Europe

Nazi banner sparks alarm during filming for WW2 movie

  • 29 September 2015
  • From the section Europe
Two men hold Nazi banner over facade of the Palais de la Prefecture in Nice on Monday 28 September Image copyright Andrew GENTRY
Image caption Two men could be seen holding the banner on top of the Palais de la Prefecture on Monday

French officials have sought to reassure people in Nice after a film crew hung a huge Nazi banner on a government building.

The flag caused alarm when it went up briefly on the Palais de la Prefecture on Monday, according to reports.

It was also displayed on Tuesday during the filming of an adaptation of Joseph Joffo's memoirs, A Bag of Marbles.

SS chief Alois Brunner used the Hotel Excelsior in Nice to co-ordinate his round up of Jews for the death camps.

Film crews were granted permission to use city's Palais de la Prefecture, which houses the national government office for the Alpes-Maritimes area, to represent the Hotel Excelsior under Nazi occupation during World War Two.

'Surreal'

The red banner bearing the Nazi swastika shocked onlookers during a test run for the film on Monday morning, according to Nice-Matin (in French).

Andrew Gentry, who was visiting the city for a long weekend, sent photographs of the scene to the local newspaper and described how crowds began shouting as the flag was unveiled.

Speaking to the BBC, the Franco-American said two men could be seen on the roof of the building, then "boom, they are suddenly rolling down this Nazi flag".

"People started screaming... they were really agitated," he said.

"There was nothing around to explain what was going on. The scene was just surreal."

Image copyright Andrew Gentry
Image caption The government building was being used to depict the Hotel Excelsior during Nazi occupation

While many local people were angry at the sight of the flag, some tourists began taking selfies, he added.

'Duty to remember'

After the outcry, the prefecture released a statement saying it had made every effort to make people aware of the operation, including contacting the city's Jewish community to explain.

It said the filming was part of the city's "duty to remember", and has described hosting it as an "honour".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Actors in period costume were visible outside the building on Tuesday
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The reason for the flag's use was more obvious to onlookers on Tuesday with performers in the area and roads cordoned off

Under the Italian occupation, the French Riviera had been one of the last places of refuge for Europe's Jews.

But when Italy signed the armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the Nazis invaded and Alois Brunner arrived with a special squad to round up Jewish residents.

The Austrian SS officer is accused of deporting more than 128,000 Jews to death camps in WW2.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Brunner was right-hand man to the Gestapo's "technician of death" Adolf Eichmann

One of the world's most wanted German Nazi war criminals, he is believed to have fled to Syria in the 1950s and he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in France in 2001.

For many years there has been uncertainty as to whether he is dead.

A Bag of Marbles, a film from Canadian director Christian Duguay, is an adaptation on Joseph Joffo's graphic novel, based on the author's own experience of fleeing Nazi-occupied Paris as a boy.

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