Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Free Paris!


Yesterday (August 25), exactly 65 years ago Paris was freed from the German occupation. Every year since, Paris celebrates this "festive" moment with a mini show in front of the town hall where some people are all dress like Parisians in 1945 (as in this photo). I attended this event for the first time this year and it was quite moving. Also, I don't know if you've ever heard the story, but according to legend, it seems that the Germans were ready to bomb some bridges and monuments of Paris in case they would have to surrender. They did not, thanks to General von Choltitz, "Governor" of Paris, who is said to have disobeyed Hitler when he commanded him to "Burn Paris" (see more on Wikipedia). Also have a look at the beginning of "Is Paris burning?", with the famous soundtrack sung by Mireille Mathieu!

61 comments:

  1. This is so cool. I always get a lump in my throat when I see the plaques dedicated to those who fell during the liberation.

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  2. My goodness! I am GF? Since we cannot have an anonymous GF, call me Mrs. Vandertramp. I have yet to figure out how to choisir une identite.

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  3. Now this is something to celebrate! And I like the way it's done, too. I hope the schools bring the kids around to see it.

    Anonyme, I think if you just check the nom/url (or name/url if you see it in English) button at the bottom here, you'll be able to enter a name.

    Congrats!

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  4. That was a good move from General von Choltitz.

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  5. I'm glad von Choltitz said no, and also the general who refused to destroy the Ponte Vecchio. You'd think as an American I would have gone to see this reenactment, but no—so thanks for showing us, Eric.

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  6. At least the Eiffel Tower is fire proof....isn't it?

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  7. Von Choltitz was a hero! Imagine, saving Paris so that millions of people can delight in its beauty.

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  8. Is Paris Burning is one of my favorite movies, with incredible long shots of Paris boulevards, emptied for filming, and wonderful performances. I have since read that Von Choltitz, who is depicted as a hero in the film, may not have been really responsible for saving Paris. However, Paris was saved and for that the world should be grateful. A related documentary which I recommend and which is out for rental now about the systematic looting of art during the war is called The Rape of Europa. Is Paris Burning was also written by two titans at the beginning of their careers. Check it out!!!

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  9. PS - Love the photo, Eric!! I'd love to see this, too.

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  10. Thank God Paris was not burnt into ashes.

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  11. Hooray for a Vandertramp! What a name, too.

    I really am enjoying this photo as local celebrations really bring out the flavor of a city or country. Imagine the thought that went into these outfits!I wish I could have seen this in person.

    There is a famous picture of the face of a French man on the verge of tears when France became occupied. Wish I knew the photographer or a link.
    Where is Tall Gary when you need him?
    Where is UKRose, period?

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  12. PHX - I'm no Tall Gary, linkswise, but I found the image on Google images and it is a photo taken in Marseille in February, 1941, which is in the Bettman Archives and copywrited to Corbis, but for which I cannot find the name of a photographer. Perhaps someone else can find more! Its a great photo. The caption says he is crying in response to the flag passing by.

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  13. Mrs. Vandertrampp(partir & passe!): how is Dr. Vandertrampp? LOL. What memories your name has brought back. Congrats on being GF!

    I always enjoy learning new things about Paris, Eric. I hope to witness this event myself one day.

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  14. I enjoy so much what I learn from this site.
    And I, too, am glad Paris was not burned during WWII.

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  15. Oops, left the "r" off passer!!!

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  16. I never knew that!! Thank you for this great post! I will have to mention that to my mother who grew up in France during WW2. She always said that Liberation of Paris and when people danced was the most beautiful day of her life. She can still describes some of what she saw on the Champs Elysees in a great deal of detail (even if, over the years, I noticed that some of the details changed a little bit ;)

    As to Paris brule t'il, I don't think I've ever seen it or not in my adult life. I'm putting it in my Netflix queue immediately before I forget, thanks!

    65 years, wow!! When I first came to the US, I met WW2 veterans from time to time. They'd say "Oh, I know France, I visited once. Beautiful country." something like that. I'd say something like " Oh, really, when did you go?" They'd say "1944 or 1945 " At that point always came the thank you's and the handshakes, and they usually said something like "nah, it was no big deal." Yeah, right!

    Now, meetings with WW2 vets are unfortunately few and far between.

    Anyway, thanks for this post.

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  17. " She always said that Liberation of Paris and when"

    I meant

    She always said that when people danced in the street after the Liberation of Paris

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  18. As recounted in the book "Wine and War" (A must-read if you love France, history or wine), it was the French civilian mayor of Paris who had a talk with von Choltitz that influenced his decision to keep the City of Light from going alight.

    Despite the obvious wrongs committed by the Germans in World War Two, there were several instances of cooperation between opposing sides that spared lives and/or history. This is one example, as is the preservation of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria.

    A colossal failure in that regard was Monte Cassino, a Benedictine monastary in Italy, which was flattened by Allied bombers because the commanders believed the Germans were using it as an observation point for artillery. They weren't, but they occupied it after the bombing, and far too many people lost their lives in the ensuing battle.

    Also of note, regarding Paris, is de Gaulle's triumphal march on liberation day. Say what you want about his politics, but for him to walk down the streets before the German snipers were cleared took courage.

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  19. Tee hee Cali. Did your French teacher use Mrs. Vandertramp too? I would be hard-pressed to list all the Mrs. Vandertramp verbs today, but I had them memorized in seventh grade.

    I'm going to try to create une identity. Thanks for the tip Suzy.

    Mrs. V.

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  20. Both Is Paris Burning? and the Rape of Europa are great books. I didn't know they were also movies. I'll have to add them to my netflix list.

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  21. Mrs. V: I used a "cheat sheet" because I don't remember the verbs either. The identity you are using now is pretty good.
    Brandon: thanks for the information and the tip about the book.

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  22. Yippee! I have an identity! For PDP, at least. I won't get into the philosophical ramifications of choosing an identity, but I'm looking forward to non-anonyme posts to you folks.

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  23. Mrs. V: LOL. Bienvenue à PDP!

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  24. For those of you who want to add the movie to their Netflix queue, beware, there are 2 movies maned almost the ame thing but ... well, see for yourself:

    1) Is Paris Burning (1966): classic war story with Jean-Paul Belmondeo, Kirk Douglas, etc.

    2) Paris is Burning (1990): "Penetrating the tight-knit community of minority drag queens living in New York City, Jennie Livingston's acclaimed documentary was one of several films to be shut out of Oscar contention for its unconventional content... "

    OK, click carefully ;)

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  25. Hey Eric! Imagine if they had burned Paris. Where would you and I be today?! We'd be publishing these empty blogs with captions like 'This would have been a picture of the Eiffel Tower, but they burnt it'. 'This would have been a picture of le Jardin de Luxembourg but they burnt it' etc. Keep the pics coming!

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  26. I'd have the hankies out if I came across a scene like this in Paris. How beautiful, and I love the young lady's floral dress and rose-coloured beret. Thank heavens for all those who disobeyed or intervened at their own peril.

    What an interesting bunch of comments today!! Congrats and Hello to Mrs Vandertramp. That's another something new for me - we weren't taught that in our French classes.

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  27. How generous of Eric to commemorate this anniversary. I am very emotional and sentimental about the liberation; it reminds me of the sacrifices made the lives lost and the survivors. Every family was touched in some ways. Thanks for the remembrance! Yes I will have to watch “Is Paris burning”, it has been a long time since I’ve watched this film.

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  28. My goodness how TALL is that lady? ;) he he....

    Yay GF Mrs. Vandertramp!

    Great photo Eric. Very moving it all is. I am glad it's remembered and that the terrible things which happened are not forgotten. It's important.

    On the flip side, I have just waved goodbye to a charming German visitor - a young lady student - she was delightful and I do think it's so important that we try to alleviate any guilt from the present generation. Whilst here, in the UK, she experienced some awful comments - from a FRIEND of mine and hers (I was appalled and embarrassed) - about Hitler and the atrocities he committed, repeated comments and remarks making her feel very awkward. Clearly, none of that is this young girl's fault or any of the present generation so the experience made me more aware so that the whole of Germany is not forever guilty in the future. I do think it's so important though that those who committed these crimes and the truly terrible things which occurred are marked, remembered and seen for what they were; hideous crimes.

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  29. Eric thank you for this! This subject and this movie is one of my favourites, it's so rich with history.
    We can say thank you to Choltitz but he was no saint, I believe one of the reasons he didn't follow Hitler's order was because he made a deal with the allies didn't he?

    Anyway, Paris didn't burn!


    I think it's a nice way to celebrate this date, this mini show.
    I'm so fascinated by this topic that during my last visit to the city, when I went up the top of the Arc de Triumph, there's a sort of mini museum and a giftshop there. I bought me a book called

    "PARIS OCCUPÉ, PARIS LIBERÉ"

    It's got the most amazing pictures of the occupation and photos of people celebrating the liberation.
    Some photos really bring tears to the eyes.

    Tomate, thanks for the history too, how incredible it must have been to have met some ex-soldiers.

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  30. Welcome Mrs. V! But, From Cali and Mrs. V - since I never had French classes, I've never heard of the original Mrs. Vandertramp. It sounds like she knows alot of verbs!! Where's this name from?

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  31. What a beautiful trip into the past!

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  32. Ms. Vandertramp..we will raise a French flag up for your win today.
    I thought you just, well, GOT AROUND but Cali privately explained your name to me, you little vixen!

    Thank you Carrie, for the info...and thx Tomate! Your comments on your mother and the info about yourself gave me goosebumps.

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  33. Carrie: Mrs. Vandertramp is a trick French teachers use, or used a long time ago when I learned French, to help you remember the verbs that use etre rather than avoir to form the past tense. Each letter represents one of the verbs. Mourir, rester, sortir, etc.

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  34. I landed on this very day in 1994 on my first trip to Paris, and it was the 50th anniversary then. We stayed just off the Champs-Elysees and all of Paris was out celebrating. What memories...

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  35. I just found this (Hitler in Paris). Dreadful.

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  36. That clip is chilling, Eric.

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  37. Thanks, Brandon and Monica for the book referrals, they are now in my Amazon Wish List!

    Thanks Mrs. V for the explanation of your name. That will help me with my verbs!

    Thanks for the clip, Eric. I wonder who shot this - wasn't color film really rare in 1940? It makes me wonder (though its not attributed as such in the You Tube caption) if it was shot by Leni Riefenstahl. She would have had access to both Hitler and the film stock.

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  38. Monica: These WW2 veterans are still around, although they're getting up in age. Yeah, it's hard to describe the feeling.

    Lynn: I know exactly what your friend is experiencing. I used to hear nasty comments about De Gaulle's policies, which was long before my time ... (not so much anymore).

    I had a German penpal back in the 70's (!) and I ended up going to live with her family for a couple of weeks in Germany. It was awesome by the way, and I really enjoyed my stay. Everything was really modern, from the buildings to the people, enough said. But I heard some really weird comments in France from people who remembered the war, i.e., that my parents were losing their mind to send me spend any time at all in that country, haven't they done enough, etc., etc., etc. and I shouldn't befriend Germans, etc... In that case, I found the best course of action was to let people talk, and just nod your head until they're done. You could always try to say things have changed, we are young people and this is a different world, it's hard to get someone who's lost a husband, possibly sons, or other loved ones to the war, to be rational about it.

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  39. Eric, that's a chilling video clip. The music is haunting as well.

    I've recently been told my great-grandfather camped underneath the Arc de Triomphe whilst aiding his fellow troops in liberating Paris. That makes me proud.

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  40. What a fun way to celebrate such a wonderful event!!

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  41. I have to give you credit Eric, you never seem to run out of new and interesting ideas to photograph....

    Brandon, my wife and I just saw a documentary on the destruction of Monte Cassino this Spring...it was really sad.

    In my hometown, they just lost one of the oldest WW2 veterans and there are not too many others left. It's up to the rest of us to keep the memories and stories alive so our children will learn the lessons of such a tragic time.


    Sean

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  42. Bienvenue to Mrs. V as well! I love it when nonbloggers get into the action. I 'm still waiting for at least one of my friends to figure out the Name/URL thing!!

    Eric, I am so sorry I missed this event. Looks like I just need to move to Paris so as not to miss the good stuff. Wonderful shot, like going back in time.
    V

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  43. Eric, you stirred up a wonderful dialogue. I've read the book and seen the movie "Is Paris Burning," both very long ago. Haven't seen "the Rape of Europa," although a neighbor recommended it. I don't recall Mrs. Vandertramp in any of the numerous French classes I've taken over the years -- and I still can't speak it. That film on Hitler is creepy - a desecration of a beloved city.

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  44. Yes that film is chilling Eric, really awful.

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  45. Paris has been a very lucky City and I don't know any Parisian heart who could be insensible to this stunning miracle...
    Love your very first class posts, Eric, as always. Thumbs up ;)
    Love all these clever comments on PDP.
    Love goes with free Paris!!

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  46. @PHX. "Where is Tall Gary when you need him? Where is UKRose, period?" And where is Thib?!

    @Brandon. "Say what you want about his politics, but for him to walk down the streets before the German snipers were cleared took courage." Yes, I agree too. My aunt always told me that this period was really scary because you were always scared that a sniper would shoot you from the rooftops.

    @Mrs Vandertramp. Bienvenue. Actually this name reminds me of Mrs Vandenkamp Aka Bree in Desperate housewives... I never knew of this trick to remember when to use avoir and être (probably because we don't need to learn that, i comes naturally after you heard it a thousand times as a kid!)

    @Tomate. "there are 2 movies named almost the same but ... well, see for yourself" LOOOOOOOOOOL!

    @Paris Set Me Free. Hey, how are you. It's been a while. Yeah I'm glad Paris is... well... Paris!

    @Bécane "t reminds me of the sacrifices made the lives lost and the survivors. Every family was touched in some ways." True and I mentioned it several times here.

    @Lynn "Very moving it all is. I am glad it's remembered and that the terrible things which happened are not forgotten. It's important." Actually what happened in London during the war was pretty bad too. The city was never occupied but seriously damaged.
    But I fully agree with what you say about the Germans. Younger generations should not have to pay for what their grand grand parents did.

    @Monica "Anyway, Paris didn't burn!" True ;)

    @Dawn in OKC "I love your photos Eric!" ;))))

    @Carrie "thanks for the clip, Eric. I wonder who shot this". Well it just says "amateur film". It must have been a soldier or something. Recently they showed on television a collection of movies made by Eva Braun, his "wife". It was fascinating to think this monster in his country house having good time with friends and family.

    @Eurostyle "I have to give you credit Eric, you never seem to run out of new and interesting ideas to photograph..." Thanks, but that is really not the feeling I have sometimes!

    @Virginia "Eric, I am so sorry I missed this event. Looks like I just need to move to Paris so as not to miss the good stuff." Well it's hard to keep up with everything. I just read about this early August on the Paris town hall site. There was a drawing to win tickets to attend the ceremony a little closer. And I won!

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  47. Here is the film (Hitler by Eva Braun) I was telling you about. The comment is in French, but it's really amazing to see this other side of Hitler.

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  48. Nobody commented about Mireille Mathieu ;)

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  49. Thank you, Eric, and everyone else, for the kind words of welcome. I have been in love with Paris since my first trip in 1975, and until recently have managed a trip every couple of years. However, since 2002, what with one thing or another, I have not been able to swing a trip. I stumbled upon PDP a few years ago, and it has been my daily fix. I've just been lurking up until now, posting an occasional anonyme comment. I have slapped a J'adore PDP bumper sticker on the car and sent PDP Christmas cards. It's now time to join in the fun. Eric, your PDP fans are the most articulate, interesting bloggers out there.

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  50. Tomate - I have to see the film again for Mireille Mathieu. I was introduced to her here not long ago when Lynn remembered her singing the Marsaillaise. Her You Tube clip is wonderful. The lovely score to Is Paris Burning? was by Maurice Jarre, who also scored Lawrence of Arabia. Thanks, too, Eric, for the Eva Braun film!

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  51. Carrie: I was joking but if you want to see Mireille Mathieu, I've seen a number of clips on UTube. Same person, same voice, same hair cut, can't miss it :)

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  52. We were pleased to be in Paris on the 50th anniversary of the liberation. The city looked even more beautiful than usual with the flags flying all up and down the Champs Elysees. The book IS PARIS BURNING is an exciting read and the movie is good too, but best seen after you read the book. One of my dreams is to toast Paris with a glass of wine and then have dinner in Hotel Meurice where Von Choltiz had his headquarters.

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  53. Tomate -- Oops! Sorry I didn't get your joking - same as the other day when I didn't get across that I was joking - sometimes its not as clear in writing! I'll check out the other UT clips!

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  54. My mother and father were in Paris when it was liberated. I love the story of my mother asking an American soldier marching into Paris if he was and Indian. She thought all the dirt on his face was war paint! Vive la France! I would love to be in Paris on this day, I do not think I could hold back the tears thinking of my now passed away parents.

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  55. Mrs. Vandertramp are you kidding me? I studied french in Jr high, high school, and college have never heard this mnemonic phrase. OK so tomorrow while sitting in the doctor's office I will be trying to remember all the verbs. I love this it's like HOMES for the great lakes!

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  56. That film was so interesting, Eric, thank you. I've watched many documentaries and read many books but some of this footage I've not seen. My father will be interested to see it too and I can translate some of it for him. In parts, the Disney kind of lifestyle which Eva Braun (and he) enjoyed was quite sickening to watch, knowing the atrocities he was ordering at the same time.

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  57. I had just arrived that day and was wondering around later that day and stumbled upon some old men in uniforms. As well, they were taking everything down. Only later did I realize what was going on. I wish I had come earlier and seen the festivities.

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  58. Could be the BEST blog that I have read all day..

    Delmar

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