In the early spring of 1942, the fatigued and despondent citizens of Paris, the City of Lights, did not see much light on the horizon to brighten their days or their futures. The sidewalk cafés were crowded with German officers and soldiers, the theaters smelled of German tobacco, and the grand avenues and boulevards were draped in the red and black banners of a smug and haughty conqueror in the disguise of an ally. To assist military oppression, many street signs were in German, with French secondary. While gas-rationed Parisians moved about in sad homemade hand- and pedal-operated carts, the Germans cruised the Champs-Élysées in big Daimlers and Mercedes. As if all this evidence that Parisians were not the masters in their own world wasn’t enough, there was one daily humiliation that they had to endure with gritted teeth and burning shame.
Each day, just after noon, while thin Parisians were sitting, warming their wan faces on the terraces and at the banks of wooden restaurant chairs of the Champs-Élysées, nursing ersatz café-au-laits, knifing their croque-monsieurs and reading the depressing news and Vichy propaganda in the day’s Le Figaro, the teutonic strains of Preussens Gloria and Alte Kamaraden could be heard coming up the Champs towards the Arc de Triomphe. Up the Champs they came—hobnailed boots thumping, glockenspiels ringing, horses clopping—the long grey lines of Wermacht and Waffen SS soldiers led by Hauptfeldwebels with jutting jaws, sitting on big white horses, banners, pennants and streamers flying.
Read the rest of the article at Vintage Wings of Canada.
Source: Vintage Wings of Canada
Author: Dave O’Malley
Photo: Vintage Wings of Canada