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Paris, 1938

PARIS, 1938

Project Description:

Date:  This Dancerie: Paris, 1938 will be installed on Isle de La Cite as an OFF event in Paris’s annual dusk to dawn arts fesival, Nuit Blanche on October 7.

In the autumn of 1938, 12,000 of the Polish Jews living in Germany were expelled from the territory and deposited at the Polish border. Poland refused them entry.

In early November, a German Nazi diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, was assassinated by a young German Jewish student of Polish descent, Herschel Grynszpan who stated that his actions were in retribution for Jewish persecution. As a consequence, the German government declared its indignation calling this murder an “act of war” perpetrated by the “Jewish world community” and the Nazis subsequently trigger a pogrom in Germany known as “Kristallnacht, ” implementing acts of extreme violence in which more than 400 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish businesses were looted and burned, many Jews were murdered and others transported to concentration camps.

While it is undeniable that Grynszpan murdered vom Rath and there was a direct relationship between that action and the persecution of German Jews, it is remains unclear whether this was, in fact, what today would be thought of as actions of a politically radicalized lone wolf  or an operative in an anti-Nazi conspiracy, or the culmination of a more intimate and complex interpersonal relationship. From the day of the shooting, claims ranging from total denial of any connection between the two men to sexual abuse of the younger man by vom Rath have been advanced. This Dancerie: 1938  presumes and explores possible permutations of dynamics in an intimate same-sex relationship.


“This Dancerie: Paris, 1938” is the first work produced by Tony Whitfield, in collaboration with a group of French and American artist, as part of a cycle of ten works entitled: This Dancerie .

This Dancerie is a multi-site, multi-platform, multi-media exploration of a city, Paris, considered as a venue where the queer century develops: the “queer identity” lived freely in the society of that era.

This transmedia project explores how gay men have publicly expressed their behaviors and desires, and this in a context of prohibition, in public arenas, of manifestation of queer nature. (See

The film “This Dancerie: Paris, 1938” explores a (suspected ) homosexual relationship and the assassination of a German Nazi by a Polish Jew in Paris in 1938, considered by some to be the trigger for the beginning of the Holocaust.

Paris, 1938  was produced with projection on a wall of rue des Ursins, Isle de la Cité, where “This Dancerie: Paris 1938” was shot. The projection will be viewed from the pavement of the Quai aux Fleurs.

The projection of this film will be activated via a motion detection sensors triggered by the passage of pedestrians on the platform.

Placards will be displayed on the pedestrian crossing wall with information and a QR code to the project’s website. Below you will find pictures of the proposed installation.

This site was chosen based on historical research indicating that this area was a cruising site for gay men in 1938 and a place where the Nazis detained individuals who would be deported to concentration camps.

Partnership and Support

“This Dancerie: Paris 1938” was produced with the support from Parsons School of Design, a division of The New School University.  This Dancerie was also funded by the Jerome Foundation through a Travel and Study Grant for Film and Video Production. Fiscal sponsorship for the United States is provided by Fractured Atlas.

Tony Whitfield is an artist, designer, writer and educator whose work has been shown and collected in the US and abroad for three decades.

Installation on rue des Ursins on Isle de la Cite :

Photos from the Paris 1938 Installation at Isle de la Cite

Photos from the Paris 1938 Installation at  Isle de la Cite