RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Paris through a Nazi’s lens: Propaganda pictures of Occupied France in 1940’s

11 min read

André Zucca (1897-1973) was a French photographer and Nazi collaborator, popular thanks to his work with the German propaganda magazine Signal. Born in 1897 in Paris, son of an Italian tailor, André spent part of his youth in the United States before returning to France in 1915. After the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in the French army, where he was wounded and decorated with the Croix de Guerre, and after the conflict he became a photographer. Much later, during the 1930s, he made several reports in countries such as Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, China, India and Morocco, collaborating with the journalist Joseph Kessel and becoming famous thanks to publications such as L’Illustration, Paris-Soir and Match .
From September 1939 to June 1940 he covered the “Strange War” as a reporter, and then in 1941, once France had become German, he worked on the magazine Signal, a Wehrmacht propaganda press body.
His images were used to promote a positive face of the German occupation in France, as well as to encourage French men to join the Legion of French volunteers against Bolshevism, a French collaborationist militia operating on the Eastern front.
Zucca’s work remains controversial, and it’s never been ascertained if the photographer was a sympathizer of Nazism or if he was a right-wing anarchist.
Aside from ideology, Zucca’s work is particularly significant because he had access to the Agfacolor rolls, rare and expensive films for the time, thanks to his relationship with the “rich” Germans.
After the allied liberation of France, he was put on trial in October 1944, and was found guilty, with the privileges of journalist permanently revoked.
The court decided not to undertake legal punishment against the photographer thanks to the testimony of a member of the resistance who spoke in his favor. Zucca was therefore forced to abandon his journalistic career and changed his name to André Piernic, going to live in the French municipality of Dreux. He spent the rest of his life as a village photographer, capturing weddings and communions until his death, in 1973.
His photographic collections were purchased by the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris in 1986, mainly consisting of his photographs of Paris taken during World War II.
Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels wanted Paris to retain its pre-war image, at least on the surface, and these pictures show a Paris that is in sharp contrast to the hardships commonly associated with Nazi rule.
This depiction remains controversial and deeply distressing for many French people who lived through the four years of the occupation.
In 2008, Éditions Gallimard, a large French publishing house, worked with the city of Paris to organize an exhibition of Zucca’s wartime photographs. The exhibition sparked much controversy over the emerging portrait of Paris, apparently carefree during the dramatic era of the World War II. When they were put on display more than 60 years after being taken – many called for the exhibition to be closed down. The then deputy mayor Christophe Girard said: ‘It’s a complete manipulation. And it makes me vomit.’

Fashionable young women pose for the camera and commuters mix with Nazi soldiers on the bustling Paris streets.
The famous roads of the French capital are adorned with the Swastikas of the German regime but Parisians appear jubilant.
At first glance, these photographs appear to show a Paris that flourished under four years of Nazi occupation during the Second World War.

Controversial: Andre Zucca’s series of photographs, such as these young women posing in unusual sunglasses, showed Parisians enjoying life under German rule.

Positive light: Zucca’s photos show women dressed in the height of fashion and courting young lovers enjoying the French sunshine.

Taking in the sights: A German soldier looks on at lethargic-looking polar bears at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes, Paris’s famous zoo.

Captive city: An elephant reaches across from its enclosure to take something from the hand of a youngster. Zucca was commissioned to show a Paris that was happy under the Nazi yoke

Ingenious contraption: Two fashionably dressed young men stand by a tandem bicycle towing a carriage of sorts

Opposing ideologies: A sign advertises the Europe Against Bolshevism exhibition, held under the auspices of Nazi front organisation the anti-Bolshevik Action Committee in Paris in 194

Life goes on: Parisians go about their business, walking down into a subway. The majority of Zucca’s images show Paris as a thriving, lively city

Summer fun: A part of the Seine is pontooned off into a swimming pool, which is filled with hundreds of Parisians grabbing a chance to cool off in the summer heat

A walk in the park: Shot by Zucca for German propaganda magazine Signal, these pictures show a Paris that is in sharp contrast to the hardships commonly associated with Nazi rule

Très chic: The images were taken to show the world how the French capital was thriving following the Nazi invasion

Flames: This poster, which reads ‘Assassins Always Return to the Scene of their Crime’, shows Joan of Arc kneeling in prayer, her hands manacled, while below her the town of Rouen burns. The city was approximately 45 per cent destroyed by Allied bombing during the Second World War, when it was the location of the German navy HQ

Youngsters sail boats: While millions of ordinary French citizens struggled with desperate food shortages in both the Nazi occupied North and under the Nazi-collaborating Vichy regime in the South, for others life remained pretty much the same When exhibited in Paris in 2008, Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris, ordered a notice to accompany the images stating that the pictures avoid the ?reality of occupation and its tragic aspects?

Business as usual: The majority of Zucca’s images show Paris as a thriving, lively city filled with food, laughter and young families

Basket case: Zucca was a successful photojournalist before the war and his work was published in eminent magazines such as Paris Match

Boys sit on a park wall: After Paris fell to the Nazis on June 14, 1940, Zucca was commissioned to work for the Signal the following year to portray the occupation in a positive light

Too young to understand: Girls and boys play in what appear to be the early forerunners of rollerskates against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower on central Paris’s Champ de Mars

Symbol of empire: A soldier and civilians mill around near Cleopatra’s Needle in the Place de la Concorde, one of three obelisks taken from Egypt and re-erected in Paris, London and New York during the 19th Century

A flower seller sits outside her shop on a bright, sunny day: Zucca’s photographs are historically important not only as an example of Nazi propaganda but also because they were shot in colour

Ambiguity: Following France’s liberation in 1944, Zucca was arrested but he was never prosecuted and continued to work as a wedding photographer until his death in 1973

A car equipped to run on natural gas: With most petrol diverted to German forces to run their tanks, ships and planes, civilians were forced to find alternative sources of fuel for their vehicles

Needs must: Another car equipped to run on natural gas, with engine modifications making it almost appear like a souped-up Wacky Racer

Reality? An elderly woman walks along the street wearing the yellow star which Nazis forced Jews to wear. More than 70,000 Jews were deported from occupied France to the death camps

Nazi occupied Paris: Giant Swastikas line the streets of the French capital. Paris fell to the Germans just weeks after the Nazis launched an invasion in 1940

Running away? A harried looking man with two scruffily dressed girls drags a cart through the streets of Paris

Homeless: A man dressed in dirty clothes hurries along the road (left) and elderly men huddle around a chair as they play cards (right)

Positive: The Nazis were shown as integrated into Paris life in Zucca’s pictures. Some historians say his work is too easily dismissed as propaganda as shows some truth

No rations: Pictures of cartloads of meat (left) and fashionable clothes (right) give the impression that French life was the same as pre-war. In fact they lived on starvation rations and 20 per cent of all food was taken by the Nazis

So did the buses run on time? Parisian commuters queue to board a bus on a chilly early morning under the Nazi yoke

Show of force: Stern-looking soldiers from the Wehrmacht march down one of the city’s broad boulevards, which in the minds of Parisians are more usually associated with strolling and leisurely enjoyment

Shielded from war: A young family, including a man of usual conscription age, sit in the sunshine eating cherries

Friendly force: Nazi soldiers are shown participating in Paris life and are seen shopping at the market (left) and at the horse racing (right)

Bustling: Instead of war torn or repressed, Paris in Zucca’s photographs is seen to be thriving with full shops and restaurants

Leisure: A shapely woman leaning over the side of the bridge is the focus of this photograph. Zucca was given access to the latest – and extremely rare – Agfacolor film to show Paris as a fun loving big city full of happy people When exhibited in Paris in 2008, Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris, ordered a notice to accompany the images stating that the pictures avoid the ?reality of occupation and its tragic aspects?

A smartly dressed woman steps from a bicycle taxi: Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels wanted Paris to retain its pre-war image, at least on the surface

Trinkets: Two women in military-style uniforms shop at a stall selling toys. Zucca’s pictures show both the hardship for French civilians and the collaborations between the Vichy regime and the Nazis

Not yet modern: Bicycles are joined in this picture by the even then anachronistic sight of a horse-drawn carriage. When these pictures were put on display in 2008 – more than 60 years after being taken – many called for the exhibition to be closed down

Getting what they can: Poorer looking Parisians at a down-at-heel street market. The curator of the exhibition five years ago said this collection were never published by Signal and were for Zucca’s own use, perhaps accounting for the realistic depictions some show

Kind of blue: Thanks to his access to German Agfacolour film stock, Zucca was one of the few photographers who could made a lot of colour photos, although this seems a little faded by age now

Hustle and bustle: Even those involved in resistance or collaboration would walk the streets to go shopping, enjoy a stroll in the park, have a drink in a bar

Important historical record: Zucca’s photographs stand as one of the only full-colour records of live in Paris in the early-Forties

Not all fun and games: Zucca’s depictions of Parisian life under Nazi rule don’t only show a city full or happy, well off people, but also the daily struggles of those trying to get by as best they can

War to end all wars? Women in military uniforms look at a war memorial commemorating those killed in the First World War just over two decades earlier

Real life under the Nazis: A woman walks a Parisian backstreet, in front of an older gentleman who is marked with the Star of David insignia that Jews were forced to wear

‘If you want to earn more… come to work in Germany’: France under the collaborationist Vichy regime was the only Nazi-occupied country to pass laws forcing its citizens to go and work in Germany, which was short of manpower because of fighting in the east

‘They give their blood – give your work to save Europe from Bolshevism’: Another poster encourages French to travel to Germany for work by alluding to the threat from the Soviet Union

Letting them know who’s boss: Street signs advertise locations of German facilities in Paris, with their French names written in smaller text beneath

Wehrmacht officers talk to a woman Vichy government head Marshal Pétain is the centrepiece of a shoe shop window display
Militarism: Officers from the Wehrmacht chat with a Parisian woman left, and right Marshal Philippe Pétain, a hero of the First World War who became the head of the Vichy government during the Nazi occupation, is the centrepiece in a shoe shop’s window display. His government actively collaborated with persecution of the Jews

Gay Paris: A young woman checks her handbag while a man sits slumped over a walking stick in front of posters for the City’s famous Moulin Rouge cabaret

Relaxed: Rather than appear invaders, these Nazi soldiers fiddle with a camera like tourists and appear to be have a guidebook lying nearby

At their leisure: Parisians are shown fishing or enjoying knitting or reading in the park (right)

Reminder of occupation: A theatre, which has an Imperial Eagle painted on its wall, proclaims itself as a German soldier’s cinema (Deutsches Soldatenkino)

Making the best of it: A crowd surrounds a travelling band as they play music in a Paris street. Zucca’s cheerful depictions of Paris under Nazi rule remain controversial and deeply distressing for many French people who lived through the four years of the occupation

Market traders clear up after a day’s work Grim-faced Parisian commuters cycle past another poster for the Europe Against Bolshevism exhibition
Hard lives: Market traders are pictured left clearing up after a day’s work, while right grim-faced Parisians cycle past a poster for the Nazi-sponsored Europe Against Bolshevism exhibition. Anti-communism was a cornerstone of the National Socialist ideology

Fat of the land: A wealthy looking man and woman ride in a cart pulled by two slim Parisians on a tandem bicycle. Wealth and collaboration with the Nazis helped preserve life for a certain elite as thousands of French Jews were sent to the death camps

Trying to blend in? Senior looking German army officers stroll past a crowd of French enjoying the afternoon in one of Paris’s outdoor cafés

Occupation headquarters: Guard posts stand outside a building the sign of which advertises it as an important spot for the occupying German army

Uncomfortable legacy: Zucca’s pictures have caused controversy over the years for their portrayal of the French

Still life: Zucca’s propaganda pictures were bought by the Historical Library of the city of Paris in 1986

Source and photos: DAILYMAIL

Random-Times.com | Volleytimes.com | Copyright 2025 © All rights reserved.