20 May 2011

ERR database—Edouard Esmond

A classic case of being at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Edouard Esmond lived in a sumptuous apartment at 54, avenue d’Iéna, in a most exclusive part of Paris, not too far from Alma-Marceau.

After the German invasion of France in May-June 1940, the new conquerors from across the Rhine set up shop in exclusive haunts---the victor’s temporary privilege until later unseated by Allied and Resistance forces some four years later. In this manner, many well-appointed addresses on the Right Bank of Paris turned into high-end offices and residences for a variety of German agencies and personalities.

It so happens that, for whatever the reasons, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) under Baron von Behr, not content with its digs at the Hotel Commodore, opted to transfer their plundering operations at 54, avenue d’Iéna in October-November 1940.

Expectedly, the building’s tenants were evicted, in absentia, and their belongings misappropriated by their new overseers; in particular, the apartments of Edouard Esmond and Pierre de Gunzburg.

Esmond’s cardinal sin was to live at the wrong address. A born and raised horse breeder and racer, carrying on a very long and distinguished aristocratic lineage from the depths of mother England, Esmond rubbed shoulders and exchanged friendly white balls at polo with the likes of Edouard de Rothschild and ‘la famille de Gramont’ among others. His daughter, Diana Esmond, one of the first women professional golfers was also a jockey and she raced a number of horses from the Edmond stable to victory at venues such as Laversine and Deauville.

Esmond’s taste in art can best be summed up as quaint and indicative of his penchants for ‘slumming’ in jazz clubs and cabarets across Paris. Most of the paintings that were removed from his apartment bore his daughter's signature and were consigned to the ideological trash heap (vernichtet) by the overzealous members of the ERR staff at the Jeu de Paume.

Here are some samples:

"Portrait de peintre avec la palette"
Source: Bundesarchiv via ERR Project

“Enfant nègre”
Source: Bundesarchiv via ERR Project
Source: Bundesarchiv via ERR Project

Source: Bundesarchiv via ERR Project