How Curious George nearly didn’t make it.

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I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard of Curious George, you may not have read the books or watched the cartoons or movies, but you will recognize the iconic Chimpanzee when you see him.

Although it is an iconic children’s book character and has a strong brand recognition, it could have easily been a different story, His origin tells a story of luck but indirectly also a tale of a false sense of security.

Curious George was written by H.A Rey and his wife Margret.

Rey

Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in September 1898 in Hamburg , Germany,near the world-famous Hagenbeck Zoo, which gave him a lifelong love for animals and drawing.  His wife Margret was born on May  16 1906 also in Hamburg, her father Felix Waldstein had been a member of the Reichstag. the German parliament from 1871 to 1918. Hans and Margret both Jewish. The two first met in Hamburg at the 16th birthday party of Margret’s sister. They met again in Brazil, where Hans had a job as a bathtubs salesman Margret had moved to Brazil to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany. On August 16, 1935 they got married and went to Paris on their honeymoon, they fell in love with the place and decided to stay there.

Although Hitler had come to power in Germany it is apparent that the Rey’s felt safe in their new home, as most of the Parisians and the rest of France felt. Although the French were anxious of the developments in Germany, they did not envisage any danger to come from their eastern neighbour.

While in Paris, Hans’s animal drawings were noticed by a French publisher, who commissioned Hans  to write a children’s book. The book was to be” Rafi. and the Nine Monkeys” or “Rafi et les neuf singes” in French. It was published in 1939.

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One of the characters in the book was George, although he was called Fifi in the French version. Hans Rey thought that George deserved a book of his own.

But alas, war broke out.

On June 10, 1940, German troops were a few days away from Paris. People were trying to flee by  every way possible, cars,bicycles or whatever they could find. The Rey’s had left it a bit late but they managed to get 2 bikes.In fact Ray built the bikes himself, he had bought enough spare parts for 2 bicycles.

They left Paris only a few hours before it fell. Among the few possessions they were able to bring was the illustrated manuscript of Curious George.

Their journey  took them to Bayonne, France.On June 20, 1940.They crossed the Spanish border, where they purchased train tickets to Lisbon. Because they still had Brazilian passport  they returned to Brazil, they journeyed on from Brazil to New York.

The couple soon went to Houghton Mifflin publishers , they bought the manuscript for $1,000 and an additional three stories. The only demand  was that they change the name of Fifi to George.

The rest is history.

So next time you read a Curious George story yourself or to your children or other youngsters, remember that George nearly didn’t make it.

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The parts of a dismembered Lady arrive in New York.

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When  214 crates containing the body parts of a Lady, arrive on a ship, in the harbor, you would expect a frantic Police investigation/ But nothing could be further from the truth, the Police just couldn’t care less.

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Well to be honest I could not blame the Police on this occasion. Because the Lady in this case was no one else then the Lady known as the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York on June 17 in 1885 aboard the French frigate Isère. She was a gift gift from the people of France.

About 250,00 onlookers lined Battery Park, while hundreds of boats pulled into the harbor to welcome the Isère.

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After being reassembled, the 450,000-pound statue, which was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland, who said, “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.” Standing more than 305 feet from the foundation of its pedestal to the top of its torch.

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The Tulle Massacre- The hanging of 99

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What a sense of relief it must have been when the French people found out that the allied troops had finally arrived on June 6 1944. Unfortunately though D-Day wasn’t the end of the war it was only the start of the end and many innocent lives were still lost between that day and the end of WWII.

The citizens of the town of Tulle found out only 3 days after D-Day that the war was still raging in the most brutal way possible.

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After a successful attack by the French Resistance group Francs-tireur on 7 and 8 June 1944, the arrival of Das Reich troops forced the Maquis(French Resistance) to flee the city of Tulle (department of Corrèze) in south-central France.

Resistance operations in Tulle had been planned by the commander of the Maquis FTP of Corrèze, Jacques Chapou , aka Klébe

The offensive started on June 7 1944 at 5 AM with a Bazooka attack on the barracks of the security forces at Champ de Mars. This action  functioned as the signal to begin the attack.

The fighting centered  around three main areas: the armory, the gendarmerie barracks and the girls’ school, which housed German troops.

The focus the following day was on the girls’ school. the Resistance fighters  set fire to the school building around 3 PM.About 2 hours later , in circumstances that remain unclear and disputed, the Germans tried to leave, if one of them was waving a white cloth, others were carrying live grenades. In all the chaos, the Maquis opened fire with automatic weapons; some soldiers were cut down at close range, by exploding grenades, which would explain the injuries observed on the horribly mutilated corpses. An estimated  were killed.

When the 2nd SS Panzer Division ‘Das Reich’ entered the town they found 40 dead bodies of the German 3rd Battalion/95th Security Regiment garrison troops near the school, their bodies badly mutilated.

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On 9 June 1944, after arresting all men between the ages of sixteen and sixty, the SS and members of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) ordered 120 of the prisoners to be hanged, of whom 99 were actually hanged.

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The citizens of Tulle had been warned by a text on a poster

“Forty German soldiers were murdered in the most horrible manner by a band of communists. For the guerillas and those who helped them, there is a punishment, execution by hanging. Forty German soldiers were murdered by the guerrillas, one hundred and twenty guerrillas and their accomplices will be hanged. Their bodies will be thrown in the river — Poster signed by the commanding General of the German troops.

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In the days that followed, 149 men were sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where 101 lost their lives. In total, the actions of the Wehrmacht, the Waffen-SS, and the SD claimed the lives of 213 civilian residents of Tulle.

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Herodote.net

Back to Normandy

Robert Desnos- the death of a poet

Robert_Desnos

Robert Desnos was born in Paris on 4 July 1900,the son of a successful café owner,He was a French surrealist poet who played a key role in the Surrealist movement.

When World War II broke out in 1939, he  was drafted as a sergeant. His wartime journalism appeared in magazines such as Europe, Commune, and Ce-Soir. In 1940, he started writing for the newspaper Aujourd’hui.

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By the early 1940s, he was working for the French Resistance, provided information collected during his job at the paper Aujourd’hui and made false identity papers. As well as  publishing, articles critical of the Occupation, under pseudonyms.

The Nazis eventually discovered his role in the Resistance and was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 February 1944.

Desnos was first  sent to Auschwitz, but was later  transferred to Theresienstadt concentration camp via Buchenwald concentration camp.He died on June 8 1945 in “Malá pevnost”, which was an inner part of Terezín used only for political prisoners, from typhoid, a month after the camp had been liberated by the allies.

Robert_Desnos_au_camp_de_Terezin,_1945

Ending the blog with a translated version of  one of his poems

Epitaph

lived in those times. For a thousand years
I have been dead. Not fallen, but hunted;
When all human decency was imprisoned,
I was free amongst the masked slaves.

I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the river, the earth, the sky,
Turning around me, keeping their balance,
The seasons provided their birds and their honey.

You who live, what have you made of your luck?
Do you regret the time when I struggled?
Have you cultivated for the common harvest?
Have you enriched the town I lived in?

Living men, think nothing of me. I am dead.
Nothing survives of my spirit or my body.

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Sources

Poetry foundation

Poem Hunter

When Jules Verne bombed Berlin

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No this is not a long lost book written by Jules Verne, it is however a forgotten event which happened on June 7 1940, a few days after Germany  bombed Paris.

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The Jules Verne was the name of a Farman 223.4 airplane of the French Navy. Determined to revenge the bombing of the French capital,The French Air Ministry sent orders to Captain Daillière,capt dalliere who was then at an airfield in Bordeaux with the Farmans.

most of the aircraft in the French air force were obsolete and had already been destroyed by the Luftwaffe.

The operation really was noting short of  a suicide mission,  but undeterred Daillière quickly developed a plan for a surprise attack that would take advantage of Jules Verne’s, a rather ungainly four-engine aircraft, only real strength: its exceptional range. He oversaw a number  of modifications to the aircraft at the Toussus-le-Noble airfield,  including the installment of a 7.5 mm Darne machine gun in the right rear access door, eight Alkan bomb shackles under the aircraft, a bomb sight, extra fuel tanks as well as an autopilot. Tricolores were also added.

On June 7, the Farman was fueled to capacity and loaded with eight 551-pound bombs and a case of 22-pound incendiaries. Daillière and his crew consisting of  flight engineer Corneillet, navigator Comet (who had crossed the Atlantic before the war), pilot Yonnet, radioman Scour and bombardier Deschamps. took off at 15:30 hours, heading north along the Atlantic coast.

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The crew turned east, flying along the English Channel and slightly off the Belgian and Dutch coast and Northern Germany where, over the Schleswig island of Sylt, they encountered their first heavy AA fire. Jules Verne, flew low to avoid detection, then flew over a stretch of the North Sea and crossed southern Denmark,  wich had been occupied by Germany since April 1940. The bomber cruised over the Baltic Sea and turned south across a lonely stretch of the German coast.

As they headed south, they notice a glow on the horizon: Berlin. Daillière and his crew had expected the German capital would  have a wartime blackout in force, but  to their pleasant surprise it was as brightly lit . The Germans clearly did not  expect an air raid, and certainly not one coming from the direction of the Baltic sea. Approaching  the eastern suburbs around midnight, Jules Verne simulated a landing approach at Tempelhof Airport in the southern suburbs, then headed north to the Tegel area. They reached the Siemens-Werke within minutes, and while Yonnet dropped the bombload on the factory, Corneillet and Des champs pushed a dozen incendiary bombs out the passenger door.

Flying a straighter path back to France than the Jules Verne’s outbound route to Berlin, Dailliere made for Paris by crossing the very heart of Germany, and landed at Orly Airfield at 13:30 on June 8. .They had met no resistance on the return trip, and when the aircraft touched down, it had covered nearly 3,000 miles in 13.5 hours.

The French exaggerated the raid somewhat. They described it as having been accomplished by a “formation” of bombers, and reported – truthfully – that no bombers had been lost.

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Necdet Kent rescuing Jews from an train heading to Auschwitz.

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It maybe an naive notion but I believe there are only 2 types of people in this world,good and bad.

Bad people will always do bad and evil things regardless, they may on occasion maybe charitable and do something good, but at the end only to serve their own interest.

On the other hand sometimes good people can be weak when faced with danger or their own mortality, and therefore do things they usually wouldn’t do, which result in evil being permitted.

However there are those who see evil for what it is and regardless what the consequences are for them, they will do everything to stop it. They are the heroes we don’t always read or hear about.

İsmail Necdet Kent was such a man. He was a Turkish diplomat who risked his life to save Jews during World War II

After he was posted as as vice consul to Athens, Greece.He moved to Marseille in France  1941 and 1944. where he was appointed to the post of vice consul.

Marseille, Hafenviertel. Deportation von Juden

At sometime  in 1943, Kent rushed to the Saint Charles train station in Marseilles and boarded a train bound for the Auschwitz concentration camp after Nazi guards refused to let some 70 Jews with Turkish citizenship disembark. After more than an hour on the train, the guards let Kent and the Jews leave.

A Jewish assistant at the consulate had alerted Kent  that  about 80 Turkish Jews resident in Marseilles had been loaded into cattle cars for immediate transport to certain death in Auschwitz  The Jews were crammed one on top of the other in the wagon, which was meant to transport cattle.Overcome with sorrow and anger at the sight, Kent approached the Gestapo commander at the station, and demanded that the Jews, whom he said were Turkish citizens, be released.

Jews being deported from France

The official refused to comply, saying that the people were nothing but Jews.

Not willing to give up , and with a surge of courage and human benevolence, Kent turned to the Jewish aide from the consulate and said, “Come on, we’re getting on this train, too.” Pushing aside the soldier who tried to stop him, he jumped into the wagon. The German officer demanded Kent to get off the train , but he refused.

The train took off, but at the next station, German officers boarded and apologized to Kent for not failing to let  him off at Marseilles, they had  a car was waiting for him  to take him back to his office. But Kent explained that the mistake was not that he was on the train – but that 80 Turkish citizens had been loaded on the train.

“As a representative of a government that rejected such treatment for religious beliefs, I could not consider leaving them there,” he said. Dumbfounded by his  defiance an uncompromising stance, the Germans caved in  let everyone off the train.

Although Turkey was a neutral country at that time, Kent could have easily been killed fro his act of defiance.

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Source

Yad Vashem

Jewish Virtual Library

1942 Coupe de France Final

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It’s May 17 1942, you country is occupied by a hostile foreign nation. Fellow country man are dying on battlefields or being executed for being members of the resistance and other fellow country men are being deported to death camps. What do you do?

Well watch a football match of course.

Since the champions league finals are upon us in less then 2 weeks and also because the World cup is due to start next month, I was inspired to look into sporting events during WWII. I did not expect to find any but I was wrong, for on this day 76 years ago, the ‘Coupe de France Final’ was played in Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir, Colombes near Paris.The coupe de France is the competition for the premier league in France.

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The  match was played between,Red Star Olympique and FC Sète. Olympique beat FC Sète by 2-0 via goals scored by Henri Joncourt at 45 minutes, and Alfred Aston at 72 minutes. The attendance was 44,654 and the match referee was Georges Capdeville, the only referee to have ever been in charge in a World Cup final in his native country,in 1938.

On a side note but indirectly linked ,Alexandre Villaplane, who was a former player of FC Sète and had  captained  the French national team during the 1930 world cup, worked actively with the Gestapo and eventually became a SS lieutenant. Villaplane’s unit quickly became notorious for its cruelty. On 11 June 1944, for instance, they captured 11 resistance fighters in Mussidan, a small village in the Dordogne. Aged 17 to 26, the maquisards were marched to a ditch and shot. As well as giving the death order, Villaplane is said to have pulled one of the triggers.

villaAs so many other aspects of life, WWII also had a major impact on football in other European countries, France was an exception to the other occupied nations because of the Vichy regime which collaborated with the Nazis

In one way it was beneficial for the Nazis to allow the football competition continue in France. It was an efficient propaganda tool, because it diverted the attention away from their crimes and atrocities. It gave the population a sense of ‘normal’ life.

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Sources

FFF

The Guardian

 

Black Monday- April 13 1360

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You often hear the term ‘the coldest winter,or hottest summer on record etc’ but the oldest ongoing instrumental record of temperature in the world is the Central England Temperature record, started in 1659.

Although I am not disputing the climate change, the fact is there have been climate changes  or freak weather events ever since the world has existed.

On Easter Monday, 13th April 1360, a freak hail storm broke over English troops as they were preparing for battle with the French during the Hundred Years’ War. So brutal was the storm that over 1,000 men and 6,000 horses lost their lives that night. Convinced it was a sign from God, King Edward rushed to pursue peace with the French, marking the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War.

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In April 1360, Edward’s forces burned the Paris suburbs and began to move toward Chartres. While they were camped outside the town, a sudden storm materialized. Lightning struck, killing several people, and hailstones began pelting the soldiers, scattering the horses. One described it as “a foul day, full of myst and hayle, so that men dyed on horseback .” Two of the English leaders were killed and panic set in among the troops, who had no shelter from the storm.

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French friar Jean de Venette credited the apocalyptic storm as the result of the English looting of the French countryside during the observant week of Lent.

On May 8, 1360, three weeks later, the Treaty of Brétigny was signed, marking the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War.

The legacy was mentioned in Shakespearean work:

“It was not for nothing that my nose fell a- bleeding on Black Monday last, at six o’clock i’ the morning.” —Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice, ii. 5.

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The Eiffel Tower

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On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.

The tower is 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building, and the tallest structure in Paris. Its base is square, measuring 125 metres (410 ft) on each side. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930.

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To give another indication of its height the highest summit in the Netherlands is Vaalserberg which is 2 meters lower then the Eiffel tower.

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Both buildings have been surpassed throughout the years by many other buildings. The Eiffel tower however has remained its iconic status.

Below are some pictures if the Eiffel tower throughout the ages.

20 March 1888: Completion of the first level.Construction_tour_eiffel3

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, left, explores the completed tower with a friend.eiffel_tower_under_construction_8

The Eiffel Tower during the Nazi occupation, 1940The Eiffel Tower during the Nazi occupation, 1940

Adolf Hitler visits Paris with architect Albert Speer (left) and artist Arno Breker (right), June 23, 1940.adolf_hitler_in_paris_1940

American soldiers watch the French flag flying on the Eiffel Tower, c. 25 August 1944American_soldiers_watch_as_the_Tricolor_flies_from_the_Eiffel_Tower_again

A. Citroen DS 19 in front of the Eiffel Tower, 1960sans-titre-1.6607

Zazie in the metro poses in front of the Eiffel Tower – 196017bcc7ab99fa7b3e45349c48ec273bfd

Paris to protect Eiffel Tower from terror attacks with 8ft bullet-proof glass wallnintchdbpict000253386959

 

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Punks in WWII

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Before you start thinking that this will be a blog about Punk bands like the Sex Pistols singing about WWII, you’d be wrong. In fact it has nothing to do with Punk music but more about Jazz.

I am referring to Punk as a rebellion against the establishment. During WWII there were 2 groups very similar in how they rebelled against the Nazi regime, the Swingjugend in Germany and the Zazou in France. Unlike the Punk movement in the 70’s, the Zazou and the Swingjugend could actually risk their lives or be sent to a concentration camp for their rebellion.

Swingjugend

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As the Nazi Party took power in Germany in 1933, a complete crackdown on all “subversive” elements took hold. Having dealt with his political opponents in the years prior to his rise to the chancellorship, Hitler intended to finish the job by eradicating all potential opposition.

But in the schools and out on the streets, a silent flame tingled. Teenagers were rejecting the strict militarism and code of behavior bestowed by the Nazi Party through its youth organizations―the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls

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This proved to be unsuccessful, because instead of embracing the Hitler Youth pastimes, city girls and boys crowded the swing dance joints.[2] This seemed to be the case particularly in the town of Hamburg, where the swing scene was huge.

The Swingjugend rejected the Nazi state, above all because of its ideology and uniformity, its militarism, the ‘Führer principle’ and the leveling Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community). They experienced a massive restriction of their personal freedom. They rebelled against all this with jazz and swing, which stood for a love of life, self-determination, non-conformism, freedom, independence, liberalism, and internationalism.

 

Though they were not an organized political-opposition organization, the whole culture of the Swing Kids evolved into a non-violent refusal of the civil order and culture of National Socialism.

From a paper of the National Youth Leader:

The members of the Swing youth oppose today’s Germany and its police, the Party and its policy, the Hitlerjugend, work and military service, and are opposed, or at least indifferent, to the ongoing war. They see the mechanisms of National Socialism as a “mass obligation”. The greatest adventure of all times leaves them indifferent; much to the contrary, they long for everything that is not German, but English.

From 1941, the violent repression by the Gestapo and the Hitlerjugend shaped the political spirit of the swing youth. Also, by police order, people under 21 were forbidden to go to dance bars, which encouraged the movement to seek its survival by going underground.

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The Swing Kids of Hamburg at some point had contacts with another famous resistance movement, when three members of the White Rose (German: Weiße Rose) developed a sympathy for the Swing Kids. No formal cooperation arose, though these contacts were later used by the Volksgerichtshof (“People’s Court”) to accuse some Swing Kids of anarchist propaganda and sabotage of the armed forces. The consequent trial, death sentences and executions were averted by the end of the war.

On 18 August 1941, in a brutal police operation, over 300 Swingjugend were arrested. The measures against them ranged from cutting their hair and sending them back to school under close monitoring, to the deportation of the leaders to concentration camps. The boys went to the Moringen concentration camp while the girls were sent to Ravensbruck.[10]

This mass arrest encouraged the youth to further their political consciousness and opposition to National Socialism. They started to distribute anti-fascist propaganda. In January 1943, Günter Discher, as one of the ringleaders of the Swing Kids, was deported to the youth concentration camp of Moringen.

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On 2 January 1942, Heinrich Himmler wrote to Reinhard Heydrich calling on him to clamp down on the ringleaders of the swing movement, recommending a few years in a concentration camp with beatings and forced labor:

The crackdown soon followed: clubs were raided, and participants were hauled off to camps.

Zazou

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In France a similar movement like Germany’s Swingjugend arose by the name Zazou.The zazous were a subculture in France during World War II. They were young people expressing their individuality by wearing big or garish clothing (similar to the zoot suit fashion in America a few years before).

On March 27 1942, France’s Vichy government issued the barbershop decree, demanding that barbers collect cut hair and donate it to the war effort to make slippers and sweaters. The rebellious Zazous refused and grew their hair long. The Zazous were directly inspired by jazz and swing music. A healthy black jazz scene had sprung up in Montmartre in the inter-war years. Their name  was inspired by a line in a song – Zah Zuh Zah – by Cab Calloway

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Vichy had started ‘Youth Worksites’ in July 1940, in what Zazous perceived as an attempt to indoctrinate French youth.  The Vichy regime was very concerned about the education, moral fibre and productivity of French youth. In 1940 a Ministry of Youth was established. They saw the Zazous as a rival and dangerous influence on youth.

In 1940, 78 anti-Zazou articles were published in the press, a further nine in 1941 and 38 in 1943.

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The Vichy papers deplored the moral turpitude and decadence that was affecting French morality. Zazous were seen as work-shy, egotistical and Judeo-Gaullist shirkers.

By 1942 the Vichy regime realised that the national revival that they hoped would be carried out by young people under their guidance was seriously affected by widespread rejection of the patriotism, work ethic, self-denial, asceticism and masculinity this called for.

Soon, round-ups began in bars and Zazous were beaten on the street. They became Enemy Number One of the fascist youth organisations, Jeunesse Populaire Française. “Scalp the Zazous!” became their slogan. Squads of young JPF fascists armed with hairclippers attacked Zazous. Many were arrested and sent to the countryside to work on the harvest.

At this point the Zazous went underground, holing up in their dance halls and basement clubs.

Though they did not suffer like their contemporaries in Germany, nevertheless, in a society of widespread complicity and acquiescence, their stand was courageous and trail-blazing.

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Sources

Queens of Vintage

Timelne

Libcom

Special thank you to Norman Stone who pointed me to the story of the Zazou.