Rose Valland, on “the Art Front”

Coordination scientifique : Corinne Bouchoux

The Train

Lettre à Léon Christophe (photocopie)

Letter to Léon Christophe (photocopy), Rose Valland, avril 1975, paper and ink, 17 x 17 (cm), Brunoy, Mireille Christophe, © Mireille Christophe.

Inspired by Rose Valland’s memoirs, the 1964 American film The Train made the public at large aware of the spoliations and looting carried out by the Nazi.


However, Rose Valland’s presence in it remains quite understated and does not do justice to the massive task she accomplished over four years at the Jeu de Paume. The film is essentially a tribute to the railwaymen and their heroic and resourceful effort to delay the train’s departure.


In April 1975, the film was shown on the French national channel in the framework of the programme Les Dossiers de l’écran. Rose Valland took part in the discussions that followed the film. The programme elicited many calls from the public. In a letter sent a few days later to her friend Léon Christophe, Rose Valland enlarges on her discomfort in bearing witness to the past:

“Honestly, I felt terribly nervous at the beginning of the program! And I struggled to control myself!. It all took off too quickly. So many things crowd everyone’s memories alike so that it was not easy for us to make the best choice in the heat of the moment.”

Rose Valland heroine of an American film

The Train directed in 1964 by John Frankenheimer follows the broad lines of Rose Valland’s book Le Front de l'art. Défense des collections françaises 1939-1945, Paris, Plon, 1961.

The film’s first ten minutes show Suzanne Flon incarnating Rose Valland, busy watching the Germans’ activities at the Jeu de Paume and informing the Resistance and some American agents by means of the meticulous cataloguing of all the looted paintings whose characteristics and destination she records. The film is especially focussed on the heroism of the Resistance’s railwaymen.

In 1975, Rose Valland was invited to Armand Jamot and joseph Pasteur’s programme “Les dossiers de l'écran” after the broadcasting of the film The Train