The maquisards

The maquisards

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Title: Maquisards near Venelles in Sainte-Victoire in 1944.

Author : PIROTTE Julia (1907 - 2000)

Creation date : 1944

Date shown: 1944

Dimensions: Height 16.6 - Width 23.1

Technique and other indications: Silver print

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Image Musée de l'Armée, © All rights reserved website

Picture reference: 08-533499 / 28194.2

Maquisards near Venelles in Sainte-Victoire in 1944.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Musée de l'Armée image, All rights reserved

Publication date: February 2014

Historical context

Images of the "maquis"

The term "maquis" refers both to the place where those who make it up operate, to the group formed by them as well as to the specific structure and functioning of this type of organization. The first maquis was created in December 1942 in the Vercors.

Settled in sparsely populated and difficult to access regions, such as mountain ranges and forests, more and more resistance fighters are fighting against the Nazis and the militias. They numbered a few hundred at the beginning of 1943, between 25,000 and 40,000 at the end of that same year, and nearly 100,000 in June 1944.

Gaullists, Communists or simple refractors to the Compulsory Labor Service (S.T.O.), these maquisards carry out various actions: guerrilla warfare, reception or exfiltration of troops, transmission of information.

By definition clandestine, the maquisards let themselves be photographed only by their comrades in the struggle or those in whom they have complete confidence. The photos also remain most often confidential and are made "public" rather after the end of the fighting. Like "Maquisards near Venelles in Sainte-Victoire in 1944", taken by Julia Pirotte and showing in complete privacy a scene of daily life in the maquis, such images have documentary, political and symbolic value. .

Image Analysis

A relaxing scene

Polish exiled to Paris and then to Marseille from 1940, Julia Pirotte is a press photographer for the weekly Sunday illustrated. She is known for her work documenting the Phocaean city under the Occupation, but also for her numerous photographs showing the activities of resistance fighters before and during the Liberation, in which she actively participates as a member of the FTP-MOI.

"Maquisards near Venelles in Sainte-Victoire in 1944" takes a moment of relaxation on the spot where nine resistance fighters are arguing or watching a game of cards. Absorbed by the game in this sunny hollow of greenery, they are both focused and relaxed. One of the guerrillas, standing, leans on a rifle, while some of his comrades put theirs on the ground behind them. Along with the rather unusual location, these are the only elements that explicitly remind us that these young people are also fighters in hiding.

Interpretation

War and life in the maquis

In 1943 and 1944, the number of maquis (and especially the number of their forces) increased in the south-east of France. As the landing in Provence approached on August 15, 1944, they played a significant role throughout the region, hampering the Germans and facilitating the operations of the Allied armies.

The photograph studied shows the resistance fighters from the Venelles forest, north of Aix-en-Provence, who make up the Sainte-Victoire maquis (like most maquis, it took the name of its location).

Privileged, the spectator is immersed in the heart of the life of resistance fighters, out of sight. Both a witness and already almost a comrade, he shares a moment with those who are presented here with a certain tenderness as courageous men, but who also know how to taste the simple joys of life.

If the photograph provides some documentary lessons (composition of the maquis, clue to the way of living there), it also has an aesthetic significance, which revisits in an original way a classic and widespread pictorial and photographic theme. Kind of Luncheon on the Grass in the maquis, it also shows several contrasting and symbolic elements specific to an exceptional situation: the violence of war and the risk of death (guns); the importance of the fight being waged here (sometimes serious faces); the relationship with nature (welcoming and protective for those who know how to slip into it, difficult to access for their enemies); and finally, the camaraderie, the youth, the joy (one or two smiles) of those who live before, perhaps, to kill and die.

  • Resistance
  • Occupation
  • War of 39-45
  • Liberation (war)
  • Provence

Bibliography

Jean-Pierre AZÉMA, New history of contemporary France, volume XIV “From Munich to the Liberation, 1938-1944”, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1979, new. ed. 2002.

Jean-Pierre AZÉMA and François BÉDARIDA, France in the dark years, 2 vol., Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "The Historical Universe", 1993.

Laurent DOUZOU, The French Resistance: a perilous story. Historiography essay, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, no 348, 2005.

Fabrice GRENARD, Black maquis and false maquis, Paris, Vendémiaire, coll. “Echo”, 2013.

François MARCOT (dir.), Historical Dictionary of the Resistance. Internal resistance and free France, Paris, Robert Laffont, coll. “Books”, 2006.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The maquisards"


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