May 23rd:

A watermill in Bayeux.

Bayeux, France was a nice change of pace from London, England. The quiet and peaceful town was full of shops and restaurants, ready to please any local townspeople or tourists. Bayeux was one of the first major towns liberated by the Allied forces after the Normandy Invasion. The town is also home to the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in the 11th -century.

One of the better museums our study abroad group went to while staying in Bayeux was the Caen Memorial Museum. The Museum was built in 1989 and contains two main sections: one focusing on World War II and another on the Cold War. Our main objective was the WWII section, which started us off descending down a spiraling staircase. This indicated the falling infrastructure of France and other countries following WWI. Once we hit the lower level of the section, the magnifying glass was on top of France.

After Nazi Germany defeated France on 6 June 1944, France was split into a territory occupied by the Nazis and the newly formed Vichy France, under the control of Marshal Petain. The new puppet government went down a path of collaboration and offered little resistance. Petain believed the defeat was the result of plotting among “anti-French forces”, embodied by Jews, communists, and foreigners. He sought to bring the nation together; by excluding those he considered responsible for its defeat, and relying on traditional values: work, family, country, piety, and order. Europe falling under Nazi control was an apparent belief in Vichy France and fueled the collaboration between the two countries.

Revolution Nationale poster designed by R. Vachet in 1942.

In 1942, R. Vachet followed this trend when he designed a propaganda poster, Revolution Nationale. The poster depicted a house tumbling down under the Star of David on the left while the house on the right stands firm and peaceful with a resting French flag perched on top of it. This poster paints a clear picture on how the collaborative French state under Petain viewed the Jews as a faulty people. Alongside this poster were Petain memorabilia and other objects that made it obvious who and what Vichy France saw as enemies and its future corruption. With different plaques at other museums, like the Musee de l’Armee in Paris, stating that the French Resistance had a bigger role in liberating France than it actually did creates a disillusionment of the history these museums portray.

On to Poland now! Au revoir!

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