Payback

Carl Mydans, Unfaithful Woman, 1944

In July 1940 Marshal Pétain became the Chief of State of Vichy France following France’a military defeat by Germany in World War Two. His regime allied and collaborated with the Axis Powers. After the liberation of France in 1944 acts of violence towards the collaborators spread across the country. Before the Provisional Government of the French Republic established order and brought collaborators to courts, more than 4000 people were executed. Women, including prostitutes, who were suspected of having affairs with Germans, were publicly humiliated by having their heads shaved. Official courts in France sentenced 6,763 people to death, but only 791 executions were carried out. Marshal Pétain was sentenced to death in July 1945, but Charles de Gaulle commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

Carl Mydans, Collaborationist, France, 1944

Carl Mydans, Execution of Pietro Caruso, Fascist Police Chief of Rome, 1944

Carl Mydans, [Firing squad of Maquis, French Resistance fighters, gathered to execute six members of Nazi collaborationist Milice, Vichy police, near the spot where twenty-three patriots were executed by the Germans months before], 1944

Carl Mydans, [The second of six members of the Nazi collaborationist Milice, Vichy police, being tied to a post by a guard moments before being shot to death by a Maquis firing squad, in front of brick factory where twenty-three patriots were executed by the Germans in July], 1944

Carl Mydans, [Execution squad of Maquis, French Resistance fighters, after firing on six members of the Nazi collaborationist Milice, Vichy police, tied to posts as they slump over dead in front of brick factory where twenty-three patriots were executed by the Germans in July], 1944

The social disasters of World War Two were not ended by the liberation of the occupied countries. Soon after the liberation, violence towards the collaborators and the minorities of Axis Powers countries began. In an atmosphere of chaos, individual acts of revenge, mob violence, and simply criminal acts motivated by the possibility of rob or loot targets, occurred. But the injustice didn’t end even after order was slowly established in other countries. In Czechoslovakia, by agreement with so-called Benes Decrees, about three million ethnic Germans and Hungarians were deported for their presumed supported the Nazis. In Poland, property that belonged to Germans and German companies was confiscated, and, as in Czechoslovakia, German citizens were deported. Many Soviet prisoners of war were accused of collaboration with the Nazis, even if they had done no more than been captured by the Wehrmacht, and spent the war in a camp. Many of those were executed or imprisoned in Siberian gulags.

In the photographic documentation of public humiliating acts, you can clearly see the European postwar attitude. The unspeakable horrors people endured during the World War Two led them to enact the same humiliating crimes they suffered during the occupation. The selected pictures guide you through the acts of revenge in France and Italy, although similar crimes were executed in every European country. It is essential to see those images in order to understand the devastating war effect on the moral principles of society.

Peter Snadik, ICP-Bard MFA 2012

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