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The Épuration: World War II French Revenge

German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by firing squad. Photo by Blomgren (1 December 1945). National Archives. PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.
German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by firing squad. Photo by Blomgren (1 December 1945). National Archives. PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

The German Occupation of Paris and France turned brutal within eighteen months of their soldiers marching down the avenue des Champs-Élysées on the morning of 14 June 1940. Despite the original orders to respect and act as “gentlemen” to the citizens of Paris, the Germans gradually increased the pressure of their jackboot on the throat of France. After the successful Allied invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) in November 1942, all pretense of an “independent” French government—Vichy—was gone as was the designation of the Occupied- and Unoccupied-Zones.

La Grande Rafle (The Great Roundup) had taken place over two days in July 1942. More than 13,000 Jewish citizens (approximately 4,000 were children) were arrested, detained, and transported to Auschwitz—only several hundred would return less than three years later. Food was scarce except for the privileged few who could afford the black market or those who kept company with German officers. Detention, interrogation, torture, and execution of hostages, résistants, foreign agents, or anyone else the Nazis deemed unworthy became common place as the Gestapo strengthened its position within the Nazi hierarchy and its grip on Paris.

As the Allies moved closer to Paris in the late summer of 1944 after breaking out of Normandy, the Germans began to make arrangements to leave the city. They knew the consequences if they remained. Even some of the German officers tried to convince their lovers to accompany them back to Germany as they predicted harm would likely come to the women if they remained behind. Little did they know the scope of violence that would descend on suspected collaborators. Read More The Épuration: World War II French Revenge

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A Pre-War Paris Lesbian Nightclub

Exterior entrance to the former Le Monocle nightclub. Photo by anonymous (date unknown).
Exterior entrance to the former Le Monocle nightclub. Photo by anonymous (date unknown).

For those of you familiar with Paris, you know that the Left Bank is considered more cutting edge today than the Right Bank. If you lived in Paris during the 1920s and the 1930s, the avant-garde scene would have been on the Right Bank. In particular, the Montmartre and the Pigalle districts (18e) were heavily populated with artists, bohemians, and a strong gay community. However, the Left Bank was home to the first and most popular lesbian nightclub in Paris. Located at 60, Boulevard Edgar Quinet in the Montparnasse (14e) district, Le Monocle opened its doors in the 1920s. Our story today isn’t so much about the nightclub as it is one of its most infamous patrons.


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Lulu and Tuxedos

Young invert at Le Monocle, 1932 (it is believed to be a photo of Lulu). Photo by George Brassaï (c. 1932).
Young invert at Le Monocle, 1932 (it is believed to be a photo of Lulu). Photo by George Brassaï (c. 1932).

The first owner of Le Monocle was Lulu. She set the style of dress for the club over the next twenty years. Lulu’s club attracted women who liked to dress up in tuxedos (and men’s suits), cut their hair short, and for added effect, wear monocles (ergo, the name of the club). In fact, women would wear a monocle in public to announce their sexual orientation.

The nightclub was shut down in 1940 after the Germans invaded France. Gay men and women were targeted by the Nazis for detention, deportation, and ultimately, elimination. The building where the club was located is still in existence. You enter through the original entrance which is shaped in a circle–it was meant to imitate a monocle. I’m not too sure what is behind the doors, as the exterior needs a lot of paint. But the awning still advertises a bar and café. I think it’s still called Le Monocle but Sandy and I will stop by on our next trip to Paris and see what happens. Read More A Pre-War Paris Lesbian Nightclub