Prisoners of War (1939-40)

During the Second World War the French army relied on soldiers from its vast overseas empire, SUMMARY IN A COUPLE OF SENTENCES (NUMBERS, POWS, VARIABLE FATES). These prisoners of war were to be deployed in propaganda challenging the Allies’ claim to represent civilization against German barbarity.  

Using tactics familiar from anti-Semitic materials, filmmakers used facial close-ups and depictions of cultural practices (e.g. dances or the butchering of animals) to highlight a presumed distance from European civilization.This reinforced the underlying message, one that still resonated three decades after the start of the First World War, that using colonial soldiers to fight a war in Europe was a “Kulturschande für die weiße Rasse.”

The newsreel clip here comes from Marcel Ophuls’ masterpiece documentary, The Sorrow and the Pity (1969).

Jeff Bowersox

Source: Excerpt from Marcel Ophuls, The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), YouTube.

Prisoners of War (1939-40) by Jeff Bowersox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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