Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Paris. Germany. The Occupation

Paris was spared the massive bombing campaigns that gutted so many European cities throughout World War II. Hitler prized Paris as a pretty feather in his cap. He directed the city to be taken without destruction in order to maintain its artistic and architectural merits. Hence, Paris only saw a few bombs. The Luftwaffe dropped bombs on June 3, 1940 and France surrendered June 22, 1940. While Paris did not suffer physical destruction, Jean-Paul Sartre—in Paris Under the Occupation—describes the latent stress that enveloped Paris under German occupation.

Parisians strolled among pleasant Nazis who smiled and remained courteous, yet each Parisian knew of someone who had been disappeared during the night by those same smiling soldiers. Sartre reveals how every Parisian constantly wrestled with condemnation of the German soldiers and guilt for condemning a fellow human. He further elaborates the emotional conflict by telling of several Parisians who rushed to the assistance of a German officer pinned beneath his vehicle after a traffic accident. The Parisians were proud of their humanity-affirming deed, yet engaged in self-disgust for assisting a Nazi. How does a Parisian preserve his dignity and respect for humanity under the occupation of a regime that respects neither his nor his neighbors’? The torture resulting from this struggle was the true sin of the occupation according to Sartre.

The Aftermath of War

Not all of the essays deal directly with World War II, but they all explore the world that crept forth from its rubble. The aspects discussed in this post come from Paris Under the Occupation.

The Austin Public Library owns several notable works about Paris under German occupation:

RĂ©sistance: a Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France

Paris Under the Occupation

Paris in the Third Reich: a History of the German Occupation, 1940-1944

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