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This essay focuses on the intersections of tourism, war, and erotics in occupied Paris during the Second World War. Too frequently, tourism is considered a only peacetime phenomenon. War, however, can produce its own tourism, as was true of German soldiers in occupied Paris during the Second World War. A specially designated unit of the Wehrmacht arranged tours for thousands of its young soldiers, many of whom had never before left their native towns and villages. Their time in Paris, a city with an already established imaginary of sensuality, opened previously undreamed of possibilities for sexual adventures both imagined and real.
Although erotic imaginaries can be difficult for the historian to trace, some idea of them is provided in the diaries of Ernst Jünger, a well-known German officer and writer, who while stationed in Paris toured the city and seems to have had at least a few sexual encounters with local women along the way. The many relationships between German soldiers and Frenchwomen produced tens of thousands of children born during the Occupation. Other soldiers consorted with streetwalkers or visited brothels, carefully regulated by the German authorities. Erotic behavior and imaginaries clearly reflected the power imbalances of the time.
With the 1944 liberation of France, Allied soldiers replaced the Germans but the power imbalances remained and the erotic tourism continued. The Liberation also brought accusations against “horizontal collaborators,” or Frenchwomen accused of having had sexual relations with the Germans. Many of those accused were paraded with their heads shaven or worse in French town and cities, reflecting a sense of emasculation in postwar France. In these many ways, erotics was linked to tourism and war. This essay surveys some of the many expressions of erotic feeling in occupied Paris. Addressing the complex intersections of tourism, war, and erotics, it seeks to encourage further research in their linkages.

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1Shortly before being executed for having collaborated with Nazi Germany during the Second World War German occupation in France, the French writer Robert Brasillach famously wrote that "Frenchmen given to reflection, during these years, will have more or less slept with Germany — not without quarrels—and the memory of it will remain sweet for them" (Brasillach in Amouroux, IX, 243). If the Germans represented an erotic vision for Brasillach, to many Germans, France, and especially Paris, was equally if not more so an erotic fantasy. The erotic activities and images took many forms, ranging from romantic liaisons between occupation soldiers and Frenchwomen, visits by German soldiers to nightclubs that offered sexualized images if not the actual experience in Montmartre and elsewhere, and prostitution, carefully monitored and regulated by the German authorities. All will be discussed in this essay with the goal of drawing a preliminary picture of the erotic imaginaries, together with their connections to tourism, as the Occupation soldiers read guidebooks directing them to the various nightclubs, located brothels approved by the military authorities, and wandered the streets of Paris encountering local women, both streetwalkers and others, in a wide variety of places and contexts. The sexualized tourism of the Occupation soldiers reflected asymmetries of power between occupiers and occupied and, at times, within the German military hierarchy itself. Tourism, erotics, and power were all interlinked.

  • 1 Unless otherwise noted, all translations in this text are my own.

2A study of tourism and erotic imaginaries in wartime Parismust be constructed on the intersectionality of tourism, war, and erotics. Erotics itself comprises a large realm of cultural activity, combining issues of imagery, gender, sexuality, and prostitution, among others. Those involved seldom keep written records for the later-day historian. This essay addresses the intersections of tourism, war, and erotics in a locale deeply set in much of the world’s tourism imaginary and at a time often viewed as one of the most dramatic in the history of the last century, namely occupied Paris in World War II. Too frequently, tourism is considered in a narrow sense of leisure travel in peacetime and, indeed, tourism has been defined as leisure travel for recreation (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2016).In its larger meaning, however, tourism is the expression of curiosity and may be expressed best as curiosity in motion. Based on the Latin notion of curiositas, tourism was deemed a reason to travel by the mid-14th century. Petrarch wrote, “I know that in men’s minds resides an innate longing to see new places”(Bishop, 1963, 92).France’s 1863 Littré and 1875 Larousse dictionaries defined tourists as those who travel "par curiosité et par désœuvrement" [by curiosity and idleness]1 (Cited in Boyer, 2000, 9). Recent scholars of tourism culture, including Rachid Amirou, Nelson N. H. Graburn, and Noël Salazar, have focused on "tourism imaginaries," in Amirou’s words, the "totality of images and evocations tied to tourism." The tourism imaginary, he wrote, is extensive, embracing conceptualizations of “explorations, travels, pilgrimages, vacations, leisure, adventure, relationships to space, nomadism, wandering, and discovery, among others” (Amirou, 2012, 25-26).As Salazar states: "It is hard to think of tourism without imaginaries or ‘fantasies’ — the original Greek word for imagination, often used nowadays to denote more playful imaginaries related to things that are improbable or impossible” (Salazar, 2012, 866).

3The curiosity and imaginary in tourism does not cease in wartime, even if conditions change and tourism in the conventional sense is restricted. Soldiers in foreign lands look around, see, and absorb surrounding sites that may often be alien to them. Too often, the history of tourism in the 20th century is depicted as stopping in 1939 only to resume again after 1945. In recent years, books edited by Chris Ryan in 2007 and Richard Butler and Wantanee Suntikul in 2013 have begun to address aspects of war tourism but neither collection addresses World War II France and most of the contributions focus on wartime heritage or memory tourism more than tourism during war itself (Ryan, 2007 and Butler and Suntikul, 2013). Marc Chesnel and Josette Mesplier-Pinet have addressed linkages between war and tourism in France but again the literature focuses more on memory tourism to wartime sites than tourism during a war (Chesnel, 2001 and Mesplier-Pinet, 2009). In Germany, Henning Meyer and Wiebke Kolbe have also written about sites of wartime memory or battlefield tourism in regard to France (Meyer 2006 and Kolbe 2009). Tourism, however, continued and in some ways intensified during the war, as I have argued elsewhere, embracing among other elements erotics and the imaginaries as can be seen in occupied France (Gordon 1996 and 1998).Young German soldiers touring in organized groups and on their own in occupied France became conditioned to see tourism as a leisure activity, contributing to the expectations and imaginaries that underlay the tourism take off in Germany and elsewhere after the war (Spode, 2003). Their actions and their imaginaries, revealing distinct imbalances in their power relationships with the local French population, nonetheless reflected perceptions of Paris and France formed by the tourist images of the late 19th and early 20th century that helped form their culture as they grew up. Some of these prewar imaginaries evoked the erotic. In 1859, for example, Paris was described as the modern Babylon, where vice won out over virtue and infamy and crime bred in a fertile ground (Ponson du Terr., Rocambole, 1859, II, p. 22; in Trésor, 930).

4In 1940, these images of Paris as a center of vice would blend into the experiences of the thousands of German occupation soldiers. As Maren Röger and Emmanuel Debruyne pointed out, citing historian Dagmar Herzog, “mobilization disrupted the traditional social structures that enclosed sexual life and confronted millions with the possibility of new sexual experiences” (Herzog, 2011, 5-6 cited in Röger and Debruyne, 2016, 689). These imaginaries, of course, include the entire range of erotic fantasies and images tied to tourism and were clearly evident among the German occupation personnel who toured France during the Second World War. Although many have studied the linkage of erotics and tourism, the relationships of both to war have received less attention. In an article on tourism and prostitution in the postwar Third World published in 1983, Nelson N. H. Graburn suggested the connection to war and military occupation in stating:

5Thus, young, uneducated, poor women of Third World countries are forced, trapped, or willingly enter into various forms of prostitution, particularly in those areas which cater to the apparently wealthy foreigners such as tourists and military “R & R” (rest and recreation) posts (Graburn, 1983, 438).

6Not surprisingly, tourism and its imaginaries also have an erotic or sexual component, which reflects power relationships whether in physically mobile or "armchair" and now internet tourism. People focus on their conceptions of the beautiful or the interesting, framed, and at times manipulated as Theodor Adorno maintains, in their cultural contexts of time and place. As Adorno suggested, these must be understood in terms of power relationships (Adorno, 2001, 189). Such power imbalances may be extreme in times of war, evidenced for example in the organized tours of occupied France provided to the victorious German soldiers by Nazi authorities after their victory of 1940. It was no accident that one of the victorious Hitler’s first actions after defeating France in June 1940 was to tour Paris, ostentatiously expressing the altered power relationships of the time.

Document N°1: German Soldiers and Frenchwomen at the Moulin Rouge.

Document N°1: German Soldiers and Frenchwomen at the Moulin Rouge.

Bundesarchiv Berlin

  • 2 On the other hand, Jean Texcier warned Parisians that the Germans were victors and not tourists. Se (...)

7The power imbalance between the German occupation forces and the local French population colored the extensive wartime tourism of Germans in France in general and was clear in the case of erotic tourism. When the Germans occupied Paris in June 1940, their military personnel were visible everywhere in Paris, described as “tourists in uniform” by eyewitness Pierre Audiat (Audiat, 1946, 29). Jean Berthelot, a French official, in late June reported German soldiers in Paris taking photographs of sites recommended by Baedeker (Berthelot, 1967, 69).Others since have also described the German soldiers behaving as "tourists"2 (Meinen, 2006, 11).To some extent, a similar case might be made regarding the Allied forces and erotic tourism in liberated France after the military campaign of 1944 as indicated in some of the literature to be addressed later in this essay. There are many variations in sexual tourism, including voluntary liaisons as well as prostitution, and in the latter case visitors seeking out local sex workers and sex workers migrating to other areas to ply their trade (Franklin, 2003, 263). Illustrating the complexities in tracking sexual activity and imaginaries, Karen H. Adler writes that some 5,000 Frenchwomen may have left their country – the documentation, she notes, is uncertain – to work as prostitutes for higher pay in Germany during the war (Adler, 1999, 51).

8A brief look at more recent sexual tourism in the Third World offers some insights into the power imbalances that also existed in occupied France. As the writers of the MIT team in Paris noted in 2002, the inequalities involved in sex tourism, that Graburn also referenced, mirrored those in wealth and power between rich and poor countries around the world. Colonization, they argued, had reinforced the pre-existing power imbalances. Such imbalances helped create similar instances of sexual tourism in the wealthier cities of the West as well. While sexual tourism in the Patpong Quarter in Bangkok or the coastal resort city of Pattaya in Thailand were the objects of considerable criticism, little was being said about Pigalle and the “petites femmes de Paris” [literally “the little women of Paris, more generally with an erotic connotation], often very young, from Eastern Europe, and more inclined to offer sexual favors to visiting tourists (Équipe MIT, 2005, 35-36). The power imbalances mentioned by the MIT team also existed in wartime as the German experience tourism in occupied Paris suggests. While many in occupied France suffered deprivations, one group stood out as privileged, namely the German occupation personnel for whom France became a prized billet, a place for rest and relaxation, and, for many, where they might exercise the tourism imaginaries that had developed over the preceding generations in Germany as elsewhere. This imbalance was not new. In their study of German policies toward prostitution in the lands they occupied during both world wars of the 20th century, Röger and Debruyne noted that France had already acquired a sexualized imagery by the time of the First World War. In both wars, they argued, German policies toward prostitution in Paris were based on their images of France “the homeland of sexual licentiousness and pornography” (Röger and Debruyne, 2016, 694). This imbalance affected gender relations far beyond those of prostitution. Philippe Burrin notes that while some prominent Frenchwomen, such as the film actress Arletty and the perfume magnate Coco Chanel had liaisons with Germans stationed in Paris, most of the Frenchwomen who had such affairs were “maids, laundresses, waitresses, nurses, or office workers…surrounded by soldiers and officers, some of whom allowed themselves to be tempted or seduced” (Burrin, 1996, 206).Frenchwomen who came into contact with German soldiers during and after 1940 were often in subordinate positions, working in cafés or hotels visited by Germans. In her journal documenting her life in occupied Paris, Simone de Beauvoir described a crowd of “tarty” girls gathered around Germans in the cafés (Beauvoir, 1970, 154, cited in Smith, 2010).The German valuation of the Mark at 20 francs, in contrast to 12 prior to the war, made French goods and French prostitutes relatively inexpensive for German personnel there, adding to the imbalance in the relationships of power in France (Buisson, 2008, 97).

  • 3 For Sieburg's continuing influence, see Julia S. Torrie, "'Our Rear Area Probably Lived Too Well’: (...)

9Tourism in occupied France offered the Germans not only a chance to escape the war on the eastern front after June 1941 but at the same time to imagine themselves as a powerful and cultivated people, well able to value the art and architecture of France, exemplified by Hitler’s tour of Paris in June 1940, without, however, losing sight of the uniqueness and preciousness, if not superiority, of their own homeland. Generally speaking, Germans admired French culture, yet criticized what they saw as French decadence. By the interwar years France had come to be seen as a land of romance and sex, as in the dancing girls of the Folies Bergère (MacCannell, 1976, 76).The popular German interwar image of France as a land of romance and sex, together with good food, as enjoyed at Maxim’s, was expressed in Friedrich Sieburg’s, book, Gott in Frankreich? published first in 1929, which depicted a timelessness of "eternal" France while critiquing its unchanging backwardness. Sieburg’s book had become common currency in Germany by 1940. Editions were republished in both German and French during the Occupation, although Sieburg was later described by a French observer as a "petty bourgeois" with only a "conventional" knowledge of France and a latecomer to Nazism (Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD, 1940).3

Document N°2: Danielle Darrieux in film “Fausse Maitresse”

Document N°2: Danielle Darrieux in film “Fausse Maitresse”

Deutsche Wegleiter (1-15 August 1942), p.75. (Collection: Bibliothèque Nationale de France)

10Germans arriving in France in 1940 were therefore primed to perceive the country as a backward but delightful counter-model to their own modernity. Their 1940 victory had confirmed German superiority in the minds of many, but France’s charms, the erotic included, remained, and tourism was a key to enjoying them (Torrie, 2011, 316). As Robert Gildea writes, "Many [German soldiers] came to France as sexual and gastronomic tourists as much as soldiers.” Especially after the opening of the Russian front, "France seemed like a dream," and many wished to "Leben wie Gott in Frankreich" [live like God in France] (Gildea, 2004, 48). Historian Henri Amouroux noted that Germans enjoyed Paris during

“the first sixteen months of the Occupation, before the entrance of the United States into the war, well before Stalingrad, when it was not foolish to believe that the German army would be able to keep all of Europe in obedience indefinitely” (Amouroux, III, 1978, 14).

11Erotic imaginaries of German soldiers in occupied France are difficult to trace, however, as they refer to private thoughts often not recorded and available to the historian. However, the Second World War account of Ernst Jünger offers some clues. Stationed in Paris during the Occupation, Jünger kept a journal, later published, that mentions the many ways in which German military personnel might meet local French women. A German officer wounded and decorated during World War I, he had become famous because of his memoir, In Stahlgewittern [Storm of Steel], first published in 1920. As a captain in the German army during the Second World War, he was stationed in Paris where he socialized with many of France’s prominent literary and artistic figures. Shortly after arriving in Paris after the German victory in 1940, he began exploring the city’s tourist sites that included the Hôtel de Ville, the Nôtre-Dame cathedral, the quays along the Seine, the route from the Boulevard des Capuchines to the Opéra, the Pont Neuf, the Pont des Arts, and Sacré Cœur, in addition to his discovery of the Brasserie La Lorraine on the Place des Ternes (Mitchell, 2011, 20).

12On 1 May 1941, three weeks after having been assigned to Paris, Jünger recorded meeting Renée, whom he described as a shop girl in a department store. He wrote: "Paris offers meetings like that with one barely having to seek them; one realizes that the city was founded on the altar of Venus." Jünger took her to dinner and then to the movies. "There I touched her breast," he wrote. "A burning glacier, a hillside in spring which hides in their thousands the seeds of life, perhaps also white anemones." Then, in front of the Opéra, they went their separate ways, "no doubt never to see each other again” (Jünger, 2008, II, 213-214 cited in Riding, 2010, 93). Jünger’s diary is discreet regarding what may have happened next and it also tells of other encounters with women in Paris. As Allan Mitchell mentions in his book devoted to Jünger’s Paris years: “It is certain only that Jünger was visibly warming to the task of occupation” (Mitchell, 2011, 21 and 22-24). Jünger’s subsequent liaisons included affairs with a dressmaker, a woman doctor, and eventually with Florence Gould, the daughter-in-law of the American railway magnate Jay Gould, and then living in occupied Paris where her home became a gathering place for German and pro-German artists and literati (Burrin, 1996, 205).

13August von Kageneck, a German soldier aged eighteen, arrived in Brie, France shortly after the June invasion, and had the opportunity to visit several sites in the country. He later recalled that most of the German soldiers were the sons of farmers and had never left their villages prior to the war. They had learned about France in school but had never visited there. One infantryman, from Hamburg, who entered Paris by bicycle, wrote that he had never seen so beautiful a city. To many, the Métro was a new and wonderful discovery as few German cities possessed underground railways. Others climbed the Eiffel Tower and carved the names of their wives into its beams, perhaps another variation of erotics linked to tourism. The Hamburg soldier wrote "we were shown a series of things that we knew only in our wildest imaginations." He also found his way to a brothel and noted "Ah, soldiers. They always find a brothel more readily than a church” (Kageneck, 2012, 70-71).

  • 4 For the estimate of 200,000 children with German fathers born to French women, see Maurin Picard, “ (...)

14Focused on sexual activity reflecting imbalances of power or “militourism,” a term used more recently in reference to this phenomenon in Polynesia (Teaiwa, 2016, 850-851), much of the tourism of German soldiers and their Allied successors (Roberts, 2013) in wartime France centered on sex and romance. The intersection of tourism and erotics in wartime Paris embraced many facets ranging from the images of the city as a sensual capital of physical pleasure that included gastronomy and sex, the many sexual liaisons between Germans and Frenchwomen, invariably unequal in their status, that produced tens of thousands of offspring with estimates ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 during the war, and the extensive regulation of prostitution by the Germans.4 German policy, arguably to demonstrate to themselves their superior civilization and morality, as well as to more effectively control occupied France, was to recreate a sense of “normalcy” in occupied France. Strict orders within weeks of their arrival in Paris warned all military personnel to be on their best behavior (Boegner, 1990, 84).An article in a June 1941 edition of the Deutsche Wegleiter, a bi-weekly tourism guide to occupied France for German personnel, quoted the "well-known words of Hitler: ‘I do not want Paris to become an Etappenstadt’" [a tawdry rear area city of military malingerers] and added that this goal had been achieved (Der Platzkommandant von Paris, 1941, 7).

  • 5 Montmartre was already among the ‘must-see’ destinations in Paris by the turn of the century, its d (...)

15Behavior, however, was different. Little more than a month after the Wehrmacht entered Paris, its commander issued a stern warning about appropriate behavior. Hitler’s order notwithstanding, German military officials were complaining of the sexual tourism by their men, specifically in the dance halls of Montmartre. In Paris, of all places, where the occupation forces’ bearing should be exemplary, an officer reported: “the nastiest dance clubs with French whores of the worst sort in Montmartre and elsewhere are over-filled with German soldiers, whose behaviour [sic] is often fully consistent with the environment” (Leutnant Müller, 1940).Such behavior was said to discredit national honor, and to contradict the Führer’s own wish that Paris not become an Etappenstadt. In the words of the High Command complaint about German soldiers and their officers visiting the “worst dance halls” in Montmartre:5

“This behavior of German soldiers is fully counter to all expressions of national dignity. It contradicts as well the order given by the Führer himself that Paris should not become an Etappenstadt [underlining in original] (Leutnant Müller, 1940).

  • 6 This article reviews Mary Louise Roberts, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War (...)

16The links between tourism and erotics clearly reflected the asymmetry in the power relations between hosts and guests, to borrow Valene Smith’s term (Smith, 1989, ix). The importance of these links, seen during the German occupation in France from 1940 to 1944, was highlighted by Insa Meinen in her book, Wehrmacht et prostitution sous l’Occupation, which emphasized the inequalities in the status of the French prostitutes and their German clients. When the German military conducted roundups in the streets in their attempts to control prostitution, the French prostitutes were invariably punished, but their German male clientele never were (Meinen, 2006, 47 and 50). This asymmetrical linkage of power, tourism, and erotics was also evident in the subsequent behavior of the Allied soldiers after the August 1944 Liberation. In a recent study, Mary Louise Roberts argued that the liberation of France was “sold” to American soldiers as an erotic adventure with Frenchwomen who awaited them eagerly, "stirring up a ‘tsunami of male lust’ that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity"6(Schuessler, 2013).

Document N°3: Cabaret Advertisements.

Document N°3: Cabaret Advertisements.

Deutsche Wegleiter, (1 August 1942) p.86. (Collection: Bibliothèque nationale Française)

17Historian Michèle Cointet points out that a combination of Nazi legislation against nightclubs in Berlin as decadent and Vichy’s moralistic anti-alcohol and anti-homosexual policies elsewhere in France highlighted the Parisian clubs as all the more attractive to German personnel and their French allies. L’Étincelle, a club in Montmartre, advertised the "prettiest models" in its show and a transvestite performed in a show at the Folies Bergère in 1943.

Document N°4: Cabaret Advertisement Tabarin.

Document N°4: Cabaret Advertisement Tabarin.

Deutsche Wegleiter, (1-15March 1941). (Collection: Bibliothèque nationale Française)

18The Lido and Bal Tabarin, among others, offered sexy shows and luxurious food. Following years of economic depression and mobilization for war, it was hard for the nightclub owners in Paris to turn away the new German visitors who constituted a suddenly prosperous clientele (Cointet, 2012, 58).

19For many Germans the attractions of Paris offered more than erotic tourism imageries. As Alan Riding points out, the sight of half-naked women dancing in the reopened nightclubs during the summer of 1940 and thereafter for many soldiers "was the best reason for going out at night." The German-language Pariser Zeitung, which began publishing in January 1941, offered tips on where to go, suggesting that the Tabarin offered the most erotic show (Riding, 2010, 92).For those who could afford pricier entertainment than establishments listed in the Pariser Zeitung and the Deutsche Wegleiter there was Pariser Nächte [Paris Nights], a guide for officers (Buisson, 2008, 264-265).

20In addition to the unequal power relationships between Germans and French, erotic tourism also reflected imbalances within the German occupation forces, specifically between officers and ordinary soldiers, and also inequalities among the local French population, namely between the French pro-German collaborators who were favored and the rest of the population. The city’s best known brothels were Le One Two Two, at 122 rue de Provence on the Right Bank, and Sphinx on the Left Bank, both beyond the price range of the ordinary soldiers. Officers used separate brothels in contrast to the lower ranking German soldiers (Adler, 1999, 51).These brothels attracted a mixed crowd of German officers, French collaborators, clandestine resistance agents, black market operators, and artists of all kinds, including women. Ordinary German soldiers, Riding notes, “could choose among a score of less upmarket brothels where Wehrmacht doctors monitored the health of the prostitutes” (Riding, 2010, 92-93).

21Continuing reminders about discipline throughout the occupation years suggest that both officers and ordinary soldiers persisted in acting inappropriately in the capital (Kommandant von Gross-Paris, 1941; Kommandant von Gross-Paris, 1942; Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich; Mitchell, 2010, 14-15).Sex tourism thus became an issue early in the Occupation and the German authorities focused on preventing the spread of disease but also on security issues, and the fears of miscegenation that might run counter to Nazi racial ideology (Röger and Debruyne, 2016, 700).

22Within a month of their arrival in Paris, German officials determined that local French brothels lacked proper hygiene and were insufficiently supervised by the governing authorities. Selected brothels in larger cities and under medical supervision were made available to German military personnel with access to them forbidden to French civilians, other than the prostitutes themselves. Germans were forbidden to frequent brothels apart from than those especially designated for them. The prostitutes were to be checked by local doctors under the supervision of German hygiene officials and signs were to be posted outside brothels indicating that they were either restricted to German soldiers or forbidden to them. Jewish and other "alien race" prostitutes were not allowed to serve German personnel. Prostitutes were to be examined twice weekly by medical personnel and those deemed healthy were issued numbered inspection cards which they were to present to their clients. Collaboration with mayors and other French civilian personnel was deemed essential in this matter (Schreiber, 1940 and Der General quartier meister Müller, 1940).

23As Röger and Debruyne point out, such French-German collaboration was rendered easier because of sentiments that were

“also rooted in a mutually shared and inherently gendered culture. These gendered ideologies and biases were not only imposed by the German occupying authorities but also by the local functional elites of civil servants, policemen and physicians who in the First World War, and with varying intensity in the Second World War, cooperated actively, but not without ambivalence, in the area of prostitution control” (Röger and Debruyne, 2016, 704).

24General Walther von Brauchitsch, in charge of the German military in France during the summer of 1940, ordered that the troops, especially those who were married, be taught “self-discipline” (Brauchitsch, 1940).Control of nightclubs also became politicized during the Occupation. Not surprisingly, resentments grew among the local population. In one incident, in which German officers were frolicking with the women of a brothel, the officers decided to start up a nearby pickup truck. In the truck, however, was a concealed delayed action bomb. It exploded killing three of the women and two of the officers. "Heldentod" [hero’s death], recounted sarcastically a friend of the diarist and anti-German Jean Guéhenno (Guéhenno, 1947, 251).German soldiers also frequented gay bars. Alan Riding writes that "numerous gay bars in occupied Paris were popular with German soldiers," despite official prohibition of homosexuality. Robert Hugues-Lambert, an actor, was arrested in Le Sans-Soucis, a gay bar, and ultimately died in a German concentration camp(Riding, 2010, 202).

25In a larger sense, erotics assumed many forms in occupied France. Addressing World War II France, in his book 1940-1945 Années érotiques, Patrick Buisson highlights a sense of emasculation felt among the French following their defeat in 1940. France, to some, had become soft and effeminate in contrast to the masculine and more robust societies represented by Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. With the birthrate stalled in the late Third Republic, people from a variety of political backgrounds had criticized what they saw as a loss of virility in France (Buisson, 2008, 45-46).On 20 June 1940, shortly after being named Premier, Marshal Pétain blamed the French defeat on "too few children" and began to promote a higher birthrate among the French as part of what would become Vichy’s National Revolution. The arrival of the German soldiers, who frequently were seen shirtless, and the Nazi cult of the masculine body drew similar comments from a variety of people in France (Buisson, 2008, 83-84).

  • 7 A similar motif concerning an affair between a German officer and a French woman appears in Irène N (...)

26Among the many such observations cited by Buisson, Jean-Paul Sartre wondered if Frenchwomen would now prefer the young German soldiers who had shown "more courage and less cowardice" than presumably the French male soldiers (Buisson, 2008, 88). Simone Kaminker, later known as Simone Signoret, made a similar observation in the small Breton town of Saint-Gildas where she and her mother had taken refuge. The German soldiers, she wrote, were “superb, grand, bronzed, Wagnerian” (Signoret, 1976, cited in Buisson, 2008, 90).In her diary, Frédérique Moret recorded that among the first to greet the newly arriving German soldiers in the town of Mazières (Maine-et-Loire) were the young women. A week after their arrival, she added: "I no longer can go out on the sidewalk without seeing the Germans pass. They drive as if at home, as tourists. All the girls run after them"7 (Moret, 1972, 58, quoted in Buissson, 2008, 45-46).

27The departure of the Germans in August 1944 also had its erotic moments. Visiting the Sacré Cœur Cathedral terrace for a final nostalgic look at occupied Paris, Jünger wrote on 8 August that “cities are women, tender only to the victor” (Jünger, II, 1965, 337). With the departure of the Germans following the Liberation some two weeks later, the sense of emasculation in France played a role in the treatment of women accused of having had sexual relations with them. Fabrice Virgili has shown that some 20,000 women, many falsely accused, had their hair shorn or worse by crowds, sometimes protected by the authorities in newly liberated France (Virgili, 2004). Writing about gender and prostitution during the Occupation, Adler addressed the attacks on women accused of having had sexual relations with Germans in noting that

“prostitution became a metaphor for this uncertain status of national identity. Central to the depiction of the prostitute and to the waves of violence against the collaboratrices was an idea of the type of woman who could prostitute herself and, by implication, her country, to a German” (Adler, 1999, 48).

28Many of the erotic touristic imaginaries of the German soldiers and others in France during the Occupation years were shared by their Allied successors following the 1944 Liberation. The arrival of large numbers of American soldiers during the second half of 1944 produced sexual tensions reminiscent of the recently ended German occupation. The mayor of Le Havre, for example, complained of "scenes contrary to decency" in the streets of his city and asked the American authorities to establish brothels outside town. There was also a racial dimension as African American soldiers received very different treatment than did whites from the American military authorities. They seem also to have been subjected to more severe complaints by the French as well (Schuessler, 2013).Reviewing Ian Buruma’s book on the year 1945, Charles Simic noted that five times more women were hospitalized in Paris for sexually transmitted, or venereal, diseases in 1945 than in 1939. “Allied soldiers,” he wrote, “were greeted by young girls and some older women the way the Beatles, as Buruma says, were treated twenty years later when they first became popular” (Simic, 2013).

  • 8 Peter Tame notes that the "other side" of this picture partly appears in Roger Nimier’s Le Hussard (...)

29Brasillach’s comment about Frenchmen having more or less slept with Germany during the Occupation may have helped send him to the firing squad. However, it also expressed a sense of emasculation tied to the loss of power with regard to the Germans. As with the women who had affairs with German soldiers, Brasillach, according to Alice Kaplan, who wrote about his trial and execution, was cast as a "horizontal" collaborator (Kaplan, 2000, p. 162 and Witt, 2001, 154). The manifold and sexualized reciprocal imagery and behavior of both Germans and French both in wartime during the 1940s and during the construction of Europe in the years since may serve as a reminder of the intersections among war, tourism, and erotics in general. The phenomena of the shorn women as well as the crimes of rape, both during and after the Occupation, transcend but are linked to the erotic tourist imaginaries relating to World War II France, connections that call for further research (Branche and Virgili, 2013, 26-29). Lastly, it has been pointed out that some young post-Liberation French soldiers accompanied the invading forces of the Allies, pushing deep into Germany to conquer the Wehrmacht, but were only really interested in German women, another area that calls for more study.8Future research will most likely help place the French experiences during the Second World War into a larger context of erotics and tourism both in time and place, in addition to linking them with behavior during wartime, substantially enriching our knowledge and understanding of all three.

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1 Unless otherwise noted, all translations in this text are my own.

2 On the other hand, Jean Texcier warned Parisians that the Germans were victors and not tourists. See Colin W. Nettelbeck, War and Identity (London: Methuen Educational, 1987), p. 55. My thanks to Peter Tame for this reference.

3 For Sieburg's continuing influence, see Julia S. Torrie, "'Our Rear Area Probably Lived Too Well’: Tourism and the German Occupation of France, 1940–1944," Journal of Tourism History, 3:3 (December 2011), p. 316.

4 For the estimate of 200,000 children with German fathers born to French women, see Maurin Picard, “200 000 enfants de soldats allemands seraient nés en France,” Le Figaro, 30 November 2009, < For the lower estimate of some 50,000 to 70,000, see Philippe Burrin, France under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise, trans. by Janet Lloyd (New York: The New Press, 1996), p. 207.

5 Montmartre was already among the ‘must-see’ destinations in Paris by the turn of the century, its dens of iniquity reinforcing Germans’ ideas about French decadence [M.E. Nolan, The Inverted Mirror: Mythologizing the Enemy in France and Germany 1898-1914 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2004), 56] from Torrie, p. 318. See also Für den Chef des Mil.-Verw.-Bezirks Paris, Der Chef des Kommandosstabes, note to Verwaltungsstab, Chambre des Députés, Paris, 29 September 1940; Archives nationales, Paris, AJ/40/890 [Folder 4], #128.

6 This article reviews Mary Louise Roberts, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013). Roberts was not the first to treat this question, see also J. Robert Lilly, Taken by Force: Rape and American GIs in Europe during World War Two (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

7 A similar motif concerning an affair between a German officer and a French woman appears in Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française, now made into a film. My thanks to Peter Tame for this reference.

8 Peter Tame notes that the "other side" of this picture partly appears in Roger Nimier’s Le Hussard bleu, "in which some very cynical young French soldiers accompany the invading forces of the Allies, pushing deep into Germany to conquer the Wehrmacht, but are only really interested in German women." Tame, note to author, 16 June 2015.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Document N°1: German Soldiers and Frenchwomen at the Moulin Rouge.
Crédits Bundesarchiv Berlin
Fichier image/png, 217k
Titre Document N°2: Danielle Darrieux in film “Fausse Maitresse”
Crédits Deutsche Wegleiter (1-15 August 1942), p.75. (Collection: Bibliothèque Nationale de France)
Fichier image/png, 201k
Titre Document N°3: Cabaret Advertisements.
Crédits Deutsche Wegleiter, (1 August 1942) p.86. (Collection: Bibliothèque nationale Française)
Fichier image/png, 172k
Titre Document N°4: Cabaret Advertisement Tabarin.
Crédits Deutsche Wegleiter, (1-15March 1941). (Collection: Bibliothèque nationale Française)
Fichier image/jpeg, 194k
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Bertram M. Gordon, « Tourism and Erotic Imaginaries in Wartime Paris: French and Germans during the Occupation, 1940-1944 », Via [En ligne], 11-12 | 2017, mis en ligne le 14 mai 2018, consulté le 17 janvier 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/viatourism.1710

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Bertram M. Gordon

Bertram M. Gordon is Professor of European History at Mills College in Oakland, California. He is General Secretary of the International Commission for the History of Travel and Tourism, Journal of Tourism History editorial board member, co-editor of the H-Travel internet discussion network, and teaches a course, "Men, Women, and Travel: Tourism in Europe Since the Renaissance." His books include Collaborationism in France during the Second World War (1980) and The Historical Dictionary of World War II France: The Occupation, Vichy and the Resistance, 1938-1946 (1998). He also co-edited "Food and France: What Food Studies Can Teach Us about History," a special issue of French Historical Studies (April 2015), and has written on the history of chocolate in France, England, and California. His next book, War Tourism: Second World War France from Defeat and Occupation to the Creation of Heritage, will be published by Cornell University Press in September 2018.

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