Hitler in Paris

Hitler in Paris

  • Hitler visits Paris in the early morning.

    HOFFMANN Heinrich (1885 - 1957)

  • Hitler visited Paris on June 28, 1940 in the early morning hours.

    HOFFMANN Heinrich (1885 - 1957)

To close

Title: Hitler visits Paris in the early morning.

Author : HOFFMANN Heinrich (1885 - 1957)

Creation date : 1940

Date shown: June 23, 1940

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: PhotographyAfter visiting the Eiffel Tower; front row from left to right: Karl Wolff, Hermann Giesler, Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler, Arno Breker

Storage location: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen: Neue Pinakothek (Munich) website

Contact copyright: © BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-GP - Heinrich Hoffmann website

Picture reference: 04-505702

Hitler visits Paris in the early morning.

© BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-GP - Heinrich Hoffmann

To close

Title: Hitler visited Paris on June 28, 1940 in the early morning hours.

Author : HOFFMANN Heinrich (1885 - 1957)

Creation date : 1940

Date shown: June 28, 1940

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Photography for the weekly Wochenschau in front of the Eiffel Tower

Storage location: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen: Neue Pinakothek (Munich) website

Contact copyright: © BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-GP - Heinrich Hoffmann

Picture reference: 04-505752

Hitler visited Paris on June 28, 1940 in the early morning hours.

© BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-GP - Heinrich Hoffmann

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The "Blitz Besuch" (quick visit)

The Franco-German armistice was signed on June 22, 1940. The northern half and the Atlantic coast of French territory became the "occupied zone", where Germany now exercises "the rights of the occupying power".

It is thus in conquered territory that Hitler evolves when he goes to Paris in the early morning of June 23 or 28, 1940 (the date remains debated today) for a flash visit ("Blitz Besuch") which begins at 6 h and ends at 8:15 a.m. Accompanied by the sculptor Breker, the architect Speer and officers of the Wehrmacht, the Führer visits several emblematic places of the deserted capital such as the Opera, the Concorde, the Arc de triomphe, the Invalides, the Panthéon, Notre-Dame, the Louvre, but also the Trocadéro, where he poses in front of the Eiffel Tower, as shown in the two photographs studied here.

Taken while filming the weekly newsreel Die Deutsche Wochenschau, these two photos are the work of Heinrich Hoffmann (1885-1957), a Nazi Party photographer since its origins and then Hitler’s official iconographer. Produced by Nazi propaganda, the globally disseminated images convey many meanings of symbolic, political and historical significance.

Image Analysis

War taking and shots

The first photograph shows Hitler leading a group of men accompanying him on his visit. Surrounded (from left to right) by Karl Wolff, Hermann Giesler, Albert Speer and Arno Breker in the foreground, he walks through the Esplanade du Trocadéro, followed by officers (in the background). In the background, the Eiffel Tower emerges from a thick morning mist that obscures it all the way to the first floor. Lending an almost fantastic atmosphere to the scene, its opacity brings out the dark silhouettes (especially the headgear) of the visitors.

The second image is an enlarged detail of a photograph taken as Adolf Hitler, Arno Breker and Albert Speer pose in front of the Eiffel Tower for a news reporter. If Hoffmann’s primary intention was to show Speer, Hitler and Breker being filmed, it’s the detail of Hitler alone that becomes a cliché in its own right. In military attire, Hitler poses in front of the monument. The impassive face, because of the enlargement, seems to obscure the tower and the still hazy Parisian landscape of the early morning.

Interpretation

Victory by image

The newsreel and photographs immortalize the German victory at the end of the battle for France. Like the lightning war it crowns, the lightning visit deploys a military gesture of which it symbolizes efficiency, thoroughness and organization. The second image thus shows a Führer who, as troop leader, leads the victorious march on the City of Light with a determined step. Through a mise en abyme (the Eiffel Tower for Paris and Paris for France), it is indeed the invasion of all of France that is meant here.

Victory of an army and above all of its leader, as shown in the first photograph, where the image of the dictator inscribes itself and obscures that of the monument, suggesting its historical and almost mythological importance.

But this visit has a slightly different dimension. By posing with Breker and Speer, two "artists", Hitler also joins forces with the City of Light, capital of culture. It thus signals the German mastery of a cultural symbol still important in Europe, including among the German elites.

Finally, the mist can symbolize the gloom of an occupied Paris, far from the image of celebration, lightness and light that is generally associated with it. While following the "tourist" route, Hitler imprints on it the austere mark of his regime and shows that he is taking "possession" of the city.

  • Hitler (Adolf)
  • Paris
  • Nazism
  • Occupation
  • War of 39-45
  • city
  • Speer (Albert)

Bibliography

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.BLOCH, Marc, The Strange Defeat, Paris, Franc-tireur, 1946.GRUAT, Cédric, Hitler in Paris, June 1940, Paris, Editions Tirésias, 2010.PAXTON, Robert, The France of Vichy, 1940-44, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1973.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Hitler in Paris"


Video: German Occupied Paris: World War II 1942. British Pathé