"Outraged Paris"

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The Nazi flag flies over the Arc de Triomphe.

© BPK, Berlin, Dist RMN-Grand Palais - BPK image

Publication date: March 2012

Historical context

The first flag

On June 14, 1940 in the early morning, the Germans entered Paris, declared an open city. All French flags are then removed from the buildings and replaced by Nazi flags.

This is particularly the case with the Arc de Triomphe, which was the first to see the swastika float. If the banner is finally removed at the end of the day, it finds its place on various occasions after the armistice of June 22, the visit of Hitler, the military parades and other commemorations constituting as many opportunities to remember the Nazi victory. and the reality of the occupation until 1944.

The anonymous photograph "The Nazi flag flies over the Arc de Triomphe" probably dates from June 14, although it is also possible that it was taken later in the year, on the occasion of one of these. ceremonies. This image, which is also used by the filmed news of the regime, will experience worldwide distribution, further strengthening its political reach and symbolic value.

Image Analysis


Taken from the top of the monument, some details of which can be seen in the foreground, "The Nazi flag flies over the Arc de Triomphe" is a very suggestive image.

Facing south, the photographer does not take the Champs-Élysées, but the deserted Avenue Marceau (visible below). As a result, the view of Paris which extends to the background embraces the Eiffel Tower, easily recognizable despite a slight mist. Paris is almost empty, since apart from a few onlookers and passers-by, only the entrance to the roundabout accommodates a sort of military delegation (the figures visible below are in a row) quite thin.

Against this very picturesque background (roofs of buildings, leafy trees, crossroads) and world famous, the pole and the flag bearing the swastika seem almost to come to rest not only on the monument, but also on the decor. While the sharpness of the strip of fabric and the emblem (allowed by the photographer's focus) opposes a more diffuse Paris, the dark tone of the long banner that brings out the Nazi symbol also evokes a shroud .


The Nazi "Triumph"

Built from 1808 to 1835 on the initiative of Napoleon, the Arc de Triomphe is obviously a highly symbolic building. Intended to celebrate the victory of Austerlitz and all French military successes, it became a choice catch for the Nazis. By planting their flag on this monument of military glory, they are part of the tradition of the greatest feats of arms (Napoleonic), while showing their superiority over this once victorious France (in the XIXe century, but also in 1918) and asserting their first place in the military pantheon. Supreme humiliation for the vanquished, the flag embodies a form of sovereignty of sign and symbol, correlative to concrete domination.

"The Nazi flag flies over the Arc de Triomphe" is a striking and striking image. Directly understandable by an almost universal audience (hence the choice of the Eiffel Tower), it suggests a new hold. The long banner hangs more than it floats, and the choice of this weight clearly evokes the (almost mortuary) covering of the City of Light by a new master, a new shadow.

  • Nazism
  • Paris
  • Occupation
  • War of 39-45
  • city
  • Triumphal arch
  • Champs Elysees


AZEMA, Jean-Pierre, From Munich to the Liberation, 1938-1944, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1979.AZEMA, Jean-Pierre and WIEVIORKA, Olivier, Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Perrin, 1997.EPARVIER, Jean, In Paris under the boot of the Nazis, Paris, Éditions Raymond Schall, 1944.LABORIE, Pierre, The French under Vichy and the Occupation, Paris, Milan, 2003. PAXTON, Robert, La France de Vichy, 1940-44, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1973.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "" Outrageous Paris ""

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