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French Resistance: The Zazous
Transcript of French Resistance: The Zazous
Introduction To Zazous
The Zazous consisted of young people [17-18] who expressed their discreetness by wearing big or flashy clothing. They usually danced fiercely to swing jazz and bebop. While men wore large lumber jackets, women often wore short skirts, striped stockings and heavy shoes.
Movement and Operation
A group of young people would meet up at different locations to mock the current politics. Their disapproval of fascism brought the group known as Zazous together. Their most popular meeting places would be the Pam Pam café on the Champs Elysees, who were usually older and belonged to more of the middle class, and the Boul’Mich Saint- Michel near the Sorbonne.
Johnny Hess was born in Switzerland on 1915. He created jazz music whose rhythm was becoming more and more popular in France, and a lot of his music were ones the Zazous used to listen to often.
He used to play in his after school hours in various cafes, where he meet a decorator, painter called Charles Trenet , whom he formed a duet in 1934.
France surrendered to the Nazi's on June 24, 1940, in which Nazi occupied about 3/5 of French territory.
Situation In France
The Zazous had probably gotten their name from a line in a song by Zah Zuh Zahby, the black jazz musician Cab Calloway, famous for his Minnie the Moocher. However, a French singer, named Johnny Hess, also had a song called "Je suis swing," in the early 1940's, and sung the lines “Za zou, za zou, za zou, za zou ze”.
The new government sent forced French labor to the Nazi's, hoping that this action would at least preserve some parts of French sovereignty.
Johnny Hess later continued his activities as a composer and performer, but in a completely different genre. It was focused around the time of the great American orchestras.
Effects of Resistance
In 1940, 78 anti-Zazou articles were published, while in 1943, 38 were published.
The Zazous often met at short notices. Their meet ups were unplanned and sudden. Because of the way they dressed, they were quite noticeable. However, it would be unlikely for the Zazous to have participated in any structured resistance organizations.
In the Latin Quarter, the Zazous
met in the cellar clubs of Dupont-Latin or the Capoulade.
Although the Zazous were successful in gathering people to approve of their mission, they became the number one enemy of the fascist organization and were beaten on the street... Even by hair clippers!
The popularity of Jazz increased dramatically
The men grew thin mustaches and wore long jackets, pants with baggy knees and legs that tapered to narrow ankles, and white socks.
The women wore short pleated skirts, blouses and jackets with padded shoulders, heavy flat shoes, a lot of make-up, and they dyed blond hair
Both genders wore dark sunglasses and carried chamberlain umbrella
The Vichy government started collecting hair from barber shops to make slippers, so the Zazous stopped getting hair cuts
Like some other resistance groups some Zazous started wearing yellow stars like the jews were forced to wear
"The Zazous were the symbol of social irresponsibility."
Soldiers would be given orders by the government, while the resistance authorized by the Zazous was a completely different concept. The Zazous were about doing their own thing and acting upon rebellion in order to get their beliefs across.
- Fishman, Sarah. The Battle for Children; World War II, Youth Crime, and Juvenile Justice in Twentieth Century France. Cambridge: Harvard College, 2002.
- Du Temps Des Cerises Aux Feuilles Mortes.”Johnny Hess.” Accessed April 3, 2014. http://www.www.dutempsdescerisesauxfeuillesmortes.net/fiches_bio/hess_johnny/hess_johnny.htm.
- “1940-1945: The Zazous.” Accessed April 3, 2014. https://libcom.org/history/1940-1945-the-zazous.
- Bonjour la France. “France History - France during World War II.” Accessed April 3, 2014. http://www.bonjourlafrance.com/france-history/france-during-world-war-2.htm.
- “Shattered Armies: How The Working Class
Fought Nazism and Fascism 1933-45” Accessed April 3, 2014.
-“Johnny Hess - Je suis swing,” YouTube video, 2:29, posted by "felipe salvador arias," October 31, 2011,
By: Jhoenny Ramirez, Lindsey Randle and Lydia Eguchi