Review of Reviews

Nazis in Paris

Tyrannical Efforts to Break the French Spirit Have Not Succeeded

April 15 1941
Review of Reviews

Nazis in Paris

Tyrannical Efforts to Break the French Spirit Have Not Succeeded

April 15 1941

Nazis in Paris

Tyrannical Efforts to Break the French Spirit Have Not Succeeded

IN THE American Mercury, Bernhard Ragner tells us something about life in Paris under the Germans, in part as follows:

Hans is living the life of Riley in Paris, and France is footing the bill. He has never eaten so well or so copiously. He rides for nothing on the Paris Metro. He has his private movies, restaurants, clubs and cabarets. When it suits his need or fancy, he goes to the head of Parisian food lines, in which the average housewife spends three hours daily.

It is no joke to the French, but a painful reality, to speak of Paris, Germany. Hans and his buddies are making it more so every day. He not only drinks Munich beer; he reads Berlin newspapers, sees German films, and listens to Nazi broadcasts. To give spice to his leisure moments, strolling actors put on German plays, while a mobile library brings him certified germ-proof literature guaranteed to have been “Made in Germany.”

Nor is Hans alone to enjoy these benefits. He shares them with other Germans, civilian and feminine. For Hitler’s occupation is not exclusively military and masculine; it includes diplomats, experts, bankers, spies, businessmen, and whathave-you. The “boys” in uniform, so disciplined and melancholy, so polite and correct (their attitude toward French women has been exemplary), are in the vast majority. But in addition, Paris gives “hospitality” to thousands of camp followers, such as Himmler’s secret police. There are also several divisions of Nazi “girls”—-nurses, typists, translators, telephonists, clerks, even wives brought to Paris to escape R.A.F. bombs—striving so earnestly to be chic and elegant in hastilybought Parisian dresses. No dependable estimates on the number now in Paris can be cited. My private guess would be about 25,000 troops and about the same number of civilians.

Whatever their sex, rank and status, these Germans have in common their possessive attitude toward Paris. Judging by their actions, Paris is their oyster; and they have installed themselves to enjoy it, not as guests and visitors but as masters and owners.

They already have their finger in every worth-while French pie. Everywhere, they are in the seats of authority and control: prefectures, mairies, post-offices, telephone centrals, telegraph bureaux, police stations, power plants, etc. In some degree or another, they have taken over ministries, movies, clubs, hotels, railroads, radio stations, and newspapers. When they say “No,” they have means of enforcing it efficiently.

What the Nazis desire they take. From France they have taken wheat and steel, copper and champagne, butter and automobiles. Farms, depots, storehouses, manufacturing plants have been looted, with violence and brutality if necessary, but always effectively. The plunder attains astronomic figures.

Most of the time, however, the Nazis do not engage in direct looting. Why should they? It is easier, more polite, and less troublesome to buy. Particularly if you pay for your purchases with that ingenious kind of stage money known as “occupation marks.” Invented by the Germans, this phony money has nothing behind it except the force of Nazi bayonets and that, at present, is a powerful argument which French businessmen cannot resist. Throughout occupied France, these marks are and must be accepted at the rate of twenty francs per mark.

A propaganda machine is running full blast, with renegade Frenchmen aiding the process. Paris newspapers, radio stations and movies have been mobilized to compel

Parisians to think as Hitler wants them to think.

For five years a German army captain with a Ph.D. degree from Leipzig held down the job of elevator man in the principal Paris newspaper office, ParisSoir. He was organizing a secret crew of compositors and pressmen, of reporters and editors. Twelve hours after the Nazis reached Paris he published a special edition of Paris-Soir—one million copies— in which the Nazis told the Parisians, in unmistakable language, what was expected of them.

Here is the present weekly ration of some foods in ounces per person: meat, 13; butter, 3.5; sugar, 4.5; ersatz coffee, 3; cheese, 2; rice, 1. Compare the approximate number of ounces of some of these foods consumed weekly by the average American: meat, 112; butter, 17.5; sugar, 14; ground coffee, 7.

When the Nazis invaded Paris they plastered walls with propaganda posters, one of them picturing a handsome German soldier with two smiling French youngsters in his arms. Under the cover of night hundreds of these posters were lacerated.

These and many similar incidents may seem puerile, trivial, unimportant. Mais non. They are pregnant with meaning. They reveal, they objectify a spirit. They indicate that Jacques Bonhomme has retained the mastery of his soul, even under the Hitlerian tyranny.