Title: Adolf Hitler and Pierre Laval during a meeting.
Author : ANONYMOUS (-)
Creation date : 1942
Date shown: December 19, 1942
Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0
Storage location: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin) website
Contact copyright: © BPK, Berlin, Dist RMN-Grand Palais - BPK website image
Picture reference: 08-547126
Adolf Hitler and Pierre Laval during a meeting.
© BPK, Berlin, Dist RMN-Grand Palais - BPK image
Publication date: April 2014
A rather exceptional meeting
On December 19, 1942, Pierre Laval, head of the Vichy government, met Hitler in his Wolfsschanze (“wolf's den” in German), located in the woods of the hamlet of Forst Görlitz near Rastenburg in East Prussia. At the heart of this "blockhouse" made up of log cabins with roofs covered with grass, he attends a meeting in the company of the Führer, Gian Galeazzo Ciano (son-in-law of Mussolini and Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs), Marshal Hermann Göring (Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe and Minister of Air) and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs). Discussions focus on the creation of a French auxiliary police force demanded by Hilter and supposed to work with the Germans to maintain order in France.
Taken or shot by Hitler’s Personal Services, footage of the meeting is broadcast primarily in Germany and France, via the press and animated news. This is particularly the case with the cliché "Adolf Hitler and Pierre Laval in a meeting" studied here. While Laval and Hitler met a few times between 1940 and 1944, such an interview in one of the most "intimate" places of Nazi power remains unique and quite exceptional. As such, “Adolf Hitler and Pierre Laval during a meeting” has documentary, but also political and symbolic value.
In the "wolf's den"
Taken in one of the forest houses of the Wolfsschanze where this diplomatic meeting is being held, "Adolf Hitler and Pierre Laval during a meeting" shows a rather original setting for this type of event. It is indeed in a simple (and relatively small) room with walls made of planks that these men of power come together. The furniture is also extremely sober, stripped down.
Around a round table, we discover six seated men including, visible from the front and from left to right, Laval (dark civilian costume), Hitler (civilian costume decorated with a war cross), Count Galeazzo Ciano and Hermann Göring (both in uniform). From the back, but visible in profile (second from the right), we might think we recognize von Ribbentrop.
If a few notebooks are on the table, the men seem to be listening to Göring, who is using his notes. Laval is focused on his interlocutor, his face and expression serious, his jaw almost tight. Hitler, a hand in his pocket and elsewhere, seems to be staring into space. Ciano scratches his chin with his hand and, in deep thought, stares blindly at one of Göring's leaves.
At the heart of the collaboration
It is first of all because of its rather astonishing setting that the cliché "Adolf Hitler and Pierre Laval during a meeting" is quite remarkable. Indeed, this is not about an official meeting between the German head of state and his French counterpart, but a working meeting between collaborators, without pomp and ceremony. The simple decor where no mark of power is visible (except the uniforms of some) thus speaks of a form of familiarity, confirmed by postures and attitudes. It is in the heart of Nazi power, in a practical and intimate place that Laval is received. A meeting that testifies as much (and paradoxically) to the closeness of this collaboration (no formal distance) as to the lack of consideration for a vassal.
As such, Hitler's attitude can also be interpreted as an unwitting sign of his superiority. If the latter can afford to be a little absent, thoughtful if not relaxed, Laval seems more tense, necessarily attentive. Returned to power on April 18, 1942 in Vichy by the Germans who chose him from among several personalities, Laval is indeed a collaborator in whom we grant moderate confidence, but also the representative of a defeated state from which we always demand more without giving much. in return. For those who say "to wish the victory of Germany" (speech of June 22, 1942), who has just seen the free zone invaded by the Germans (November 11, 1942) and to receive the full powers granted by Pétain under Nazi pressure ( November 13), the moment represented by “Adolf Hitler and Pierre Laval during a meeting” is therefore visibly ambivalent: reinforced in his status, he is also humiliated and dominated. Summoned to "the den of the wolf", he can only obey him.
- War of 39-45
- Vichy regime
- Hitler (Adolf)
- Göring (Hermann)
- Ribbentrop (Joachim von)
- Petain (Philippe)
Jean-Pierre AZÉMA, New history of contemporary France, volume XIV “From Munich to the Liberation, 1938-1944”, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1979, new. ed. 2002.
Jean-Pierre AZÉMA and Olivier WIEWIORKA, Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Perrin, 1997.
Jean-Pierre AZÉMA and François BÉDARIDA, France in the dark years (2 vol.), Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1993.
· Jean-Pierre AZÉMA and François BÉDARIDA (dir.), Vichy and the French, Paris, Fayard, 1992.
Robert PAXTON, Vichy France, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1973.
Philippe VALODE, The Black Book of 1940-1944 Collaboration, Paris, Acropolis, 2013.
To cite this article
Alexandre SUMPF, "Pierre Laval, the chief collaborator"