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Picasso’s Wartime Man Cave

One of the biggest disappointments of our recent trip to Paris was the inability to visit Picasso’s apartment studio where he lived and worked for almost twenty years including the entire four years of the German occupation. There are numerous photos of Picasso in the apartment and I was hoping to be able to present them to you along with contemporary images. Oh well—hopefully the building owners and the French government can work something out to allow visitors to the attic apartment (more on this later).


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Despite an exodus of artists and gallery owners prior to the Germans entering Paris on 14 June 1940 and numerous offers to sponsor him in America, Pablo Picasso decided to remain in Paris. To this day, the real reason for why he stayed is unknown and can only be speculated.

There were three primary reasons why Picasso might have considered leaving France and conversely, reasons to be worried about his safety while remaining in Paris. First, the Nazis had declared his work to be “degenerate” art and eventually destroyed many of his paintings. Second, Picasso supported the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War and as such, was an opponent of fascism and Hitler. Third, Picasso was suspected of being a Communist or at least having Communist sympathies. The one thing he did have in his favor was an international reputation that may have protected him. Learn more here.

Picasso was kept under constant surveillance during the occupation. German officers would visit him in his attic apartment−studio, and “hideout” at 7, rue des Grands Augustins (aka Grenier des Grands Augustins) in the Left Bank’s sixth district. Sometimes the Gestapo visits were to interrogate him. Other visits were by German officers wanting to meet and talk with the world-famous painter.

7, rue des Grands Augustins. Photo by Mbzt (6 January 2012). PD-Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.
7, rue des Grands Augustins. Photo by Mbzt (6 January 2012). PD-Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s Meet Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso 1962. Photo by Argentina (January 1962). PD-Expired. Wikimedia Commons.
Pablo Picasso 1962. Photo by Argentina (January 1962). PD-Expired. Wikimedia Commons.

By the time of the German invasion of France, Pablo Picasso (1881−1973) was 59 years old, living in Paris, and already an internationally successful artist with a sizeable fortune. He was a Spanish citizen but living in exile due to his stand against fascism and the Franco regime (he would later apply, unsuccessfully, for French citizenship).

Picasso is known for his distinctive styles of painting. We are familiar with his artistic periods known as “Blue” (1901−1904), “Rose” (1904−1906), “African” (1907−1909), “Cubism” (1909−1912) as well as adventures with neoclassicism and surrealism. However, during the Occupation years, his work is relatively unknown. Most of it was kept by the family. The pieces known to the public are still life’s and portraits. For the most part, the art is dark and foreboding (as I’m sure he considered the times to be). As such, Picasso’s work from these four years doesn’t have the same appeal as earlier (or later) works.

Picasso visited Paris for the first time in 1900 at the age of nineteen. He met one of his best friends, Max Jacob, who taught Picasso to speak French (Jacob, a poet and journalist—and a Jew—would die at the Drancy detention center shortly before his scheduled deportation to Auschwitz). Between 1901 and 1904, Picasso traveled frequently between Paris and Spain. He settled permanently in Paris by 1904 and the next year, Picasso was “discovered” by Gertrude Stein and his work was collected by Gertrude and her two brothers, Leo and Michael.

Gertrude Stein sitting on a sofa in her Paris studio. Notice her portrait painted by Picasso in the upper right corner. Photo by World Wide Photos (May 1930). PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.
Gertrude Stein sitting on a sofa in her Paris studio. Notice her portrait painted by Picasso in the upper right corner. Photo by World Wide Photos (May 1930). PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly after his marriage to Olga Khokhlova in 1918, Picasso began an exclusive business relationship with the French-Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg (Rosenberg paid for Pablo and Olga’s apartment at 25, rue La Boétie—next door to his art gallery). It developed into a very deep bond between the two men and would last until Rosenberg fled Paris for the United States in the face of the pending Nazi invasion.

By 1927, Picasso had met and begun an affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter. This long-standing affair resulted in a daughter named Maya and a separation from his wife. Picasso and Olga never divorced and were legally married until Olga’s death in 1955. During the Occupation, Picasso’s mistress was his famous model, Dora Maar. After the liberation of Paris and up to his second marriage in 1961, Picasso would have numerous affairs with women many years younger than him. Four years after Picasso died, Marie-Thérèsa hanged herself having never accomplished her goal of marrying Picasso.

Guernica and the Spanish Civil War

Pablo Picasso was never considered a political artist. However, one of his greatest paintings dealt with the Spanish Civil War and the fight between the Republicans (supported by the Soviet Union) and General Francisco Franco (supported by Hitler and Mussolini).

Completed in 1937 (in the attic studio at Grenier des Grands Augustins), the painting called GUERNICA depicted Picasso’s interpretation of the bombing by the Nazis and Italians of a small Spanish town called Guernica. It is considered one of Picasso’s finest paintings. The painting resided at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) until 1981 when it was delivered back to Spain after Franco’s death as per Picasso’s request. Learn more here.

Tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica, by Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach, at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Photo by ceridwen (31 October 2009). PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica, by Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach, at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Photo by ceridwen (31 October 2009). PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Watch the BBC video on GUERNICA.

Picasso had a photo of the painting pinned to one of his walls in the attic studio. One day a Gestapo officer came to interrogate Picasso, saw the photo, and asked Picasso if he had done that. Picasso replied, “No, you did.”

Perhaps Picasso decided to remain in Paris as an act of defiance against the Germans? I guess it might be similar to how some Parisians decided an act of non-violent resistance was to turn their heads away from the Germans when passing on the street.

War and Politics

The painter deliberately kept a very low profile during the Occupation years. He knew his work was deemed by the Nazis to be “degenerate” and decided not to exhibit or offer any works for sale. Most of his social activities took place a short distance down the street at Le Catalan bistro (25, rue des Grands Augustins: no longer in existence). He rarely ventured beyond his little world.

There is some speculation that Picasso worked with the French Resistance (after the Liberation, he was hailed as a “Resistance artist”) but nothing exists to substantiate any type of cooperation. In fact, after the war, one of his friends and a Resistance member, Christian Zervos, stated that Picasso never got involved with the Resistance. Zervos stated, “Picasso simply kept his dignity during the Occupation the way millions of people did here.” However, Picasso had to have had some contact with the Resistance since he continued to sculpt in bronze. Recall my blog on the destruction of bronze statues. The Resistance may have supplied Picasso with the bronze.

Picasso was a pacifist. His life centered around his work, his friends, and his mistresses. While it would be naïve to think Picasso was apolitical, politics never really outwardly influenced him or his work—the notable exceptions being Guernica (1937), The Charnel House (1945), and a painting criticizing America’s involvement in Vietnam.

Soon after France was liberated (1944), Picasso joined the French Communist Party and remained a party member until his death. However, after the Soviets heavily criticized his 1953 portrait of Stalin, Picasso’s interest and involvement in the party waned. Even Picasso admitted, “… if I were a shoemaker, Royalist or Communist or anything else, I would not necessarily hammer my shoes in a special way to show my politics.”

Picasso’s Apartment-Studio Today

Commemorative plaque outside former Hôtel de Savoie. Photo by Sandy Ross (September 2017).
Commemorative plaque outside former Hôtel de Savoie. Photo by Sandy Ross (September 2017).

For decades, a discrete plaque has commemorated the site of Picasso’s former apartment and studio at the former 17th-century Hôtel de Savoie. The building has been owned by the Chambre des Huissiers de Justice (Chamber of Legal Bailiffs) since 1925. It leased the space to a private cultural organization, the Comité national pour l’éducation artistique (CNEA) for the purpose of holding exhibitions and workshops. Unfortunately, the rent-free lease expired in 2013 and the owner evicted the CNEA. The plan was to renovate and turn the building into a luxury hotel.

After the CNEA petitioned the city and French government, the top two floors were designated a historical monument in May 2014 (i.e., a national landmark). The building owner would now be subjected to a costly and time-consuming redevelopment. Picasso’s daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, became involved in the negotiations with the owner and by 2015, an agreement had been reached.

Courtyard of the former Hôtel de Savoie. Photo by Sandy Ross (September 2017).
Courtyard of the former Hôtel de Savoie. Photo by Sandy Ross (September 2017).

Maya’s foundation would manage the ground floor as space dedicated to “the life and work of the artist, and for research projects.” The owner would establish “a versatile venue hotel that relates to the work of Pablo Picasso.” So, in the end, it “will house a commercial hotel, artist residencies, cultural hub, and historic monument.”

I guess allowing the general public in to see the attic and studio got lost in the shuffle. Too bad.

Recommended Reading

Irvine, Zoe (Laura). Painting the War: Picasso’s Genre Works During the German Occupation of Paris. History of Art Senior Thesis (2005).

Riding, Alan. And the Show Went On. New York: Vintage Books, 2011.

Nicholas, Lynn H. The Rape of Europa. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

Goggin, Mary Margaret. Picasso and His Art During the German Occupation 1939−1944. Stanford University PhD. 1985, University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Paris Revolutionnaire:  This is an exhaustive list of sites in and around Paris that were significant to Picasso’s career and personal life. It is in French so make sure you have your French-English dictionary handy. Click here.

What’s New With Sandy and Stew?

The next two blogs (25 November and 9 December) are a result of our visit several weeks ago to Nuremburg, Germany. We visited the Zeppelin Field where the major Nazi rallies were conducted between 1927 and 1939. Then we were taken to the courtroom where the post-war Nuremburg trials were conducted. It’s hit or miss as to whether Room 600 will be open to visitors (it is still used as a working court room). We were lucky.

What I realized after our visit that day was that these two particular sites represented the bookends to National Socialism (i.e., the Nazi party): the beginning and the end. I hope you enjoy reading the next two blogs.

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Why Would You Want To Buy Our “Walks Through History” Books?

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The walking tour books are meticulously researched so you can go directly to those sites and learn about the building’s history as well as an introduction to some of the more interesting people associated with it.

Thank You

Sandy and I appreciate you visiting with us. We have some exciting things on the horizon and we’ll keep you updated as we go along.

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Hitler’s Commando Order

During the late summer and early fall of 1942, two relatively obscure Allied commando raids led an enraged Hitler to issue an order that directly violated the rights of the wounded and prisoners of war under the “1929 Geneva Convention for Prisoners of War.” The aftermath of the order resulted in the executions of hundreds of Allied soldiers, the post-war executions of the German officers who carried out Hitler’s orders, and cited as evidence for war crimes in the trial of the Nazi leadership at Nuremberg.


Updating the Website

Sandy and I are constantly looking for ways to improve your experience on our blog and web site. We’ve learned a lot over time but we know that new ideas are always out there for us to take advantage of. Please let us know specific ideas you might have for us to improve our site. Thank you.


Two Minor Raids 

Shortly after the August 1942 raid on Dieppe, France, a copy of Allied operating orders fell into Hitler’s possession. The orders called for the binding of prisoners. When Hitler was told that German prisoners were found shot with their hands tied he went into a rage. Two months later, British commandos were dropped onto the German occupied island of Sark for the purpose of reconnaissance and to capture some soldiers for interrogation. Unfortunately, four of the five German prisoners the commandos captured were killed before being sent to London. The official German account was that the soldiers’ hands were tied when shot. This put Hitler over the top and several days later, he ordered Allied prisoners to be shackled.

Three days after the raid on Sark, Hitler issued the following communique to the Wehrmacht:

“In future, all terror and sabotage troops of the British and their accomplices, who do not act like soldiers but rather like bandits, will be treated as such by the German troops and will be ruthlessly eliminated in battle, wherever they appear.”

Kommandobefehl or the Commando Order

On October 18, 1942, Hitler issued the Kommandobefehl or Commando Order. The order was to execute any Allied commando prisoner caught in the act of a raid, sabotage, or acting as a foreign agent even if they were in military uniform. This was in direct violation of the Geneva Convention and the Nazis knew it.

Only twelve copies of the order were produced and distributed. The order was issued with the following instructions: “Intended for commanders only and must not under any circumstances fall into enemy hands.” As the order trickled down to Wehrmact line units, many officers were shocked. They knew it to be illegal and a violation of the Geneva Convention. Those who disobeyed the order were court martialed or relieved of their post (every German soldier knew that one of their “Ten Commandments” stated that no soldier should obey an illegal order). Some generals, such as Rommel, never relayed the order to their subordinates. However, a majority of officers carried out the order.

One general who personally signed the execution order of fifteen commandos was Anton Dostler (1891−1945). The U.S. commandos landed behind enemy lines on the northern coast of Italy in March 1944. The two officers and their men were dressed in army uniforms and carrying enough explosives to carry out their mission to sabotage a railway tunnel. Two days later, they were captured and brought before General Dostler. Under interrogation, one of the men cracked and revealed the commando mission.

German Field Marshals Erwin Rommel (left) and Albert Kesselring (right) conferring in North Africa. Photo by Moosmüller (1942). Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-785-0300-33A/Moosmüller/CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.
German Field Marshals Erwin Rommel (left) and Albert Kesselring (right) conferring in North Africa. Photo by Moosmüller (1942). Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-785-0300-33A/Moosmüller/CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Dostler relayed this information to his superior, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring (1885−1960), and requested instructions. Kesselring ordered the men executed under the Commando Order. Massacres under Kesselring’s command such as this earned him the death sentence at his war crimes trial (his sentence was subsequently commuted to life). Dostler ordered one of his staff, Alexander zu Dohna-Schlobitten, to sign the execution order. Dohna-Schlobitten refused to sign the document as he knew it would violate the Geneva Convention. Dostler dismissed him for insubordination and signed the order himself thereby guarantying his own death sentence after the war.

Operation Jedburgh

Jedburghs get instructions from briefing officer in London. Photo by anonymous (c. 1943−1944). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. PD-Free License. Wikimedia Commons.
Jedburghs get instructions from briefing officer in London. Photo by anonymous (c. 1943−1944). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. PD-Free License. Wikimedia Commons.

Over the years, the subject of some of my blogs has been the British led operation named Special Operations Executive (SOE) and its agents. It was one of many Allied intelligence agencies operating in the occupied countries. Leaders of each agency looked at the others as competition and as such, there was very little cooperation. That is, until it became clear that Nazi Germany was going to lose the war.

Jedburghs in front of a B-24 just before night takeoff. Photo by anonymous (c. 1944). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. PD-Free License. Wikimedia Commons.
Jedburghs in front of a B-24 just before night takeoff. Photo by anonymous (c. 1944). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. PD-Free License. Wikimedia Commons.

Prior to D-Day (6 June 1944), agents of the SOE were instrumental in aiding the French Maquis for the preparation of the invasion. As part of the planning for D-Day, the Allies formed a clandestine organization called Operation Jedburgh. It was a combined operation consisting of the SOE, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS—the forerunner to the CIA), The Free French Central de Renseignements et d’Action (BCRA), and the armies of Holland and Belgium.

There was a total of one hundred Jedburgh teams consisting of three members each: two officers (commander and executive officer) and a non-commissioned radio operator (a similar team structure as the SEO used for their network cells). Each team was issued a codename—typically first names such as “Hugh.” Their mission was to inspire outright resistance activities and provide aid such as guns, ammunition, and cash. As such, the “Jeds” wore military uniforms rather than civilian clothes. This meant that upon capture they would be executed under the Commando Order. Only one “Jed” out of three hundred met this fate.

William E. Colby, 10th Director of Central Intelligence. Photo by Central Intelligence Agency (c. 1970). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.
William E. Colby, 10th Director of Central Intelligence. Photo by Central Intelligence Agency (c. 1970). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

Several of the surviving “Jeds” included OSS officers, William Colby (1920−1996)—former director of the CIA, and General John Singlaub (b. 1921)—one of the founding members of the CIA and highly decorated major-general (retired).

Associated Press Correspondent Joe Morton

The only war correspondent executed by the Axis during the war was Joseph Morton. He was a member of a commando group taking part in the “Houseboat” mission. Captured by the Germans, the men were transferred to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp where they were executed under the direct orders of Ernst Kaltenbrunner (head of the Gestapo and SS).

Mauthausen memorial—mass graves. Photo by Werner100359 (2017). PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International. Wikimedia Commons.
Mauthausen memorial—mass graves. Photo by Werner100359 (2017). PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International. Wikimedia Commons.

The Aftermath

After the war ended, the Nuremberg trial began. You are likely familiar with the trial of the twenty-four Nazi leaders and the four counts brought against them including the last two: war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Commando Order was specifically cited by the prosecution as evidence of guilt under Count Three (War Crimes).

General Alfred Jodl signed the original Commando Order and was responsible for its distribution and implementation (he was found guilty of all four counts—death by hanging). Additionally, Wilhelm Keitel (death by hanging) (see Blog Night and Fog), Erich Raeder (life imprisonment), and Ernst Kaltenbrunner (death by hanging) were found guilty of war crimes based in part on their actions concerning the Commando Order.

The body of Alfred Jodl after being hanged, Oct. 16, 1946. Photo by US Army (October 16, 1946). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.
The body of Alfred Jodl after being hanged, Oct. 16, 1946. Photo by US Army (October 16, 1946). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

In the months and years to follow, lower ranking Nazis were brought to justice for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Commando Order was one of many decrees used as evidence resulting in the conviction and subsequent death sentences of many Nazi officers (like Anton Dostler) who had signed the execution orders of Allied commandos.

German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by firing squad. Guilty of ordering the execution of Allied soldiers in uniform under Hitler’s Commando Order. Photo by Blomgren (1 December 1945). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.
German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by firing squad. Guilty of ordering the execution of Allied soldiers in uniform under Hitler’s Commando Order. Photo by Blomgren (1 December 1945). U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

Blogs on SOE

The White Mouse- The Story of Nancy Wake

Women Agents of the SOE

Double Agent or Bad Neighbor

Recommended Reading

Tusa, Ann and John Tusa. The Nuremberg Trial. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2010.

Dodd, Christopher J. with Lary Bloom. Letters from Nuremberg. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007.

Senator Christopher Dodd’s father, Thomas J. Dodd, was one of the American prosecutors at the Nuremberg trial. This book is a compilation of letters the senior Dodd sent home to his wife during the trial.

What’s New With Sandy and Stew?

We’re river cruising through Europe right now. Today, we’re in Germany after visiting Nuremberg. We opted for the World War II excursion in Nuremberg as opposed to the visit to the toy store. That decision was a no brainer. We passed by the castle where King Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner for a year after abandoning his trip to the Crusades. It’s always fun to visit sites that make it into my books as part of the stories I tell.

Someone Is Commenting On Our Blogs

If there is a topic you’d like to see a blog written about, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I love hearing from you so keep those comments coming.

Why Would You Want To Buy Our “Walks Through History” Books?

Simple.

You like to travel and experience history and historical events. You like to see original buildings that had a significant impact on the people and events of the history you’re engaged with. You want to know the stories behind the brick and mortar in front of you.

The walking tour books are meticulously researched so you can go directly to those sites and learn about the building’s history as well as an introduction to some of the more interesting people associated with it.

Thank You

Sandy and I appreciate you visiting with us. We have some exciting things on the horizon and we’ll keep you updated as we go along.

Follow Stew:

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Find Stew’s books on Amazon and iBooks.

Blogs I Follow

Book Reviews

Please note that we do not and will not take compensation from individuals or companies mentioned or promoted in the blogs.

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Walks Through History

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Stew Ross