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French cinema and the Germans

September 10, 1942, during the most difficult defensive battles in Stalingrad, a new edition of the book by Academician Yevgeny Tarle “Napoleon” was signed for publication at Gospolitizdat.
The author’s introduction is devoted to the comparison of “an insignificant pygmy with a giant” – Hitler with Napoleon:”As you know, not only Hitler himself, but his entire gang (especially Goebbels, Frick, Dietrich and in general those “in the written part”) quite persistently like to draw a parallel between the “Fuhrer” and … Napoleon.They praise Napoleon very much “for the unification of the continent against England” and for trying to do away with Russia …

Thus, the “Fuhrer” is called to resume and victoriously complete the work of the great emperor. This humble thought explains all the demonstrative, theatrical hype, which has long been produced by the Hitlerite gang around the name of Napoleon. This explains the pomp with a military parade during the solemn transfer of the coffin of Napoleon’s son from Vienna to Paris. This explains the fact that Hitler, having arrived in Paris, went straight from the station to bow to the ashes of Napoleon to the sarcophagus in the Palace of the Invalids, and other comedian antics in the same spirit. ”

But, of course, in the introduction of the Soviet historian Tarle there is not a word about the modest contribution of France itself to the fight against Nazism. Since the beginning of the German offensive on May 10, 1940, a little more than a month has passed when the Third French Republic surrendered.

Money does not smell

Two-thirds of the metropolitan area with the Atlantic coast in the north and west, Bordeaux, Nantes, Brest, Cherbourg, Paris and other cities entered the zone of occupation. The eternal “apple of discord”, Alsace and Lorraine, the Germans simply annexed to the Reich. In July, in the “free” south, the collaborationist government of French Marshal Philippe Petain (1856-1951) was formed with the capital in Vichy (and was recognized for a short time by the Soviet Union and the United States). Formally, the power of the Vichy regime, the “French state”, extended to all overseas territories and colonies.

Hundreds of thousands of men returned from the German camps. Looking around, the French decided that life was getting better, and went about their usual business. There were, of course, certain inconveniences. Labor service remained at German enterprises. It was necessary to obtain passes to cross the demarcation line between the occupied and “free” zones. The export of food to Germany gradually led to the rationing of food, and a tight fuel limit forced to attach gas generators that run on wood or coal to cars (mainly at the back).

But money circulation remained basically the same: there were tickets of the Bank of France in denominations of 5 to 5,000 francs, both pre-war design and new types. And the Germans issued Reichsmarks for the occupied territories, which were originally exchanged at the rate of 1 Reichsmark for 20 francs. And the rich French still put large bills in leather wallets, the size of which was similar to the pre-revolutionary Russian “shovels”. At the same time, civil servants for the most part remained in their places after the surrender of France.

And what is more strange for the Soviet people – after the liberation of the country from the Nazis.

Even the awarding of the highest Peten Order of Francis did not prevent François Mitterrand would later become President of France, and Antoine Pinet (a senator from the Loire voted for Marshal Pétain and until December 1941 was a member of the Vichy National Council) and Maurice Couve de Murville (served until 1943 in the Vichy finance department) – prime ministers …

It’s just that after the war they, like many, slightly tweaked their biographies.

Sold out on the Bolshoi Boulevards

I don’t know of feature films made during the war on a temporary basis. the occupied territories of the Soviet Union.

Filmmakers in occupied France worked tirelessly, releasing dozens of films that passed German or Vichy censorship annually – historical costume tapes, comedies, family and crime dramas, thrillers. Cinemas, from the most luxurious on the Parisian Grands Boulevards, to modest little rooms on the outskirts, were not empty. The French took out crumpled francs from their wallets, buying for them one and a half or two hours of rest from everyday worries.

They were also visited by German servicemen hand in hand with French women, as evidenced by photographs. But no one blew up cinemas in occupied Paris, it was not quite a normal director Quentin Tarantino then invented and filmed such a scene in “Inglourious Basterds.”

This is in Porkhov, on the temporarily occupied Pskov land, at 8 On the evening of November 13, 1943, partisans blew up a cinema full of people who came to watch a musical film about the Nazi circus artists. So it’s the Russians, not the French.

French film critics now call the time of the occupation “Dark Years” and highlight films in which the authors allegedly sympathize with the Resistance. But this is already from the category of stories about how many hundreds of people helped Lenin to carry a log in the Kremlin at the “subbotnik” on May 1, 1920. But in reality, on January 16, 1942, the sentimental historical melodrama “Mamsel Bonaparte” by director Maurice Turner, completely loyal to the new government, was released on French screens, where the famous courtesan, or, as they said, “lady of the half-light” Cora Pearl, became the main character. The director was clearly guided by the German burghers, moreover, he tried to please the patriarchal tastes of the elderly Marshal Pétain …

The film is tearful and very average. For me, the defeat and occupation of France did not contribute to creativity

Blitzkrieg of Napoleon’s descendants

Let’s return to the eloquent episode mentioned by Tarle: the solemn transfer of the remains of the 21-year-old son of the emperor – Napoleon Francois Joseph Charles Bonaparte, “Eaglet”, from Vienna to Paris by order of Hitler. I asked the details of the ceremony in the French newspapers of that time, kept in the National Library of France. The details are amazing …

… At 21:00 on December 14, 1940, a special train from Vienna approached the platform of the Gare de l’Est in occupied Paris. A team made up of Wehrmacht soldiers brought out a bronze sarcophagus with the body of an “Eaglet” in the uniform of a colonel of the Austrian army from a carriage decorated for the chapel. The cortege, accompanied by armored cars and motorcyclists, drove to the Invalides practically through the whole of Paris. On the steps of the cathedral, the foot guards of Paris with torches lined up in two lines. The sarcophagus was accompanied by Otto Abetz, personal representative of Joachim Ribbentrop …

It was Otto Abetz, the German “ambassador” to France, who invented the ceremony to melt the hearts of the French and arouse sympathy for the occupiers. He also “treated” the Parisians to concerts of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the great Herbert von Karajan. And in his free time from pompous events, he was engaged in rough work – for example, he participated in the deportation of Jews, for which he received the rank of general as an SS brigadeführer. In 1945, Abets was arrested, in 1949 a military court in Paris sentenced him to 20 years in prison, but he was released already in 1954 – only to die in a car accident four years later, hardly accidental …

By the way, Soviet propaganda also compared Napoleon to Hitler, but, of course, in a different context: the invasion of both into Russia ended in failure. Let us supplement the publications of Soviet newspapers with statistics on the participation of the descendants of Napoleon in the campaign to the east.

The French Volunteer Legion (638th Wehrmacht Infantry Regiment) attacked Moscow in 1941, the 33rd SS Charlemagne Volunteer Division (1st French) defended Berlin until May 2, 1945 – tens of thousands passed through the Eastern Front French (almost 30 thousand were in Soviet captivity). French military factories worked for Germany, supplying cars, aircraft (“Dewoatin D.520” fighters for training units of the Luftwaffe and Germany’s allies collected until June 1944!), Guns, ammunition. Garment factories made uniforms and soldiers’ underwear, making good money on this. The leather was used for ammunition and footwear for the German army.

And the recruitment of volunteers against the Bolsheviks (La Legion des Volontaires Francais contre le Bolchevisme) began in the summer of 1941, immediately after the attack of Nazi Germany on the USSR. With the permission of the occupying authorities, the first recruiting station opened in the center of Paris on rue Aubert, next to the Grand Opera. Then such points appeared throughout France. On July 18, 1941, the legion was officially formed. More than 13 thousand volunteers enrolled in it, but initially they were enrolled, dressed in a German military uniform with the “FRANCE” stripe, and about 6 thousand notorious villains were assigned to three battalions. Colonel Roger Labonne (1881-1966), 60, who had previously served in Morocco and Tunisia, but was considered an expert on Russia, since his brother Eric (1888-1971), a diplomat, in 1940- In 1941 he was ambassador to the USSR and was friends with Molotov.

For participation in battles, the legionnaires were awarded German orders, including the Iron Crosses, but they also received a lot of wooden ones on Russian soil. The French volunteers, alas, among them were Russian emigrants, ended the war together with the fascists of other nations, in the SS troops – mainly as stinking corpses among the ruins of Kohlberg (Kolobrzeg), Gotenhafen (Gdynia) and Berlin.

Honor of de Gaulle and “Normandy-Niemen”

On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in Normandy, finally opening a full-fledged “Second Front” in Europe. On August 15, the 7th American and French Army “B” (the future 1st) landed in the south of France in Provence.

If not for the outstanding citizen of his country, General de Gaulle with “Free France” (since 1942 – “Fighting France”), not the Normandie-Niemen fighter regiment, not assembled “from pine forest” from colonial units 1 The 1st division of the free French of General Koenig, not the 2nd armored division of General Leclerc and the “Poppies” detachments, the partisans of the internal “Resistance”, the post-war fate of France could have been much sadder. For example, its representatives would not be invited either to Karlhorst to sign the Act of Germany’s unconditional surrender, or aboard the battleship Missouri to sign Japan’s surrender act. The country could be obliged to pay its share of reparations in proportion to the volume of military equipment and equipment supplied to Germany. War criminals could have been identified more severely and punished more severely …

Do modern French politicians often remember this?

In the early 1960s, during my happy Leningrad childhood, all the boys knew about the French pilots who fought on the Yak planes against the Nazis, because they watched the first joint Franco-Soviet feature film Normandie-Niemen. Perhaps its only drawback was the shooting of the Yak-11 training fighters instead of the Yak-1b, Yak-9 and Yak-3 fighters – the silhouettes of the aircraft differed radically. Of course, some of the nuances of what was happening on the screen remained behind the scenes for us then. Soviet children could understand simple “class” contradictions between aristocratic pilots and workers and peasants. But why some French pilots first fought against the allies in Africa and Indochina and only later came to the Soviet Union to replenish the squadron that had suffered loss and deploy it to the regiment, we were not told, and we have not yet studied the history of the Vichy regime.

In 1944, by order of Stalin, the regiment received the honorary name “Neman”. The last commander on the Soviet front was Major Louis Delfino (1912-1968), under whose command on June 20, 1945, the pilots flew home on the Yak-3 fighters donated by the Soviet Union. On account of the French – 273 confirmed shot down German aircraft, 36 probably shot down and from 50 to 80 damaged. Own losses – 42 pilots.

The remains of six French pilots were originally buried in Moscow at the Vvedensky (German) cemetery. Later, their ashes were transferred to France, but a modest monument of black granite remained. It stands very close to a tiny plot with the graves of my grandfather, Major General of Artillery Vladimir Iosifovich Brezhnev, his wife, youngest daughter, son-in-law and mother-in-law …