Is This a World War II Photograph of Unwanted Babies for Sale in France?
The Facebook page “Pictures in History” is back with a dubious caption for an unusual photograph.
Unwanted babies for sale in France during World War II, 1940
This wasn’t this particular group’s first such outlandish claim. In late February 2019, the page shared a widely-reposted image purportedly showing wives engaged in a “Christmas tradition” of begging their husbands for general forgiveness. Earlier versions of the photograph suggested it actually showed women inviting men to a dance, bucking the tradition of the time.
At least some people found it plausible that the French simply dangled their babies cruelly from burlap sacks and left them “a vendre” in war-torn France, but an initial search indicated that a different historical “fun facts” Twitter account received a response about what was presumably an identical claim back in 2014:
@History_Pics Doubtful. “A vendre” is french,not italian (it would be “in vendita”), and it’s obviously a postcard. So it’s a staged picture
The tweet to which the user was responding appeared to be no longer accessible. But myriad references for “a vendre” or “baby for sale” postcards were live on the internet, suggesting that the images were a meme unto themselves at the turn of the twentieth century. Active sales on sites like eBa featured many different iterations of the theme.
A January 2018 blog post featured dozens of examples of “baby for sale” postcards in a collection titled: “À Vendre: 20 Adorable and Hilarious ‘Babies For Sale’ Postcards in France From the Early 20th Century.” That post claimed the images were far older than the 1940s or World War II, although their exact age was not immediately apparent. Additional images had differing captions, such as “qui veur m’acheter” or “who wants to buy me”:
These vintage humorous postcards from 1904-1905 show staged photographs of “children for sale” in France from 100 years ago.
The image seen above in the “Pictures in History” post was both the header image and featured in the blog post — and its veracity was questionable based on the first reverse image search hit for that photograph. Whether the sharer simply forged ahead with misinformation or was unaware of the many other iterations seen on the page was unclear, but in the broader context, the image was clearly not a sad photograph of abandoned and unwanted babies being sold on the street in France.
Included photographs showed that more often than not, the “a vendre” background was clearly painted or fabricated as a work of creativity. A similar claim was debunked by a hoax-related Tumblr in March 2014.