class strongholds in the eastern suburbs. Such reports were soon...

    • Chapter 7 A Dangerous Place
      (pp. 55-63)

      While the hostage crisis naturally gathered all the headlines, daily life in occupied Paris ground on. The difference for the Occupation was a new tone of urgency and severity. Stimulated by the shocking news from the Soviet Union, German and French police conducted mass arrests of suspected Communists. Six hundred of them were taken into custody during the first week after the invasion of Russia. In addition to arrests by the Paris criminal police, the municipal constabulary fanned out in the city, stopping and interrogating citizens in the streets. One report in September 1941 recorded exactly 76,567 such confrontations that...

    • Chapter 8 Strict Controls and Stringent Quotas
      (pp. 64-72)

      The relatively stable and prosperous condition of the French economy during the first phase of the Occupation did not survive the second. True, the winter of 1941–1942 was less severe in France than the year before, and the harvest from early autumn was somewhat improved. The production of potatoes, for instance, was better by a third, although still 20 percent below the pre-war norm. Disruptions and irregularities of foodstuff shipments to Paris were nevertheless evident. Rations of meat, fruit, and vegetables were reduced in October 1941. And fuel—coal, wood, electricity, and gas—was at times scarce. What good...

    • Chapter 9 A Lost Battle
      (pp. 73-80)

      Much like the evolution of the French economy, the progress of the propaganda war in Paris depended importantly on the weather. The reason was simple. After the invasion of Russia, it became axiomatic that German troops on the Eastern Front advanced during the warm season and retreated once the cold of winter settled in. Among the dozens of German staff reports and administrative memoranda that attempted to evaluate public opinion and popular attitudes (Stimmung, as they called it) in the Occupied Zone, there was one conclusion upon which all could agree:that much depended on events outside of France and, in...

    • Chapter 10 Eichmann in Paris
      (pp. 81-90)

      Decidedly, when discussing the Occupation, there is no way around that grating wordEntjudung, meaning an intention to eliminate all Jews—or at least what was called “Jewish influence”—from French public life. The effort to do so was slow to gather momentum, but gather it did once the Nazi war machine crossed the Polish border into Soviet Russia and began to add millions to the population of the Greater German Reich. Although distant, those events patently supplied a context for policies and actions in Paris that must always be kept in view.

      The indecision, hesitation, and confusion that were...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  7. Part III: Holding On (November 1942–June 1944)

    • Chapter 11 A Turn of Fortune
      (pp. 93-99)

      Operation Torch brought the war back to France. After the fall of Paris in the summer of 1940, the din of battle had receded to faraway places—to the islands of the Pacific and the steppes of Russia. During that time, the French capital lay in waiting, sullenly quiet, its population apathetic and its public life usually subdued despite sporadic outbursts of violence. The Anglo-American landing in North Africa abruptly changed that atmosphere and focused everyone’s attention on the fact that Western Europe was once more destined to become a scene of combat. Now military action was just across the...

    • Chapter 12 A Police State
      (pp. 100-109)

      The shortage of personnel for policing France became a more pressing and acute problem for the Occupation once the Germans took charge of all the territory south of the demarcation line. Such insufficiency proved to be an intractable handicap that crippled the military administration to the end. The result was an increased pressure for theVerstaatlichungof the French police, that is, the creation of a united, more efficient national organization under a single command that could be held responsible for cooperation and discipline. This necessity, for that is what it was, explained the growing prominence of René Bousquet and...

    • Chapter 13 A Deep Contradiction
      (pp. 110-119)

      After November 1942, what difference did the approach of war make for the French economy? Although it was unanimously accepted that the Allied invasion of North Africa marked an important moment in the Occupation, German reactions naturally varied. “The situation in France is completely altered,” observed one official in the Hotel Majestic. The French population was now overcome with “resignation, fatigue, and worry,” wrote another. The opening of a southern front was simply “a turning point,” added a third.¹ Why so?

      First of all, cut off from its colonial possessions, France was bound to suffer even more severe food shortages....

    • Chapter 14 A Waning Hope
      (pp. 120-128)

      The war news went from bad to worse, and there was very little that German propaganda could do about it. Whatever the official message of military bulletins, this was the assessment of Occupation authorities in Paris. As for the French, rumors of the fierce battle raging at Stalingrad in late 1942 raised “great expectations” of an Allied triumph, as one district field commander reported from the suburbs, a theme constantly being discussed in bread lines and over anapéritifor two at neighborhood bars. Observations of the Sicherheitspolizei went ever further: many Parisians were expecting an imminent German collapse, an...

    • Chapter 15 A Wretched Conclusion
      (pp. 129-136)

      The Final Solution was underway in France well before the Allied invasion of North Africa, but it took a long while to evolve and did so erratically. Because of German personnel shortages, the fate of French Jews depended importantly on the collaboration of the French police with the armed forces of the Occupation. A police reform in late 1942 essentially returned oversight of Jewish affairs to the Prefecture of Police at the Quai des Orfèvres by abolishing a separate unit that had been detached for that purpose. Now a new Service des Questions Juives there was directed by Commissar Permilleux,...

  8. Part IV: Pulling Out (June–August 1944)

    • Chapter 16 The Twilight Weeks
      (pp. 139-150)

      0nce the Allied armies had secured a foothold on the French mainland, the days of the Occupation were clearly numbered. Everyone knew it, although few Germans stationed in Paris were as yet prepared to admit openly the obvious and painful truth. Nevertheless, as the final weeks passed—especially after the Allied military breakout from the Normandy peninsula at the end of July 1944—pressing realities had to be met and necessary consequences faced.

      At first, little changed outwardly in Paris. Whatever the surface appearance, however, within the Hotel Majestic a heightened tension was palpable. MBF headquarters there was immediately placed...

  9. Epilogue: The Long Handshake
    (pp. 151-155)

    The Germans were great record-keepers. During the four years and two months of the Occupation of Paris, they managed to produce tens of thousands of documents that recorded in minute detail every conceivable aspect of their military administration. Even though a substantial portion of those papers was either scattered or deliberately destroyed as the Occupation came to a close, huge quantities of them remain—vastly more than a single scholar could digest in a lifetime. From that surfeit of evidence it is necessary to select, and on that selection the historical record must be based. Of all the documents written...

  10. Appendix: Classified French Police Files at the Archives Nationales in Paris
    (pp. 156-160)
  11. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 161-162)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 163-211)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 212-218)
  14. Name Index
    (pp. 219-221)
  15. Subject Index
    (pp. 222-230)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-232)