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28 May 2015

Violette Morris (1893–1944) Part II: performer, chauffeur, black-marketer.

Morris at Le Monocle
Continued from Part I.

In the 1931 census, Morris gave her name as Paule. At that time she employed a maid and two shop assistants. However she was not a good businessman and with many others went bankrupt in July as the Depression took effect, and the shop finally sold in September 1932 to la maison Delombre which agreed to pay a percentage on sales to her ex-customers.

The Olympics were held in Los Angeles, and France sent only six women competitors.

Morris was included in the photographs of patrons of the butch nightclub Le Monocle. She was also seen in other nightclubs with the US American performer Josephine Baker(1906-1975 IMDB). Other gossip magazines claimed that Morris was having an affair with athlete Raoul Paoli.

Morris and Josephine Baker

In January 1933 she moved into a houseboat, La Mouette (the Seagull) which was moored on the Seine at Neuilly in northwest Paris close to the Bois de Boulogne. Morris still had inheritance annuities to live on, and took up lyrical singing. She was successful enough to be broadcast on the wireless.

In December 1937 Morris shot and killed Joseph Le Cam, an intruder on her houseboat who threatened to throw her overboard. She was interned for "voluntary homicide" but released four days later, with a ruling of self-defence.

In April 1938 Morris' aunt Elvire Sakakini died and her domestic servants, Jules and Julie Trolin, came to live with Morris on the houseboat.

In 1939 Morris had an affair with Yvonne de Bray (1887-1954 IMDB) , stage and screen actress. Through her, Morris came to know Jean Cocteau (1889-1963). After war was declared in September, Cocteau's lover, Jean Marais (1913-1998 IMDB), was mobilized and sent to the Front. Cocteau wanted to visit with Marais and Morris drove him although neither of them had a pass for the war zone. Morris was taken to be Cocteau's brother.
Morris & Yvonne de Bray on the houseboat

Morris had a second boat, Le Scarabée (The Beetle) moored to La Mouette, and lent it to Cocteau to finish writing Les Monstres sacrés, a theatre piece to star de Bray. In May 1940, Morris transferred 83,091 francs to de Bray, possibly to finance the production. Morris was one of the performers when it was staged.

In June France surrendered to the German invasion.

The Raymond Ruffin version:

Morris was recruited by the German security service at an athletic games in Munich in 1935. She was a honoured guest at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Games, although she did not compete. She gave the Germans partial plans of the Maginot Line, detailed plans of strategic points within the city of Paris, and schematics of the French army's main tank, the Somua S35. She had dealings with the criminal Bonny-Lafont Gang which acted for the Gestapo, and did the organisation charts for the Gestapo in their headquarters at rue des Saussaies, and recorded the English spy networks. On orders from London, the Normandy Resistance executed her.

The Marie-Josèphe Bonnet version:

In February 1941 Morris was managing a garage at 34, boulevard Pershing, when it was requisitioned by the Luftwaffe. From May 1943 Morris was chauffeur to Captain Giraud of the Legion des Volontaires Francais, and vehicles registered to her were used by Sarton Du Jonchay. She collaborated in airplane construction and was present (?as chauffeur) when materials and parts were requisitioned. She was also involved in black-marketing which involved driving all over Normandy, and became well-known for her comings and goings. She was denounced, while others more deeply involved in collaboration were not. On 26 April 1944 Morris was driving M. Bailleul, a local pork butcher, his wife and their two children. They were ambushed and machine-gunned by the Resistance. There were no survivors.

Raymond Ruffin (1929 – 2007) published more than 20 books on World War II and the French Resistance, especially in Normandy. His attitude to Violette Morris is evident at first glance in his book titles: La diablesse and La hyène de la Gestapo. He got the idea from a novel by famous crime writer Auguste Le Breton (1913 – 1999), Les pègriots, 1973, which has 2 pages on Morris.

We do have a photograph of Morris at Le Monocle. If Morris were at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, why do we not have a photograph of her there? The Berlin Olympics were the most photographed event at that point in time, they were televised, and Leni Riefenstahl made a feature film. Morris was a celebrity.

Almost all web pages on Morris and the France 3 television documentary on Ces français qui ont choisi Hitler (Those French who chose Hitler) in 2009 uncritically follow the two books by Raymond Ruffin. Even sports historians apologise for mentioning Morris. Even Christine Bard, feminist historian, uncritically accepted Ruffin's account.

Marie-Jo Bonnet, went through the archives of the Free France Secret Service, and the BCRA (Central Bureau of Research and Action), which are available at the Office of the Resistance. She also examined trial transcripts of the treason trials which followed the Liberation, the National Archives and local archives in Normandy. She found minor references to Morris, but nothing to support the picture found in Ruffin's books. Likewise Morris was not mentioned in the criminal trials of the Bonny-Lafont gang, nor in the Gestapo's own files on repressing the Resistance. Bonnet points out that Ruffin does not seem to know what Morris was doing for the first three years of the Occupation.

Both Wikipedia and Facebook cite Morris living on a barge on the Seine as evidence of her Gestapo status, which is odd as we know that Morris had inherited wealth, and was living there by 1933 – seven years before the German occupation.

Both FR.WIKIPEDIA and EN.WIKIPEDIA list Bonnet's book in their references, but neither address its contents at all. FR.WIKIPEDIA had had a controversy section mentioning that Bonnet's version is different from Ruffin's. This was removed without explanation 10/4/2015.

If we regard Ruffin's books as the case for the prosecution, and Bonnet's book as for the defence, I do not think that a conviction would have been obtained if the case had come to trial.

Let her who is without sin …. Jean Cocteau was a right-winger who regarded Hitler as a pacifist, and accused France of disrespect towards Hitler. He was arraigned on charges of collaboration after the war. Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, juives, lesbiennes, états-uniennes, spent the war in Culoz, Rhône-Alpes without being bothered, and their art collection in their Paris home was untouched. This was because of their friendship with Bernard Faÿ, a high official in the Vichy Regime who was otherwise busy sending Freemasons to the concentration camps. They helped him escape after he was imprisoned for collaboration. Stein translated Marshal Pétain's speeches into English and compared him to George Washington. She still praised him after 1945 when he had been sentenced to death for treason. For John Radclyffe Hall, friend of Gabriele D'Annunzio, the John the Baptist of Italian Fascism, the fascists were the good guys, and she proudly wore their badge: "I believe (the Jews) hate us and want to bring about a European War and then a World revolution in order to destroy us utterly".

All these of course are very minor when compared to the involvement of Prescott Bush, IBM, Ford, ITT, Kodak, Standard Oil, etc, etc with Nazi Germany.  Partial list.

There is a general avoidance of the question as to why the pork butcher, M. Bailleul had to die, and why also his wife and two young children. Bonnet suggests that embarrassment over the killing of the two children led to a building up of the story of Morris' guilt.
  • R. Peyronnet de Torres. "L'extraordinaire carrière d'une sportive : Violette Morris", Le Miroir des sports, 2 juin 1925.
  • “La Morris”. Le Miroir des Sports, 3 Juin 1925: 338.
  • Paris Midi,21 juillet 1926
  • Patrick Modiano. La Ronde de Nuit. Gallimard,1969. English translation: Night Rounds Knopt, 1971. The Night Watch. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015. Novel about man working for both the Resistance and the Gestapo. Violette Morris is a character.
  • Auguste Le Breton. Les pègriots. France loisirs, 1973.
  • Raymond Ruffin. La diablesse: [Amazone scandaleuse, comparse du milieu, championne sportive internationale, espionne de la Gestapo; la veritable histoire de Violette Morris]. Paris: Éditions Pygmalion/Gérard Watelet, 1989.
  • Jean-Emile Neaumet, Violette Morris, la Gestapiste.  Fleuve Noir, 1994.
  • Gilles Perrault & Pierre Azema. Paris Under the Occupation. New York: Vendome Press, 1989: 38.
  • Jean-Emile Neaumet. Violette Morris: La gestapiste . Fleuve Noir, 1994.
  • Leslie Feinberg. Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Rupaul. Beacon Press 1996: 86.
  • Christian Gury. L'Honneur ratatiné d'une athlète lesbienne en 1930. Kimé, 1999.
  • Brassaï translated into English by Richard Miller. "Le Monocle". In The Secret Paris of the 30s. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001.
  • Raymond Ruffin,. Violette Morris: la hyène de la gestap. Paris: Cherche midi, 2004.
  • Wendy Michallet. “Droit au But: Violette Morris and Women’s Football in ‘Les Années Folles’”. French Studies Bulletin, 26,97, 2005: 13-7.
  • "Violette Morris ou le terreau de la haine" Lucid State, octobre 2007.
  • Jean-François Bouzanquet. Fast Ladies: Female Racing Drivers, 1888-1970. Dorchester: Veloce, 2009: 22-5.
  • Joest Jonathan Ouaknine. “Violette Morris: du rose au brun”. Leblogauto, 17 avril 2009.
  • Christophe Weber (dir), Ces français qui ont choisi Hitler. France 3, 03 juin 2009. Vimeo (full program)
  • “Fast Women in History: Auto Racing’s Tough Female Pioneers”. The Selvedge Yard, Sept 29, 2009.
  • “165 - This chap is actually not a chap at all, he or should I say she is Violette Morris, the Gestapo's Hyena”. Facebook, 12 de febero de 2010.
  • Marie-Josèphe Bonnet. Violette Morris: histoire d'une scandaleuse. Paris: Perrin, 2011.
  • Christian Gury. La péniche sanglante: Violette Morris, Cocteau, Modiano. Paris: Non lieu, 2011.
  • Jean Williams. A Contemporary History of Women's Sport, Part One: Sporting Women, 1850-1960. Routledge, 2014: 121-3, 133-4, 138-9, 142-3.
  • Francine Prose,. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932: A Novel. New York: Harper, 2014. A novelization. The Lou Villars character is a scarcely disguised version on Morris.
  • “Violette Morris”. Le Blog de Raymond Ruffin.
  • “Violette Morris”. Tumblr.
Books on life in Occupied France where Violette Morris is not mentioned, but you would expect to find her if Ruffin's charges are true:
  • Fabrizio Calvi & Marc J. Masurovsky. Le festin du Reich: le pillage de la France occupée, 1940-1945. Paris: Fayard, 2006.
  • Jaquemard Serge. La bande Bonny-Lafont. Scènes de Crimes, 2007.
  • Cyril Eder. Les Comtesses de la Gestapo. Grassetfas, 2007.
  • Grégory Auda. Belles années du "Milieu" 1940-1944. Michalon, 2013.


  1. I really liked your article about Violette Morris. Other articles I had read seemed to suggest she was evil because of being a Nazi collaborator. You always seem to go the extra mile, I had never read about the family who died with her anywhere else.

    1. It is a problem that no book in English goes into any depth about Morris. I would like to see Bonnet's book translated, and also Gury's 2011 book. However there is an extra translation required in addition to language. Bonnet's book assumes a French readership, which includes an assumption of how much the readers know about life under the German occupation. English-language readers have a much vaguer knowledge of France at that period, and thus more needs to explained. What is needed is an English-language writer with good French and a good knowledge of the French to read most of the books etc cited above and to render an account specifically aimed at English-language readers. What I have written is but a summary, and even that tested my French.

  2. Does your position on the historicity of the accounts of Violette Morris from Ruffin and others at all affect your review of Francine Prose's 'Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932'? It would seem that Prose used Ruffin as her main historical guide.

  3. I did not review Prose's novel. I merely mentioned that it exists. From what I have read about it, I expect that it would be more nuanced if she had drawn on Bonnet's book.

  4. You state: "There is a general avoidance of the question as to why the pork butcher, M. Bailleul had to die, and why also his wife and two young children. Bonnet suggests that embarrassment over the killing of the two children led to a building up of the story of Morris' guilt."

    According to Ruffin, the men who killed Morris actually did try to ambush her during her earlier journey that day - when she was alone. Does Bonnet's book mention this?

    Ruffin also states that when the resistance ambushed Morris' car, they were not expecting her to be with friends who were simply caught in the crossfire. That can happen in even the best planned operations.

    Ruffin does not actually mention the family's name, but he does mention that they were pro-German collaborators and the youngest, two boys aged 13 and 15, may have had a part in betraying a teacher, Albert Marcel, who was shot by the Germans for his work in the Resistance.

    Also among the victims was M. and Mme. Bailleul's son-in-law, and Ruffin acknowledges that there is nothing that indicates that he was pro-German and was therefore really innocent.

    I have to say that I am getting into two minds about the Morris issue. A lot of Ruffin's book struck me as speculation. He describes events as if he was a fly on the wall who witnessed the most private evens in Morris' life and therefore wrote about them, but does not specify the source. He even includes full conversations betweeen people, such as when Cyprien Gouraud proposed to Morris in 1914. Ruffin has an entire conversation in which Morris tries to point out that they have little in common, but does not state the source of such detail.

    According to a review of Bonnet's book,, the quality of her own account of Morris is also somewhat dubious. For example, she suggests that Morris' grandmother may have influenced her rebellious attitude, but later states that they never actually met!

    Bonnet apparently thinks that the fact that Morris was seen at rue des Saussaies, where the Gestapo was based in Paris, does not establish that Morris was guilty of anything, but the critic points out that Morris also helped the Germans seize fuel in Cannes in 1943 and was involved with the STO which enforced the enlistment and deportation of hundreds of thousands of French workers to Nazi Germany to work as forced labour.

    These days, it's hard to know which source to believe.


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