Monday, May 28, 2012


While trawling German ebay one night, looking for Gotlib comic books (he's big in Germany and some of his titles can be bought at a fraction of the ridiculously expensive Danish language versions) I came across this lovely young lady and managed to pick the photo up for a few Euro's (nobody else was bidding...) A 1940's fashion aficionado me (though, not dressing retro), I instantly recognized the "victory rolls" hairstyle adorning this charming Parisian Mademoiselle which would place her in a 1940-45 time frame. This turned out to be true, since on the back of the photo you will find several lines scribbled in French which reads something like this: " Souvenir from a beautiful time for my little Pierre, which I love very much - A mein Kleinen Liebling" signed Mariette. And at the top of the photo, the date: 2 - 6 -1941 and also the location:  Montmartre.

Obviously the photo is a typical 1940s studio-portrait, taken by a professional photographer and in my (fertile) imagination I see Mariette working as a nightclub actress/ singer/ dancer in the famous Montmartre district, entertaining the occupying German forces in wartime Paris. She probably had a whole stack of these photos made, to hand out to admirers as a personal souvenir. Her blond hairdo and the ability to write "for my little love" in German, suggests she was consciously directing her charms at German soldiers having some days of leisure in "gay Paris", before the next campaign. The date on the photo could point in that direction: less than three weeks later, on June 22, 1941 the German Wehrmacht would commit most of its available forces to launching the largest invasion in history: Operation Barbarossa, the attack on Soviet Russia.

With that in mind, one can only guess as to what happened to Pierre (who's actual name was probably the German "Peter") Five and a half million German soldiers died in WWII, the wast majority on the Eastern front. Did he end his life only six months later on the frozen fields outside Moscow? Maybe he did.

And Mariette? When she signed that photo in June 1941, Germany ruled the continent of Europe and in many people's minds, they would probably continue to do so. Three years and three months later, the tables had turned completely. Allied troops were driving their tanks around liberated Paris, and like many other French women who had been friendly with the Germans,  Mariette was perhaps caught on the wrong side of events. Her "Teutonic" blond curls which had beguiled the German occupiers, might have seemed very provocative to other French citizens, who then stiffened their own patriotism by shaving them off as an act of retribution. This would make poor Mariette one of 20.000 French women who suffered this treatment after the liberation, which for a brief time was apparently popular enough to appear on novelty postcards.

Panzer: Pzkpfw V "Panther", Ausf A
Some relaxed Americans in front of an abandoned Panther after the Normandy landings. France, summer 1944. Production of the newer Panther Ausf G had begun in March 1944, but allied bombings had disrupted production and the Ausf A is the most commonly seen in photos of the Normandy battles.

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