The Casablanca conference

The Casablanca conference

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Title: The Casablanca conference.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : between January 14 and 24, 1943

Date shown: between January 14 and 24, 1943

Dimensions: Height 12.7 cm - Width 17.8 cm

Technique and other indications: black and white silver print

Storage location: Memorial of Caen, city of history for peace (Caen) website

Contact copyright: © Roosevelt Foundation / The Caen Memorial

Picture reference: MEMO_PHOT_01680 / 30737

The Casablanca conference.

© Roosevelt Foundation / The Caen Memorial

Publication date: December 2014

Historical context

The Casablanca conference

The Casablanca conference was organized from January 14 to 24, 1943 at the joint initiative of Roosevelt and Churchill. This photograph, taken in the gardens of the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca (Morocco), shows us the four main actors of this summit meeting: from left to right, French General Giraud, President of the United States of America Roosevelt , French General de Gaulle and British Prime Minister Churchill. This international conference resulted in several agreements: the continuation of aid to the USSR, the invasion of Sicily and then of the rest of Italy and the decision to demand the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

If it is indeed a question of preparing the continuation of the allied strategy in its entirety (Stalin is moreover invited to this conference, but declines the invitation), it is also a question of settling the problem of the government of Africa. North (AFN) and French West Africa (AOF). Indeed, while Operation Torch of November 8, 1942 allowed the reconquest of part of the French territories in North Africa (the fighting continued nevertheless in Tunisia), their political situation is very confused: at first , the protectorate of Morocco and Algeria remains partially administered by laws and officials from the Vichy regime, under the joint authority of Admiral Darlan, admittedly passed to the American side and appointed High Commissioner of France residing in North Africa by Eisenhower in November, and General Giraud, commander of the military forces in North Africa. After Darlan's assassination on December 24, 1942, Giraud, supported by the Allies, exercised his authority over North Africa and French West Africa. It is strongly contested with the English and the Americans by de Gaulle, who considers himself more legitimate to exercise power on behalf of France.

Numerous and widely distributed, the reportage images devoted to the Casablanca conference thus have political, documentary and symbolic value. By demonstrating even the simple possibility of such a reunion, they affirm in particular that the reconquered territories are indeed under Allied control.

Image Analysis

Giraud, Roosevelt, de Gaulle and Churchill

The photographer chose a fairly tight shot that focuses on the four men, sitting side by side on seats on one of the lawns in the hotel gardens. Placed slightly below its models, it leaves little depth of field (we can see a low wall and a few legs in the background). The viewer is thus as close as possible to the main protagonists of the conference and almost with them, in the privacy of the conversation they lead under a winter sun which diffuses a fairly clear light on the stage.

The discussion seems at that moment centered on an exchange between Roosevelt, who speaks (in costume, a sheet resting on the knees, looking serious and a little serious), and de Gaulle (in military dress), who the listen carefully. The two men, three-quarters of the way, face each other, while to their left, Giraud, also in uniform, looks at them in an almost academic posture, chest straight and hands on his knees. To their right, Churchill is more natural; he wears a hat and smokes his usual cigar. He too is focused on the ongoing dialogue.

Interpretation

Summit meeting

The way in which the leaders are arranged in relation to each other and the fact that the conversation is taking place between Roosevelt and de Gaulle at the precise moment this shot is taken should obviously not be overinterpreted; there are indeed other images of this meeting, where the distribution and attitudes are different. However, it is possible to draw some conclusions from the scene as shown.

It is first of all a meeting between equals: the four men are placed on the same plan (in both the literal and figurative sense), discussing without detecting any more or less formal hierarchy mark. Even if the attribution of power over the recently liberated French lands depends in fine of Roosevelt and Churchill, the latter need a French command that is both symbolic and real. Giraud was indeed appointed French civilian and military commander-in-chief a few days after the conference.

The meeting is also presented as decisive. Attitudes, grave and serious, say that here are settled questions of the highest importance (continuation of operations in Africa and Italy, organization of the government of French Africa) between leading leaders.

Finally, in the tense context of the opposition between de Gaulle and Giraud for power, some details seem interesting. On the one hand, the two generals and the two politicians are arranged alternately, which expresses the idea that the meeting does not confront the Allies on the one hand and the French on the other who would take their instructions, but also that Roosevelt and Churchill play a mediating role here to get them to finally unite. We can also note that Giraud is closer to Roosevelt, who decided on his coming and supports him, when Churchill, who had difficulty convincing de Gaulle to participate in the conference despite Giraud's presence, stands alongside this latest. On the other hand, and while the Casablanca conference is more intended to secure an agreement ratifying Giraud's authority over de Gaulle with regard to the region, it seems that the head of the French National Committee in London is already in the process of to take a central place, discussing on an equal footing with the two allied leaders, while Giraud appears more on the periphery, a little borrowed, in a more docile posture.


Video in English of the Casablanca conference posted online by British Pathé.

  • War of 39-45
  • De Gaulle (Charles)
  • Morocco
  • Liberation (war)
  • photography
  • reportage
  • Roosevelt (Franklin Delano)
  • Churchill (Winston)
  • Stalin (Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, said)

Bibliography

AZÉMA Jean-Pierre, New history of contemporary France: from Munich to the Liberation (1938-1944), Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points: Histoire” (no 114), 1979.BROCHE François, CAÏTUCOLI Georges, MURACCIOLE Jean-François (dir.), Free French Dictionary, Paris, Robert Laffont, coll. "Books", 2010.GAULLE Charles de, War memories: unity (1942-1944), Paris, Plon, 1956. MARCOT François (dir.), Historical Dictionary of the Resistance: internal resistance and free France, Paris, Robert Laffont, coll. "Books", 2006.MURACCIOLE Jean-François, History of Free France, Paris, University Press of France, coll. "What do I know? ”(No 1078), 1996.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Casablanca conference"


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