The photo was taken in September of 1940 and first appeared in Life Magazine in the March 3, 1941 issue.
The magazine “a Frenchman shed tears of patriotic grief as the flags of his country’s last regiments are exiled to Africa.” In the following video, you can actually see the man crying as the events of the day unfolded:
The frenchman was weeping because France was being trampled by Germany. His country’s fall came so quickly and unexpectedly that he and his fellow citizens stood in the streets that day in complete disbelief.
He has been identified in the book Marseille Sous L’occupation, by Lucien Gaillard as Monsieur Jerôme Barzett. He was watching as the French regimental flags were being taken down and moved to the south of France to keep them from the German army.
In just six weeks, Germany had destroyed the French Army and the Maginot Line, which is why Barzett and his fellow citizens were convinced life as they knew it was over.
While many people have tried to track down more specifics of Barzett’s life, the importance lies not so much in who exactly he was but more in the fact that he was a reflection of the pain felt by the French people of that time.