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

Camus is outmanoeuvred


Camus’ name appears prominently on the cover of Salvet’s novel.

Albert Camus had spent the period from April 18 to May 7 1945 in Algeria.  When he returned to his home in the rue Sébastien-Bottin, he found the manuscript of a novel about the French Resistance by André Salvet, together with a letter from the author asking Camus to supply a preface. Camus replied courteously, indicating that he felt such an introduction would not be entirely appropriate.  “J’ai risqué beaucoup moins que votre héros, et ce n’est pas à moi de le présenter.”  He also questioned the desirability of producing any sort of commentary on a novel which should stand alone. “Est-ce à l’écrivain que vous vous adressez?  Mais, dans ce cas, il m’a toujours semblé qu’un livre, surtout lorsqu’il témoigne comme celui-là, devait se présenter seul et sans commentaires.” Continue reading

Refugees in Germany… repeating history


German-speaking settlements in Middle and Eastern Europe (C201.c.7265)

Germany has a long and complicated history of population movement: more recently the integration of millions of refugees after World War Two was not easy; and the current influx of huge numbers of migrants is a topic of intense discussion in Germany. In total, 20.3% of Germany’s population now have a Migrationshintergrund (a migration background) – the official German term used to describe immigrants or their children.

Continue reading

Władysław Bartoszewski, the man and his legacy : the May 2015 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Władysław Bartoszewski – Polish resistance member, prisoner, diplomat, and historian – died in late April at the age of 93.  The University Library’s holdings of works by and about him date from 1968 and include a 6-volume set of his works (590:4.c.200.49-54).  Our latest Bartoszewski acquisitions are the focus of the May Slavonic item of the month feature.


The three books discussed in the blog post.

In his long life, Bartoszewski saw first-hand some of both the bleakest and most hopeful parts of modern Poland’s history.  A young man when the Nazis arrived, he fought in the defence of Warsaw against the invading army and later in the 1944 Uprising.  In between, he was imprisoned in Auschwitz and, on his release (organised by the Polish Red Cross), worked in the resistance, both in the main Polish Home Army and also in Żegota, whose work was focused on aiding Jews.  In Communist Poland, he worked as a journalist and historian, but was imprisoned for much of the post-war decade.  His last imprisonment came in 1981, during martial law, for his connections with Solidarność.  Post-Communist Poland lauded him.  In his two terms as foreign minister, he played a vital role in forging strong connections with Israel and Germany. Continue reading

25 April 1945-2015: literature and history on the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day

On 25 April this year Italy celebrates the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day, now a national holiday commemorating the end of the Nazi occupation and of the Second World War.

21 April 1945, Liberation of Bologna – American tank taken from Wikimedia commons

21 April 1945, Liberation of Bologna – American tank taken from Wikimedia commons

The Nazi occupation of Italy followed the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces on 8 September 1943. Whilst the German army was fighting to get control of the main cities of the Italian peninsula, the antifascist movements, which had been secretly operating against Mussolini’s regime for over 20 years, gathered under the umbrella of the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale or CNL (National Liberation Committee). The CNL eventually represented the Italian Resistance movement: all the partisan forces active on mountains, in the countryside and in urban areas, for a total of 70,000-80,000 people by May 1944. These groups were all moved by different ideologies – communists, monarchists, socialists, liberals, republicans, anarchists, Catholics – but they were all antifascist. They took the form of underground movements in cities and of guerrilla on mountainous regions and carried out actions of various kinds such as sabotages, armed attacks, occupations of villages and small cities, with the support of civilians and of the Allied forces through air supply dropping operations. Continue reading