Tag Archives: World War Two

Wartime Writings of French Intellectuals At NYPL


By on

0 Comments

Hitler’s occupation of France presented writers with a difficult, often dangerous dilemma: keep silent, collaborate, or resist the Germans and their Vichy allies. A new exhibition at The New York Public Library explores how Sartre, Gide, Cocteau and dozens of other public intellectuals responded to Nazi rule. Personal correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, books and posters — most displayed for the first time in the United States — illustrate the contrasting, often complex response by writers to the country’s defeat and the Vichy regime. Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation is on view at the Library’s D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall from April 3 to July 25, 2009. Admission is free. The exhibition is accompanied by a companion volume presenting more than 650 archival documents, an April 3 symposium featuring leading French and American scholars, and screenings of rarely shown French films created during the Nazi period.

The period of the Vichy regime, which lasted from 1940 to 1944, was a tumultous time for French literature. A number of the best-loved writers of the twentieth century produced some of their finest works, such as Sartre’s No Exit, and the intellectual foment helped inspire more than two hundred films and numerous literary and artistic works, many of them clandestine. The exhibition features original copies of illegal underground publications by resisters such as Mauriac, Camus and Aragon, along with the writings of Nazi-favored authors like Céline and Drieu La Rochelle and brilliant efforts by Sartre and other resisters to circumvent the censors.

“Some writers worried about whether they were collaborating even by writing a book, because it would seem that life was normal in Vichy France. Others wanted to show that France still lived through its arts,” says co-curator Robert O. Paxton, Mellon Professor Emeritus, Columbia University. “It’s the moral ambiguity of what seemed like ordinary actions by a writer – such as publishing a poem – that makes Vichy such a fascinating period for the arts.”

Unlike other defeated European countries, France struggled under two dictatorships: the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators. The exhibition explores the deep divisions between left and right, highlighting a perhaps surprising amount of sympathy for the Nazis and the homegrown fascism of Vichy. Original letters and documents, drawn from the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) and The New York Public Library’s collections, also show the exile experience of Jewish intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt, who escaped to America and artist Otto Freundlich, who died in the Holocaust. One of the most remarkable items is the manuscript of Irène Némirovsky’s Suite française, which became a recent worldwide bestseller after its discovery by her daughter half a century after the writer’s death at Auschwitz.

This exhibition was conceived by IMEC director Olivier Corpet, who presented it with curator Claire Paulhan at Caen in 2008. It has been adapted and reshaped for an American audience by Dr. Paxton. Objects are drawn largely from IMEC, supplemented by materials from The New York Public Library, the Mémorial de Caen, and other private and public collections.

The exhibition opens in the shadow of World War I, with the depiction of a large military cemetery reminding viewers that 1.3 million Frenchmen were killed just two decades before. It chronicles the political instability of 1930s France, with a weak Third Republic, economic turmoil, and the rise of Hitler just over the border causing much agitation between left and right.

The Vichy regime is depicted as an enthusiastic enforcer of fascism in France, rather than simply a puppet to Hitler. The Germans were able to save resources by occupying only part of the country, allowing their ideological ally to rule the rest. Tales of crossing the Demarcation Line, faced with dangers from crooked “passers” and German patrols, are a ubiquitous subject in diaries and letters of the Occupation period, and in later fiction about it. Some of the exhibition’s most fascinating materials deal with how resisters were able to get information across the line and past the censors. In order to write loved ones, authorities distributed pre-written postcards with phrases (such as “I am in good health”) that could be checked off. A 1940 postcard shows Louis Aragon scribbled some extra information to the wife of Jean Paulhan, including the coded phrase “Cousin Mercadier can go to Pierre’s house.” This may have referred to the Aragons’ plan to stay with the poet Pierre Emmanuel in Dieulefit (Drôme).

The exhibition explores the violent fate suffered by many writers during this period. The price for literary resistance during the Occupation was imprisonment or death. And bitterness ran high against those who took Vichy’s side: after the war, four collaborationist writers were shot, and dozens were imprisoned and blacklisted. Others, such as Céline, fled France.

For those who joined the Resistance, there were more than 1,000 homemade, mimeographed publications, often printed secretly in the middle of the night by printers who risked — and sometimes lost — their lives. Included are copies of such clandestine publications as Combat and Les Lettres françaises, to which Camus and Sartre, respectively, contributed.Sartre’s activities during the Vichy period serve as an interesting example of the complex response by writers to difficult politics: his underground writings, a newspaper clipping depicting him sitting at Café de Flore, press commentary and correspondence help to illustrate how the writer-philosopher navigated space for himself both below ground and above, where he put on two plays. There were also the “Little Magazines,” published legally in the Unoccupied Zone, which pushed the limits of censorship. One of the most famous,Max-Pol Fouchet’s Fontaine, published a stirring poem by Paul Eluard in 1942, entitled “Liberty,” which showed the wartime evolution of literary style away from aesthetic artifice and toward simple, straightforward poetry.

“The deep political divisions of the Vichy period are always interesting to study on their own merits, but especially as an influence on the literature of Sartre, Gide, and other major twentieth-century authors,” said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library. “In spite of censorship and other forms of suppression, some writers of the period produced masterpieces of enduring worth.”

Other highlights include card files containing index cards of banned books written by Jews, Communists or those critical of the Nazis; letters by Céline from Denmark, to which he fled after the war, complaining about his treatment by Jews, and a handwritten note about Hannah Arendt by a member of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars. The German Jewish philosopher, then totally unknown, was described as “swarthy, intelligent, sparing of words, courteous, efficient.”

French and German newsreel extracts, drawn from the 1969 Max Ophüls film The Sorrow and the Pity, will be screened in the exhibition. The April 3 symposium takes place at The New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Participants include prominent scholars from the United States and France. For more information about the exhibition and a link to the symposium schedule, go to www.nypl.org and click on “Exhibitions.”

A companion film series featuresfilms produced in France under the Nazi Occupation, including Marcel Carné’s masterpiece Les Enfants du Paradis [Children of Paradise] and rarely screened works by such directors as Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jacques Becker, and Marcel L’Herbier. Films will be presented at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts every Tuesday in June at 2:30 p.m.

Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation will be on view from April 3, 2009, through July 25, 2009 in the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall (First Floor), of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Exhibition hours are Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday through May 17, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays Memorial Day through Labor Day and all federal holidays. Closed April 12, May 23-25, July 3-5. Admission is free. For more information, call 917.ask.nypl or visit www.nypl.org.

Aircraft Carrier Intrepid Returns to Pier 86


By on

0 Comments

The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid returned home to Manhattan last week. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum’s grand re-opening celebration will be held on Veterans Day, November 11, 2008. Intrepid left her berth at Staten Island’s Homeport Pier on October 2, and was moved north to the brand new Pier 86 following a 22-month overhaul (NYT).

According to Newsday:

Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, said the museum has paid $10 million to dredge more Hudson River mud – more than 90,000 cubic yards – than was done for the first unsuccessful attempt to move the 900-foot-long ship to a New Jersey dry dock. And for good measure, the ship’s four 16-ton, bronze, 22-foot-diameter propellers have been permanently removed so they can no longer serve as unwanted anchors. “I am 100 percent confident she will come back in with no problems,” White said.

The ship reopens to the general the public after a private event Nov. 8 at Pier 86, at 12th Avenue and West 46th Street. After an expenditure of almost $120 million since the carrier was finally relocated in December 2006, visitors will see new exhibits, areas of the 29,000-ton ship launched in 1943 that were formerly off limits during its first 23 years on display and additional historic aircraft and they have access from a newly built pier topped by a free park.

The 2008 Veterans Day Parade has been rerouted west across 42nd Street, and north up 12th Avenue, with the parade passing the Intrepid Museum. 5,000 of the parade’s veterans will take part in the Museum’s grand re-opening celebration.

While in Staten Island, Intrepid will undergo the next phase of her refurbishment, and receive an $8 million interior renovation. Of that, $4.5 million has been privately raised – $3.5 million is yet to be procured. Never-before-seen areas of the ship including to the focasle (commonly known as the anchor chain room), general berthing quarters and the ship’s machine shop will be opened to the public for the first time. The hangar deck will feature a new layout and design including new interactive exhibits.

Fort Drum WWII Barracks to be Demolished


By on

0 Comments

The Watertown Daily Times is reporting that 87 World War Two era barracks at Fort Drum are going to be torn down in the next month:

Those buildings, built in 1941, are being torn down to make way for more construction to accommodate units of the 10th Mountain Division. South post will become the new home for the 91st Military Police Battalion, 7th Engineer Battalion and 63rd Explosive Ordnance Device Battalion — which is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.


We want to tear them all down eventually,” said James W. Corriveau, the public works director for Fort Drum. “We are building new facilities on that space and falling in on the old infrastructure.”

The demolition of old motor pools along Gasoline Alley has been ongoing this summer.

Here’s a gem from someone with a [ahem] sense of history:

“The nostalgic value of this World War II world isn’t too much,” Mr. Corriveau said. “The Army has lots of stuff from that time period — these buildings weren’t supposed to last forever.”

Here is a little history from the Fort Drum website:

With the outbreak of World War Two, the area now known as Pine Camp was selected for a major expansion and an additional 75,000 acres of land was purchased. With that purchase, 525 local families were displaced. Five entire villages were eliminated, while others were reduced from one-third to one-half their size.

By Labor Day 1941, 100 tracts of land were taken over. Three thousand buildings, including 24 schools, 6 churches and a post office were abandoned. Contractors then went to work, and in a period of 10 months at a cost of $20 million, an entire city was built to house the divisions scheduled to train here.

Eight hundred buildings were constructed; 240 barracks, 84 mess halls, 86 storehouses, 58 warehouses, 27 officers’ quarters, 22 headquarters buildings, and 99 recreational buildings as well as guardhouses and a hospital. Construction workers paid the price, as the winter of 1941-42 was one of the coldest in North Country history.

The three divisions to train at Pine Camp were General George S. Patton’s 4th Armored Division (Gen. Creighton Abrams was a battalion commander here at the time), the 45th Infantry Division and the 5th Armored Division.

The post also served as a prisoner of war camp. Of those prisoners who died here, one Italian and six Germans are still buried in the Sheepfold Cemetery near Remington Pond