Rebuilding a nation

By the end of the war, France was traumatised and in ruins. The years from 1945-1960 at the Grand Palais are a demonstration of the moral, political and economic challenges the country faced: it had to rebuild. Year after year, the monument embodied the spirit of the "Glorious Thirty".

Poster for the exhibition "Crimes Hitlériens" presented at the Grand Palais, Paris, 10 June 1945. (1945) by photo © Mémorial de la Shoah, 2015Original Source: Shoah mémorial website

"To help mankind remain vigilant"

From 10 June to 1 July 1945, the Grand Palais held an exhibition of "Hitler's Crimes". According to the catalogue, its aim "was not to spread horror, but to define (...) the notion of war crimes, to establish their (...) legal basis"; and to "demonstrate the mechanism of such a deathly enterprise (...) in order to allow mankind to remain vigilant". It was organised chronologically, from occupation to collaboration through to the liberation of the concentration camps. The photos and films were those taken by the Allied troops as they uncovered the Nazis' brutality. A carriage and instruments of torture were on display, along with a reconstructed cremation oven.

Exhibition "Crimes Hitlériens" at the Grand Palais, 1945 by Gaumont Pathé archivesRmn-Grand Palais

Forbidden to those under 16 years old, the exhibition received 500,000 visitors in seven weeks.

Colonial stand showing French Equatorial Africa at the Salon de la France d'Outre-mer, Grand Palais. (1940-05-02) by © Excelsior – L'Equipe / Roger-ViolletOriginal Source: Photo Agency website

A tribute to France Overseas

In France, "Outre-mer" refers to the French colonies as a whole. The exhibition opened at the Grand Palais in October 1945 and paid tribute to those who had supported General de Gaulle after the call to arms of 18 June 1940. Similarly to the colonial exhibitions at the start of the 20th century, works of art from the Museum of France Overseas (now the Museum of the History of Immigration) were on loan for the occasion. They were accompanied by maps and panels promoting the contributions of each country to the war effort.

France overseas during the War, Grand Palais, 1945. (1945) by Institut national de l'audiovisuel (INA), FranceRmn-Grand Palais

"Salon de l'enfance" (Childhood exhibition) at the Grand Palais, Paris, 1950s. (1950) by Photo © Janine Niepce / Roger-Viollet and Janine Niepce (1921-2007)Original Source: Photo agency website

The Childhood Show

The fourth Salon de l'Enfance, de la jeunesse et de la famille opened in 1949. The event symbolised the post-war demographic situation: the country had to be repopulated. The government established a heavily pro-birth policy (family allowance, housing allowance, family credits, etc.). 1949 saw a record number of births: 869,000! It was the start of the baby boom.

"Salon de l'enfance" (Childhood exhibition) at the Grand Palais by Institut national de l'audiovisuel (INA), FranceRmn-Grand Palais

At the exhibition, the child was king: they could play, take a turn on a carousel or a slide, and watch a puppet, magic or circus show. Older children could sit down to a watch a popular film ("Rintintin", "Zorro"...). As years went on, stands would come to focus on education rather than leisure.

The"Salon des Arts Ménagers" (household appliances show). Grand Palais. Paris 1958 by © Roger-ViolletRmn-Grand Palais

The Houseware Show

Since 1926, the Salon des arts ménagers had been an unmissable feature of the calendar. Families would travel together and the SNCF would provide additional trains for those arriving from outside Paris. In 1956, it was so successful that exhibitors had to move into the Grand Palais basement. That same year, the peak number of visitors was reached, with 1,500,000 in just three weeks.

Dining room presentation at the"Salon des Arts Ménagers" (household appliances show), 1960 (1960) by © TopFoto / Roger-ViolletOriginal Source: Site de l'agence photo

The exhibition was the stuff of dreams. From furniture to electrical goods, including bathroom and household goods, everything was designed to turn your domestic life towards well-being and hygiene.

Salon des Arts ménagers. Paris, Grand Palais, février 1949. (1949-02) by © LAPI / Roger-ViolletOriginal Source: Site de l'agence photo

The first mail order catalogues and samples were handed out, and advertising ruled over all.
The appearance of household appliance shops and the limited space at the Grand Palais led to the exhibition moving to the CNIT at la Défense in 1961.

Tamure demonstration at the 'Débutantes' Ball, Grand Palais, Paris. (1964) by © Noa / Roger-ViolletOriginal Source: Site de l'agence photo

The Débutantes' Ball

Inspire by the British tradition of presenting young ladies of nobility to the court, the Débutantes' Ball concept travelled to France in 1957. These young ladies, all from "good backgrounds", would be wearing the height of Parisian haute couture. On 06 October 1964, the Débutantes' Ball was held in the Grand Palais nave during the Antiques Exhibition. 227 young ladies danced in front of internationally famous guests, and sales by the antiques dealers in attendance went through the roof. 1968 saw the last Debs' Ball.

Credits: Story

We would like to thank all the people who have contributed to the construction of this journey through the Grand Palais and those who have given us valuable time and information as well as permission to reproduce their documentation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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