Riffaud and Liquois, two destinies with seemingly nothing in common, apart from the War and a little booklet from Jeunesse Héroïque (Portrait of Riffaud by Picasso from “Le poing fermé”, Liquois image from https://histo28.miraheze.org under Creative Commons)
As discussed in an earlier blogpost, showcasing the beautiful and entertaining Belgian children’s collection Les Alliés, a surprisingly large proportion of the Liberation Collection is made up of thin pamphlets aimed at young people. They were published in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War in France and Belgium.
Jeunesse héroïque is among the most interesting examples of these juvenile literature treasures. Published fortnightly in Paris by Éditions France d’abord between 1945 and 1947, then by Éditions d’hier et d’aujourd’hui until 1949, the series was made up of 99 books, of which 86 are held at Cambridge University Library. These 30-page booklets with engaging illustrated covers relate major battles of the Second World War (but only the ones that the Allies won…), together with inspiring acts of resistance against the Nazis.
The variety of authors and illustrators who contributed to Jeunesse héroïque made the series engaging for the reader, as does the fact that each instalment told a complete story.
The variety of covers adds to the appeal of the ‘Jeunesse héroïque’ stories
The back covers reveal that Éditions France d’abord worked on this collection with ‘l’Association nationale des amis des franc-tireurs et partisans français (F.T.P.)’, a Communist resistance group, which explains the left-wing political leanings in the stories.
Madeleine Riffaud, the famous Résistante in the F.T.P., wrote two books for the Jeunesse héroïque series: La belle vengeance de Bleuette (‘Bleuette’s vengeance’, 1945) and On s’est battu contre la mort (‘We fought against death’, 1946). The former is particularly interesting as the story of Bleuette is loosely based on the author’s own story during the Second World War.
Madeleine Riffaud entered the Resistance at the age of 17 in 1941 as Rainer, an alias she had chosen due to her love of Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. By 1944, she had led a Resistance division (Front national de lutte pour la libération et l’indépendance de la France), joined the F.T.P resistance group, and killed a German officer with two bullets in the head. Following her torture by the Gestapo and a date being set for her execution, she was finally released in a prisoner exchange. She continued to participate in acts of resistance until the Liberation of Paris on 26 August 1944.
What is most striking when examining La belle vengeance de Bleuette is the discovery that the illustrator of this pro-Resistance, Communist-leaning publication was none other than Liquois, an illustrator at the opposite end of the political spectrum – he had actively spread the Nazi message to French youth during the war with his work in the periodicals Le Téméraire and Le Mérinos. This odd association exemplifies particularly well some of the complexities of living in occupied France.
From 1943 to 1944, Auguste Liquois’ work could be found in pro-Nazi youth publication Le Téméraire, in stories entitled Les Mondes inconnus and Oulaa le chevelu, in which the villains were either Jewish, Communists or English. Even more revealing of Liquois’ political stance were his offerings in Le Mérinos, which he used as a platform to ridicule the Resistance in Zoubinette.
He was investigated at the Liberation like all Le Téméraire’s writers and illustrators, but the case against him was dismissed. When questioned, those illustrators working for collaborationist publications claimed that the reduced numbers of youth magazines under German rule, which had almost all disappeared in the Occupied zone by May 1942, had forced them to accept this kind of work.
Fifi : gars du maquis / texte de R. Lecureux ; dessins de A. Liquois, 1945
This awkward episode of Liquois’ career did not stop his work from featuring in the first few issues of Vaillant, a pro-Communist youth magazine, with Fifi gars du maquis, relating the exploits of a young Resistant. In a similar vein, he also illustrated a book on Resistance hero and Communist Colonel Fabien in 1945.
In July 1946, having gained awareness of Liquois’ contributions to Le Téméraire and Le Mérinos, Vaillant’s board decided to fire him. According to Gilles Ragache (2000), the management at Vaillant was aware all along of the illustrator’s past involvement with pro-Nazi magazines, but had chosen to turn a blind eye until it had become too obvious to ignore. Nonetheless, Liquois managed to pursue a prolific career as illustrator and painter from 1946 until his death in 1969.
Meanwhile, Madeleine Riffaud also went on to have a successful career as a writer, journalist and poet, and was awarded the National Order of Merit in Paris in 2013 for her contributions. She is still giving interviews in her Paris apartment at the age of 94. Did she know of Liquois’ involvement in pro-Nazi youth literature? Did she know that his illustration would be on the cover of her Resistance story? I certainly would not mind asking her a question or two.
From the Liberation Collection:
Riffaud, M. (1945) Le poing fermé, poèmes. Paris, Éditions France-Empire. (in process)
Riffaud, M. (1945) La Belle vengeance de Bleuette, Jeunesse héroïque, n°9. Ill. Liquois. Paris, Éditions France d’abord. (Liberation.c.2148)
Riffaud, M. (1946) On s’est battu contre la mort. Jeunesse héroïque, n°18. Ill. Guédel. Paris, Éditions France d’abord. (Liberation.c.2157)
Vincent, P. (1946) Équipe de nuit. couverture de Liquois ; illustrations de Gad. Paris, Éditions France d’abord. (Liberation.c.2146)
Lecureux, R. and Liquois, A. (1945-1947) Fifi : gars du maquis. Paris, Union de la jeunesse républicaine de France. (Liberation.a.296-297)
Suggested further reading:
Gaumer, P. and Claude Moliterni. (1994) Biblio Dictionnaire Mondial de la bande dessinée, Paris, Larousse.
Ragache, G. (2000) ‘Un illustré sous l’occupation : Le Téméraire’, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 4/, (no 47-4), (doi:10.3917/rhmc.474.0747)
Ragache, G. and Jean-Robert Ragache (1988) La vie quotidienne des écrivains et des artistes sous l’Occupation, 1940-1944. Paris, Hachette. (500:01.d.12.232)
Chiaroni, K. (2017) Resistance Heroism and the End of Empire: the Life and Times of Madeleine Riffaud, London, Routledge. (Online restricted access)
Thatcher, N and Ethel Tolansky (eds) (2006) Six Authors in Captivity: Literary Responses to the Occupation of France during World War II, Oxford, Peter Lang. (735:43.c.200.159)
Pascal. Ory (1979) Le petit nazi illustré : une pédagogie hitlérienne en culture française: ‘Le Téméraire’ (1943-1944), préface de Léon Poliakov. Paris, Albatros. (705:7.d.95.206)