Picturing Displaced Persons (DPs), Exhibiting French Prestige? Photographs of humanitarian aid for European DPs in French-occupied Germany, c. 1945-1952

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Abstract

This article explores how photography documenting humanitarian aid for European DPs in French-occupied Germany was mobilised to enhance France’s image in Allied occupied Germany, against the backdrop of increasing anxieties about its international standing. It draws on a selection of images found in the archives of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration [UNRRA] and the French occupation zone at La Courneuve, which sat between the ‘official’ and the ‘private’. In doing so, this article calls for a recognition of the role of amateur and relief workers photographers in sustaining post-war visual discourses of internationalism and national-self fashioning. Although largely overlooked today, these images play a role in wider debates about what it meant to be ‘French’ in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation. In particular, relief workers and amateur photographers built on and reproduced aspects of the widely disseminated narrative about the universalism of resistance that was being circulated in metropolitan France and Britain at the same time to disrupt conventional images of the French zone as a refuge for French wartime collaborators. Ultimately, this article argues that this hitherto neglected aspect of humanitarian imagery offers fresh insights into the contribution of relief workers and amateur photographers to French post-war diplomatic and occupation strategies.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of War and Culture Studies
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2022