Assassination of Paul Doumer
On 13th May 1932, Radical Paul Doumer defeated the pacifist Aristide Briand in the second round of French Presidential elections. Less than a year later, Doumer would be assassinated. The president was attending the opening of a Parisian book fair (of First World War veteran writers) on 6 May 1932, when he was shot in the chest and head by Paul Gorguloff, a mentally-unstable Russian emigre, who was later sentenced to death by guillotine.
Although Doumer was a respected career public servant (he served as governor of French Indochina, senator, president of the Chamber of Deputies), as a president he was merely a figurehead. Many mourned him as genial, doddering seventy-five-year-old who lost four of his five sons in the First World War, rather than as the elder statesman he was. In fact, the assassination caused minimal governmental disruption and had few long-term repercussions.
Russian immigrants, however, were less lucky. The papers focused on Gorguloff’s cry before he shot the president: ‘To die for the Fatherland’. Since the assassination happened between two rounds of parliamentary elections, his motives and possibility of Soviet involvement were deeply questioned. Meanwhile, the above pictures of the dying president being carried out of the exhibition hall in Palais Rothschild fuelled the sensationalist press of the time, as did the assassin’s lengthy trial. In this capacity L’affaire Gorguloff contributed much to the charged anti-immigrant atmosphere of the early 1930s.