Paris Between the Wars – “Z” is for Jean Zay

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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Jean Zay

Jean Zay

Jean Zay (1904 – 1944) was a French politician. Between 1936 and 1939 he served in several governments, including the Popular Front government, as Minister of National Education and Fine Arts. Zay’s actions as minister deeply influenced the way in which France educated its youth and cultivated its arts. Upon taking office, Zay acted upon his belief that the public schools shaped youth into citizens. He increased the period of required schooling from 13 to 14 years and created “bibliobuses” (library buses) that brought books to working class and immigrant neighborhoods

The specter cast by Nazi Germany led Zay to create the Cannes Film Festival. During the period between the wars, Italy was home to the greatest of film festivals, La Mostra de Venise. When Jean Renoir’s “The Grand Illusion” won the festival’s top prize in 1937, Hitler was incensed: not only was the film French, but it was also pacifist. The following year, as a result, Hitler conspired with Mussolini to guarantee that Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” receive top honors. Zay rebelled at the news and set out to create a counter festival the following year in Cannes. As fate would have it, the opening date for the festival was September 1: the same day that Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Zay enlisted in the army and served until the summer of 1940. He was arrested aboard the passenger ship Massila by Vichy officials and was imprisoned. Just weeks before France’s liberation Jean Zay was murdered in his cell by the French fascist militia.







11 Comments May 19, 2016 at 11:25 am

Plz call when you are free  thx no rush

Wow. I had no idea about him, or how the Cannes Festival started. This would make a GREAT movie, or book of course! Thanks for visiting my blog.

Great series, Martha. Thanks for an illuminating April! 🙂 xxx

Martha, Thanks for this tour of French artists. I truly enjoyed it. Too bad about Zay. I guess war and crazy folks never end. Congrats on finishing A to Z.

Thank you for putting together this excellent series, Martha.

Congratulations on completing the challenge!

Such a great man, who left behind such important legacy.
Congratulations, Martha, for reaching the end of a grueling Challenge. Loved visiting and reading your posts. We made it!

Tom! I’m at the Cape for some R&R and I pre-scheduled my posts for 4:00am each day. Safe travels to CO and we will definitely catch up before the reunion in August! 💕💕💕

I just had to tell you how much I enjoy your post! I read them every day! April 30, 2016 at 4:30 am

Thx  so enjoyed everyone of these  …esp on pacifism…. going back to Colorado thurs for 11days and plan to catch up on your books What a blessing you are! So glad u and jim got away Talked to Randy on mon about interfaith issues … Next trip away u may head to scott and sue Peterson s   sterling ridge resort   in VT  3 houses 23 cabins a pool and a  pond all on 300 acres Luv and peace Tom Ps how come we r up so early?

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