Collaboration in Focus

Photographic Evidence in the French Purge Trials, 1944–1949

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Abigail E. Lewis Nanovic Institute for European Studies, Notre Dame

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This article examines the collaboration trials of French photographers André Zucca (1944–1945) and Robert Delhay (1947–1949) within the context of the postwar French state's attempts to punish collaboration and rehabilitate the French press. Paying attention to the interpretation of photographs as evidence, I argue that within the post–Liberation French courtroom, photographic evidence became crucial to narrating collaboration and resistance as a means of gaining re-acceptance into the profession and escaping legal charges. However, photographs proved too complicated to clearly prove either collaboration. Photographers disputed the charges against them by offering new interpretations of their photographs. These new readings were rooted in a postwar visual culture that had been saturated with photographs as historical evidence of Nazi atrocities, French victimization, and resistance. This article details how the collection and display of photographic evidence in these court proceedings informed the emergence of a postwar photographic press steeped in résistancialisme.

Contributor Notes

Abigail E. Lewis is a historian of modern European and French history. She received her PhD in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2022. She is a postdoctoral research associate at the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at Notre Dame, where she is completing her book manuscript, Double Exposure: French Photography and Everyday Choices from Nazi Occupation to Liberation, 1940–1950. Her research examines the complex stories of photographers living, working, and photographing under Nazi and Vichy rule. She also traces the postwar history of these photographs into museums, archives, photo-books, and courtrooms to show how wartime photographs have shaped popular understandings of the Occupation and the Holocaust. Abigail has received generous support for this research from the Chateaubriand Dissertation Fellowship, the Bourse Jeanne Marandon, the Mellon Foundation, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the George L. Mosse Program. Her work has appeared in Negotiating the Nazi Occupation of France: Gender, Power, and Memory (2022), H-Diplo, Film and Fiction for Historians of France, and In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies. She also contributes to the George L. Mosse Program in History Blog.

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