A recent history, titled 1940-1945 Erotic Years: Vichy or the Misfortunes of Virtue by Patrick Buisson, argues that France’s surrender to Nazi Germany was more complete than is generally recognized.
A new book which suggests that the German occupation of France encouraged the sexual liberation of women has shocked a country still struggling to come to terms with its troubled history of collaboration with the Nazis. …
Buisson dedicates a chapter in his book to cinemas, which he describes as hotbeds of erotic activity, particularly when it was cold outside. â€œAt a few francs they were cheaper than a hotel room,â€ he writes, â€œand, offering the double cover of darkness and anonymity, propitious for all sorts of outpourings.â€
The French even had sex in the catacombs, the underground ossuary and warren of subterranean tunnels in Paris: war, Buisson argues, acted as an aphrodisiac, stimulating â€œthe survival instinctâ€. He said in an interview: â€œPeople needed to prove that they were alive. They did so by making love.â€
It has been claimed that prostitutes staged the first rebellion against the Nazis by refusing to service the invaders but Buisson called this a myth. The Germans, he claimed, were welcomed into the cityâ€™s best brothels, a third of which were reserved for officers. Another 100,000 women in Paris became â€œoccasional prostitutesâ€, he said.
Elsewhere, members of the artistic elite drowned their sorrows in debauchery. Simone de Beauvoir, the writer, and Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher, were devotees of allnight parties fuelled by alcohol and lust.
â€œIt was only in the course of those nights that I discovered the true meaning of the word party,â€ was how de Beauvoir put it. Sartre was no less enthusiastic: â€œNever were we as free as under the German occupation.â€
De Beauvoir wrote about the â€œquite spontaneous friendlinessâ€ of the conquerors: she was as fascinated as any by the German â€œcult of the bodyâ€ and their penchant for exercising in nothing but gym shorts.
â€œIn the summer of 1940,â€ wrote Buisson, â€œFrance was transformed into one big naturist camp. The Germans seemed to have gathered on French territory only to celebrate an impressive festival of gymnastics.â€ The author said he did not want to make light of a tragic part of French history, but there was a need to correct the â€œmythicalâ€ image of the occupation. â€œIn this horrible period, life continued,â€ he said.
â€œIt is disturbing to know that while the Jews were being deported, the French were making love. But that is the truth.â€