Thursday, May 8, 2008

Victory in Europe Day

Paris had been liberated from her Nazi oppressors during the second half of August 1944. Eight months later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin. Then, on 8 May 1945, the official act of Germany's unconditional surrender meant that Europe could at last celebrate victory. In London and the USA (where Franklin D Roosevelt had died a month earlier), these victory celebrations were massive.

Recently, when my daughter Emmanuelle purchased a flat near the Place de la République in Paris, she obtained a couple of old photo albums that belonged to the lady (deceased) who had lived there. Among these amateur snapshots, there are three interesting images of Paris on May 8, 1945, which are no doubt published here for the first time. [Clicking a blog photo displays an enlargement.]

Five huge flags are suspended from the Arc de Triomphe. [Paris historians might be able to tell us whether the habit of flags under the arch dates from that epoch.] The army truck on the Place de l'Etoile has a white five-pointed star on the door. Is the Jeep a US or a French vehicle? There's a French policeman on a bicycle, surrounded by a couple of civilian cyclists and a midget automobile. On this 8 May 1945 at the hub of France, the ambiance is calm.

On the Place de la Concorde, the atmosphere is subdued. I have the impression that the couple in the foreground were the proprietors of Emmanuelle's flat. The man is wearing some kind of decoration in his lapel, whereas the woman seems to have purchased a poster. They appear to me as Gaullist patriots, happy to realize that Paris is once again their familiar City of Light. Everything in this photo indicates calm and sunny relief.

This photo was taken from the balcony of my daughter's flat in the Rue Oberkampf. The lady is probably the same person seen in the photo on the Place de la Concorde. The building is bedecked with five flags, including those of France, the USA, Great Britain and Russia.

The overall impression gleaned from these images is that Victory Day in Europe, for Parisians, was a solemn and subdued affair.

1 comment:

  1. This is really cool, thanks for the share!