Hitler. In stained glass. In France.
A stained glass window in a small church has caused a sensation in France. Unveiled in 1941, it depicts Adolf Hitler executing a saint who symbolizes the Jewish people. Local priests have praised the work as a brave act of resistance against the Nazi occupiers.
In the popular imagination, the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France is associated with heroic acts of guerrilla warfare, such as blowing up bridges or derailing trains. But in one small town near Paris, two artist brothers also resisted the occupation in their own quiet way -- with a politically charged stained-glass window.
Local historians in the town of Montgeron have rediscovered a stained-glass church window that criticizes the Nazi occupation by depicting Adolf Hitler as an executioner. The dictator is shown in the act of killing St. James, who was one of Jesus' 12 apostles.
Although Hitler's distinctive hairstyle can easily be recognized in the portrait, his trademark moustache has been left out. "The glassmakers hid it behind his arm, to avoid any trouble," local priest Dominique Guérin told the French newspaper Le Parisien.
The church's stained-glass windows were unveiled in July 1941, during the Nazi occupation. Locals believe that the two artists, the Mauméjean brothers, deliberately depicted Hitler as the executioner of St. James, whom the church is named for, as an act of artistic and religious resistance.
Guérin's predecessor Gabriel Ferone told Le Parisien that the saint represents the Jewish people, as his name in Hebrew has the same etymology as Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Stained-glass windows created by the brothers in other churches also mix political and religious messages, according to historian Renaud Arpin.
Authorities in the town are now hoping that the media attention will turn the church into a tourist attraction. Montgeron is only 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Paris and is easily reachable by train.