Friday, 24 February 2012

Hitler Visits Paris in 1940: Rare Video

POSTED IN:  ~ Places History War

Hitler Visits Paris in 1940: Rare Video

In these heady election times as I type, it's worth reflecting how close France came to having a President Hitler smiling malevolently over her.

Very close, as these historic images chillingly testify.

I don't know about you, but my family snapshots with Lady Eiffel as backdrop just don't have the same sort of lasting power as these do.

There are two videos to discover here, if you don't know them already. The first has a soberly retrospective commentary in English describing the event.

"It has been my life's dream to see Paris"
~ Adolf Hitler after his three hour visit to the French capital

The You Tube channel TheHistoryTV also offers a very digestible written account of what happened which is well worth clicking through to if you're interested.

In Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris, which I reviewed here, Graham Robb devotes an entire chapter to the event as imagined by one of the protagonists, and the reading is uncomfortably compelling, as are the images you see in the videos.

The second video is a shorter, shakier, palely coloured version, with enigmatic and rather poignant music replacing words, and in a way it's the most powerful of the two.

Of all the places you can visit in Paris, knowing full well that countless legendary figures have stridden the same stones and sat in the same cafés and bars, I think the thought of Hitler gazing across to the Champs de Mars from the top of the Trocadero steps is the one that sends the biggest shiver down my spine.

Although as I type my Top 10 Paris Signs of War series only has two members, namely The Call Up and Woody War Veterans, I have at least ten in my mind just waiting for the window of opportunity to open.

Paris has the dubious distinction of having been occupied and revolutionised more than practically any other city without ever being outrightly destroyed. It seems to weave some sort of spell over its would be raptors like the song of the sirens in The Odyssey.

Hitler's preferred architect, Albert Speer, who accompanied the Führer on his surreal sightseeing tour, and who was to be charged with assuring Paris paled in comparison to the future Berlin, recalls the moment clearly...

"That same evening he received me once more in the small room in the peasant house. He was sitting alone at the table. Without more ado he declared:

'Draw up a decree in my name ordering full-scale resumption of work on the Berlin buildings... Wasn't Paris beautiful? But Berlin must be made far more beautiful. In the past I often considered whether we would not have to destroy Paris,' he continued with great calm, as if he were talking about the most natural thing in the world.

'But when we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow. So why should we destroy it?'

With that, I was dismissed."


* 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...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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