Radio broadcasting and the war

“La chanson des V”. Beethoven’s famous 5th symphonie start was the signature tune for the BBC programme “Les Français parlent aux français”. The rythm of its first four notes equals the letter “V” (for Victory) in morse code. Liberation.b.34

The powerful role of radio propaganda during World War II cannot be overestimated. Information was transmitted quickly to vast populations across borders, overpassing enemy lines. In the UK, the BBC would broadcast in several languages, including French of course, and would even send secret messages to the French Resistance in the form of apparently senseless phrases. The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection has several publications related to this topic, some of them particularly fascinating.

Maurice Van Moppès was an illustrator, Free France member and broadcaster who worked for “Les Français parlent aux français”, one of the BBC radio programmes that transmitted news from the Front (for more on this check the 5 volumes of Ici Londres, 1940-1944: les voix de la liberté, 539:1.b.820.2-6). The programme was also supposed to boost the French people’s morale and send code messages to the Résistance. Continue reading

Youth Culture at the Liberation: Résistantes and Résistants in Cardboard Cut-Outs

We are grateful to the Managing Editor of the French History Network Blog for permission to reproduce the article by Southampton doctoral student Emily Hooke on a set of cardboard toy theatre scenes depicting the Liberation of Paris. The University Library has these in its Liberation Collection, and they featured prominently in the exhibition which we mounted in 2014.


Roland Forgues, Le Général de Gaulle à l’Arc de Triomphe, 26 août 1944 (Paris: Edition de l’Office Central de l’Imagerie, 1944). See bibliographic record here. Click on the image to enlarge.

On a trip to Paris a few years ago, I was wandering along the Seine, glancing casually at the boquinistes when I spotted something interesting: three pieces of cardboard illustrated with scenes from the Liberation of Paris — 19-26 August 1944 — and dated later that year.[1] Looking closer, I could see these sheets were cardboard cut-outs, as the tabs under the figures show (fig. 1, fig. 2, fig. 3). They also contained the only information I have been able to find of them: They were illustrated by Roland Forgues and commissioned by l’Office central de l’imagerie, Paris.

Researching further, I found that these were far from the only representations of the Resistance aimed at youth during the Liberation. Indeed, there was a boom in children’s literature at the Liberation — despite the paper shortages. These sought to repair the damage done by children’s comic books under the Occupation such as Le Téméraire, which framed the Resistance as villains – ‘without morals and without courage’.[2]

The cardboard cut-outs sparked my interest in popular culture, and added a new dimension to my research: youth. Following the Liberation the Resistance became seen as ‘military, patriotic and essentially masculine’ despite evidence to the contrary, and I wanted to see how they fitted into the construction of this gendered narrative.[3] Continue reading

Ceux du maquis and a new thesis from 1978

Thanks to the Liberation Collection, the level of modern material that we collect about French history from 1944-1946 has significantly expanded. A recent acquisition drew my attention:

Histoire de l’Occupation et de la Résistance dans la Nièvre 1940-1944 / Jean-Claude Martinet ; édition présentée par Jean Vigreux.(C210.c.7324)

This book is a re-edited version of a history thesis presented at the University of Bourgogne in 1978. Cambridge University Library did not buy the original 1978 edition, though there are several copies in the UK (at the British Library, Oxford, and the Universities of Sussex and Leeds). The UL and Oxford are thus far the only UK libraries on COPAC to have the 2015 edition published by Editions universitaires de Dijon. Continue reading

A little bit of detective work

We have just added a copy of Julien Unger’s Le sang et l’or : souvenirs de camps allemands (Liberation.c.383) to the Liberation collection. Written almost immediately after the author’s release from imprisonment, the text is notable for its detailed description of existence in a concentration camp. Julien Unger describes his experience as a Jew deported from France and how he managed to survive in Auschwitz-Birkenau and other Nazi camps. The author’s heartfelt printed dedication is 40 lines long, beginning “Je dédie ce témoignage à la mémoire d’une mère et à toutes les mères du monde …”  It is, of course, just one of many such prisoners’ accounts in the collection, which can usually be identified via the subject heading string World War, 1939-1945 — Prisoners and prisons, German.

Printed dedication

Printed dedication

This memoir was republished in 2007 by the Fondation pour la mémoire de La Shoah. The Fondation’s website comments –

À la valeur de ce témoignage s’ajoute la pertinence de l’analyse des méthodes de terreur déployées par les nazis pour asservir, traquer, spolier et mener à la mort les Juifs d’Europe. Véritable document pour l’historien, cet ouvrage dégage une force indéniable.

Interestingly no British library acquired this 2007 reprint, and the only other UK library which owns a copy of the original is the London Library. In describing the items in the Liberation collection we attempt to give as much bibliographical detail as possible, in order to suggest different ways in which the material can be exploited. Rather unusually for 20th century material, we describe in full both publisher and printer, including precise details of addresses where available, and exact dates of publication and printing. In an earlier blog post we discussed the resistance leader Pierre Brossolette. It is interesting to note in passing that the address of the printing house of this work, the Imprimerie moderne in Montrouge (Seine), had already been changed to the Avenue Pierre Brossolette by February 15th 1946.

Continue reading