Amputations from the Churchillian octopus

SPK [or] PSK, CONFIANCE… SES AMPUTATIONS SE POURSUIVENT MÉTHODIQUEMENT (“Have Faith… The Systematic Amputations Are Continuing.”) [Paris, 1941 or 1942.]
Lithograph, printed area 45”h x 29 ½”w plus margins. Couple of printer’s creases, dime-size hole at lower left in-filled, few tiny holes possibly from paper flaws, and a few careful mends to edge wear. Duty stamps and other signs of French officialdom on verso.

An iconic propaganda poster, published in German-occupied France and depicting Churchill as a badly-wounded octopus.

Confiance was intended to undermine support for both the British and Free French forces in the early years of the Second World War. It features possibly the ugliest octopus ever rendered in print, bearing the face of Winston Churchill rendered as a cross between W.C. Fields and a Japanese demon. This Churchillian octopus has no fewer than 12 tentacles, wrapping themselves around Europe, Africa and the Near East. Those at Norway, Germany[?], Mers El-Kébir, Lybia and Egypt, Somalia and Syria are reduced to bloody stumps, representing supposed “amputations” from the British Empire. From the French perspective, the events at Mers El-Kébir in North Africa were probably the most notable: There, on July 3, 1940, the British opened fire on a Vichy French fleet to prevent it from falling into Nazi hands, sinking six ships and killing almost 1300 French sailors.

Writers date Confiance to 1941 or -42, but there is some disagreement on the source. Some treat it as a “Vichy” map, but Curtis & Pedersen attribute it to the Propaganda-Abetilung Frankreich, the Nazi propaganda unit in occupied France. The identity of “SPK” (or “PSK”) is not known, but the acronym appeared on a number of other anti-British posters produced at the time.

In 2019 an example of the map was exhibited in the British Library’s major exhibition, Magnificent Maps.

Barber & Harper, Magnificent Maps, p. 165 (illus.) Curtis & Pedersen, War Map, pp. 136-139 (illus.) Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #2123.