Exceptional collection of clandestinely accumulated proclamations and propaganda posters from the Nazi Occupation of Northern France.Lille-Roubaix–Tourcoing conurbation, Militärverwaltung in Belgien und Nordfrankreich, 1940-3 Stock Code: 94845
NotesHaunting documents of oppression and resistance in Nazi-occupied northern France. Intensely evocative, the marks of making on these composite posters clearly reveal the driven process behind their creation; the riskful gathering of the fragments, their painstaking collaging, careful docketing, and vigilant concealment as important evidence in the future prosecution of the administration of occupation. The resultant fragmented, jagged typography and buckled surfaces of the pieces serve to accentuate the record of degradation narrated by their texts.
Under the Nazis, the départements Nord and Pas-de-Calais were combined with Belgium as the Militärverwaltung in Belgien und Nordfrankreich Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France, with its headquarters in Brussels, a move partly designed to weaken France by the annexation of an area with considerable industrial resources. The Military Administration's field headquarters, OFK Oberfeldkommandantur 670, was in Lille based at the Chamber of Commerce, headed by General Hermann Niehoff, over whose signature the majority of the proclamations were issued. The flat terrain of the region rendered the type of clandestine activities considered to typify the maquis extremely risky, a situation exacerbated by the posting of numerous Wehrmacht contingents in Lille itself. Resistance tended to take the form of civil disobedience, theft, and the occasional act of sabotage, most often against industrial targets, factories or railways. Proclamations among those present here announce the death sentence on a captured suspect - "Léon Szklarek... ouvrier mineur" in a case of sabotage against the Compagnie des Mines d'Ostricourt; reprisals - "vignt otages ont été fusillé" - for the theft of explosives and subsequent attempts "au moyen d'explosifs" against military and civilian transport; the deportation of 50 hostages in revenge for the cutting of a "nombre cosidérable de fils téléphoniques et télégraphques" and destruction of switchboards, to be followed in two weeks by a further 50, "au cas que les coupables ne seraient pas découvert"; and the offer of a 10,000 Reichsmark reward for information leading to the capture of Henry Talboom, a baker, and Robert Lelong, a mechanic, wanted in connection with the murder of two members of the "police de sûreté allemande" - Sicherheitspolizei, or SiPo, comprised of the Gestapo, Secret State Police, and Kripo, Criminal Police - during the commission of a robbery "de l'argent et des bijoux".
Of the pictorial propaganda posters, two of three relate to the La Relève (The Relief), an early scheme instituted by the Vichy government whereby an exchange was set up with one French POW being returned for each volunteer worker who went to Germany to support the Nazi war effort. In one image returning French prisoners wave from the windows of a train carriage marked "il en rèste, relevez les (Some still remain, relieve them)", while the other exhorts: "Je travaille en Allemagne: pour la Relève; pour ma famille; pour la France. Fais comme moi! (I'm working in Germany: for the release of POWs; for my family; for France. Do like me!)". The remaining image has no caption, dated 1942 it shows a schematised map of the Nazi advance against Soviet Russia, the main force represented by a Swastika roundel being accompanied by those of foreign "legions" including Latvian, Croatian, Belgian, and Spanish.
Early on the Nazi régime was forced to declare the defacing of official posters to be an act of sabotage punishable by death, to remove and retain documented examples is an act of defiance of a higher order. These posters reputedly at one time formed part of an exhibition on the occupation in Lille, the needfully anonymous original "curator" was surely deserving of such a memorial.
The collection comprises:
1) La relève continue! (5768 x 404 mm) - indistinct "Lundi 28-9-40 (20h 40) Tourcoing".
2) Avis, Brussels 10-11-9141 (626 x 925 mm) - "Vendredi 21-11-41 (20h 30)... rue de la France, Roubaix".
3) Avis, Lille le 26 Septembre 1941 (663 x 1035 mm) - annotated on the left-hand side "Jeudi 6-11-41 (20h) - ?La Viquette - Luiselles"; right-hand side, "Dimanche 25-9-41 6h 40 - ? rue de Tourcoing".
4) Avis - Lille le 18 Septembre 1941 (456 x 631 mm) - annotated "Mercredi 12-11-41 20h 50 Maison Vanesse Le Bellem, Luiselles"
5) "Je travaille en Allemagne" O.R.A.F.F. (Office de Répartition de l'Affichage) VII - 230 (555 x 373 mm) - annotated "Mardi 29 -12-42 Tourcoing"
6) Avis, Lille 1 April 1942. (608 x 847 mm) - annotated left-hand side upper: "Dimanche 5-4-42 22h 30 - Rue ? et Rue de Paris Tourcoing" left-hand side lower "Lundi 6-4-42 21h 50 au coin de Boulevard de Verdun et rue de Lille, Luiselles 2eme fois"
7) Avis, Lille 27 Juni 1942 (573 x 778 mm) - annotated on the left-hand side "Mardi 20 Juin 1942 (20h 10) - Rue de Turenne, Tourcoing"; and on the right "Jeudi 23-7-42 (22h 55) Rue de? (près rue de Clinquet Tourcoing)".
8) Untitled Eastern Front Map 1942 (530 a 450 mm).
9) Avis, Lille 12 Janvier 1943 (590 x 810 mm) - annotated on the left-hand side; "Lundi 18-1-43 (19h 00)... Tourcoing" and "Lundi 25 - 1 43 (20h 45)... Tourcoing".
Various sizes between 518 x 448 mm and 680 x 1005 mm.
Three of the group are illustrated propaganda posters, the rest being largely typographical proclamations.
In view of the circumstances under which these pieces were gathered it is unsurprising that condition is somewhat compromised. Official proclamations, they were removed from the walls of the northern French conurbation of Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing under threat of death. Meticulously reassembled, most often requiring the collaging of more than one example to complete, with patching and in-fill often provided by hand. All but one have been carefully annotated in pencil as to the exact time and specific location where they were obtained, in the case of the five bilingual proclamations the French and German halves of four of them were taken on separate occasions from different sites. Overall distressed, but striking.
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