Saturday, 10 September 2011

Sab's Top Ten Paris Signs of War: No.1 ~ "The Call Up"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ War

Sab's Top Ten  Paris Signs of War
No.1: "The Call Up" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

'Fluctuat nec mergitur' is a motto you'll find carved and crenelated widely around this fair city.

It's Latin for something along the lines of 'Is shaken by the waves but does not sink'. Which is perfectly representative of the history of Paris through the ages.

Paris has been attacked many times but, unlike  many great cities, has never really been 'destroyed'. You can read 2000 years' worth of history in these speckled stones and more, but that doesn't mean the current capital has escaped unscathed.

Far from it, in fact, but you need to know where to look, and indeed feel like looking, in order to unearth the real signs, the lasting scars, which are witness to what these streets and stones have endured down the centuries.

'Signs of war' is my chosen theme for this particular 'Top Ten', but it's a top ten of sadness and suffering, as well as simple historical interest, which serves as an essential reminder of what has gone before. Unsung, forgotten heroes fighting to save or instaure what we take for granted today call to us from the plaques and paving stones of the streets.

Sometimes, perhaps no less tragically, the signs are simply a testimonial to the heights and depths the human spirit and its attendant stupidity or immaturity can attain, as we scrabble towards some sort of mutually acceptable sanity in this world of inequality and mutual incomprehension.

Let's look at a bunch of buildings and battle signs to focus our minds on something tangible for a bit...

Sab's Top Ten Paris Signs of War
No.1 ~ "The Call Up"

Every family's worst nightmare. Every patriot's moment of truth: the call up.

Here in Paris there remains a chilling reminder of this fateful day, here in the 8th arrondissement, on the wall of one of the grand buildings facing the Place de la Concorde, for all who care to read the short message.

Each mayor was responsible for officialising the formal declaration, consisting of a sinister notice, appearing over night, and which didn't take long to spread to every household in the district.

1914 was the year in question; the 2nd August the fateful day. It's the start of the First World War in France, and tens of thousands of Parisians were to die in the trenches on the front lines.

The poster's actually a copy, as the original, which apparently survived the Second World War too, didn't make it through the smoky sixties and seventies, and was replaced with a facsimile.

The thing was actually forgotten in the heady years of the war, and it was only in 1919 that a Parisian spotted it and decided it was worth saving. Along with the memory.

Coming Soon: No.2: Humans were not the only victims of war in this town.


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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