ARCHIVES, FRENCH RESISTANCE 1943 – 1944

Perhaps it is necessary for us to look in the old trunk where we hide history, condemned to do it all again because we forgot.

The German occupation of France from May, 1940, left the south of the country neutral – until September-November of 1942.  Then they descended, with the French milice (police working with the Gestapo), on the French cities, towns and villages. It was then the Resistance broke from hiding.  Perhaps this part of France suffered less.  One thinks of the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane, near Limoges, where SS troops shot 642 people on the 10th June, 1944, four days after the Allies had landed at Normandie – to mention but one incident.  But, as the poet says, the death of any man diminishes me.

From the Archives of Antibes, where I find myself, we have a few entries

1943

1st February.  “Fascist businesses” receive threatening letters from the Resistance [“Fascist” might well refer to the Italian troops under the command of Mussolini who controlled parts of Provence until 1942.]

27th February.  Attacks against businesses of collaborators (collabos) with the Germans

4th May.  Arrest of Dr Levy by the Germans

29th July.  Torture and murder of Luigi Rosso, a member of the Resistance.

 

1944

30th January.  Execution of collaborator

17th March.  Execution of the German “consul” in Antibes

22nd March.  Arrest of two members of the Resistance, Pierre Appolin and Joseph Groffino.

30th April.  Sabotage of the Antibes railway line by the Resistance

22nd May.  Execution of collaborator

{6th June.  Landing of the Allies at Normandie}

10th June.  Execution of two members of the Resistance

15th August.  Landing of Allies at St Tropez and St Raphael

24th August.  Execution of two members of the Resistance. Germans retreat from the Antibes town hall in the medieval quarter.  The liberation of Antibes.

{26th August.  Paris is liberated}

28th August.  Toulon and Nice are liberated.

23rd September.  Execution of ten collaborators at Fort Carré, Antibes

These fragments help me realise the depth of the French tragedy in the Second World War.  I wonder too, about human beings.  The German philosopher Hegel has it that the only lesson history teaches, is that human beings don’t learn the lesson history teaches.

“The death of any man diminishes me”

© Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2017

 

Sources

La Résistance Azuréenne. Jean-Louis Panicacci (ed.) (Nice Editions Serre, 1994)

Grandes dates de l’Histoire de France. Aedis.  1912.

France. People, History and Culture. Cecil Jenkins (Running Press, Philadelphia. 2012)

Occupation The Ordeal of France 1940-1944. Ian Ousby. Pimlico, London. 1997)  

John Donne: “The death of any man diminishes me”

Images

My drawings.

 

  

 

 

 

Musée Peynet

The drawings of Raymond Peynet (1908-1999) interested me as a child – the little man with his round black hat (a Chaplinesque bowler?) and spikey hair and his girlfriend, demure and lovely – the essence of romance, a mix of innocence and risque.

The artist came to live in Antibes, acquiring a place for him and his wife in the neighbouring town of Biot.  He and his wife, people say with envy, were married for more than 50 years and her name, appropriately, was Damour.  And there is greater affection for his memory than for that of Picasso. A small museum to honour him was set up on the Place de la Republique.  Hand in hand, Claudie and I did our pilgrimage to it.

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Les Amoureax

Most people associate Peynet with the commercialising of his work.  It is often seen as sentimental, saccharine, cute, but it’s more subtle than that.  Les Amoureux (The Lovers) are the chief focus and the variations on this theme since the 1930s are bewildering – he’s even done a series on the astrology icons with the lovers!

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Les Remparts drawn by Peynet

In the museum they had an exhibition too, with the work of other caricaturists – Ronald Searle; Honoré Daumier and others.  One painted caricature that really impressed me was of different types of cheese in the uncanny form of Charles de Gaulle’s profile.  The idea, of course, comes from Acrimboldo.  This caricature probably refers to De Gaulle’s statement as the president that it is difficult to govern a nation that has more than 246 cheeses!

Humour conquers all, a wall legend in the museum by Paul Klee tells us.  What strikes me with Peynet is that all he does is inhabited by a smile.  With the pain, anguish and tragedy of life, there is someone who will relentlessly seek out human warmth.

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Raymond Peynet

On the way back, strolling through the Saturday crowds, I saw what I had previously missed when I went that way out of the vieille ville – the monument to the martyrs of the French Resistance, an image that touches, but it couldn’t quite banish Peynet’s doves that alight on the little man’s black hat as he cradles his beloved.

What remains with me too, is the plaque in the museum informing us that, in 1995, with the 50th annual memorial service of Hiroshima, the Japanese unveiled a bronze depicting The Lovers at the site of one of humanity’s greatest desolations.

© Will v.d.Walt

Samedi  14 Janvier 2012

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Image Sources: by Will and  www.peynet.com

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