The Scandal and Betrayal at Stade Colombes

The September 1939 Internment of German-Speaking Men in France

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Deborah L. Browning New York University, New York, USA

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This article examines the French government's mass internment at the start of the Second World War of all adult male nationals of Greater Germany, which included Austrians, Saarlanders, and Czechs, who were now designated as enemy aliens. It focuses on the largest of the assembly centers, Stade Colombes, twelve kilometers northwest of Paris, where the roughly twenty thousand of those who lived in the Paris region were ordered to report. This article makes use of military documents, newspaper reports, diaries, and memoirs to highlight the experience of the men from the first news of the war, through the conditions they encountered in Stade Colombes to their subsequent transfers to other camps. Following the trajectory of the German-born Catholic painter Hans Reichel (1892–1958) from his reaction to the news of the war to his release five months later will enable the reader to grasp more vividly what the men endured.

Contributor Notes

Deborah L. Browning, formerly adjunct associate professor in psychology at New York University, is now director of the Hans Reichel Project, where she is preparing the Catalogue Raisonné of Hans Reichel's works as well as writing his biography. In addition to the publication of books and papers in psychology and psychoanalysis, articles on Hans Reichel include “Life and Death in Sublimation” in American Imago, where Reichel's watercolors and letters from his internment in the French concentration camp Gurs are examined through the thinking of Jean Laplanche (2018), a biographical essay on Reichel for the exposition, The Colour of Silence, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chora, Andros, Greece (2014), and “Hans Reichel. Témoin de Guerre.” Exposition: Hans Reichel: Lumières Intérieures, Propriété Caillebotte. Yerres. France (2022).

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