Last week, while we were marking the 10,756th day since March 1, the 76th Anniversary of the Liberation of Paris – after 4 long years of occupation, starvation, and choke-hold governance by the Nazis – came and went.
A Quick Recap:
Never one to shy away from a good “On This Day” story, my insatiable appetite for all things Paris and History took me on a deep dive of this event, which included one particular article from The New York Times written on the 20th anniversary of the affair.
In it, a vivid picture of early 1940s Paris life takes hold, revealing how suffocating the Nazi governance was:
‘The flag of France was banned from the skyline of its capital.‘
‘Paris’s most beautiful buildings – Place de la Concorde, Quai d’Orsay, Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, and more had been requisitioned by the conquerors.‘
‘Daily, [the Nazis] rubbed the reality of occupation into the pavements of Paris with a strutting parade down the Champs-Elysees.‘
‘Humiliating. Occasionally Horrifying. Increasingly Hungry.‘
It almost was all destroyed.
Diabolical as they were, Nazi leaders knew that nothing would fire up locals more than controlling local pieces of iconic architecture. And thus, beautiful landmark after landmark became Nazi offices or labeled for official use (that is, if American Allies hadn’t claimed it for use it already).
When Hitler saw that the Allies were coming in, he ordered his top brass in town, Lt. Gen von Choltitz, to destroy the bridges and all of the buildings that made Paris beautiful. He wanted the Allies to arrive and find a ‘field of ruins.’ But von Choltitz understood that this was a pointless use of military force; plus, there was no way he wanted his legacy to be the Man Who Burned Down The Most Beautiful City In Europe.
2020: WWII Landmarks, in plain sight (plus an upgrade & breakfast credit)
Fast forward 76 years…. Thanks to Choltitz’s (accurate) fear of tarnished legacy, the Allies, unquantifiable investments in the name of ‘passion projects’ by francophiles, and endless Parisian persistence, these landmarks live on for our enjoyment.
I’m not only talking the Louvre, the d’Orsay, or the Place de la Concorde;
the number of gorgeous, world’s best hotels that played a major royal in Parisian history may surprise you:
The Second Liberation
Fittingly, these hotels – and many others – are going through a “2nd Liberation” of sorts this month, when they reopen for the first time since their forced closure in March. For some, this was the first time ever their gold-leafed, fresh-flower scented halls went dark. Though certainly not as all-encompassing or intense as the real liberation, for many hotels, this is the first time in months they’ve been able to exhale.
Seventy-six years later, while this “liberation” is less definitive and will likely face months of adjustments and reimagined events, I take comfort in knowing that this ain’t the first Tour de France (oh – that’s not what they say over there?) of these stone beauts. They have stood the test of time before, standing silent watch as times of death and destruction have given way to sunny days and Champagne splits, and will surely be there when we can once again personally embrace these old guards!