TRAVEL with pat and lew

* French resistance in WWII and celebration in 2010

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 29, 2010

Pat with Jean Moulin

The French Resistance to the Nazi occupation is both a source of French pride and a bitter memory of how many collaborated, and how often the collaborators hated the resistance fighters for bringing the wrath of the Nazis against “innocent” civilians. It seems, however, as the years pass, the stature of the resistance is growing and the collaborators are increasingly forgotten.

musee Jean Moulin

Evidence of this is found at the musee Jean Moulin, opened in 1994 on the roof of the Gare Montparnasse. In 1940, Moulin was serving as prefect of Chartres when he refused to sign a document prepared by the Germans accusing innocent persons of killing French civilians who were in fact killed by German bombing. To prevent himself from revealing anything under torture, Moulin tried to commit suicide by slitting his throat. He later escaped from German custody, made contact with resistance forces, and in October 1941 went to London to join General de Gaulle. He was sent back to France with the mission of unifying Free France resistance to prepare for the liberation of France. He was betrayed and arrested in 1943, tortured by the Nazis to the point that he died from his beatings. Initially buried at the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, his casket was given the supreme honor when in 1964, it was re-located to the Pantheon, the home of “the great men of France” and one woman (Marie Curie).

Read Patrick Marnhan’s Resistance and Betrayal for a poignant description of Moulin’s activities and impact.

Jean Moulin is certainly the most famous of the French Resistance fighters, and also the best looking. The scarf around his neck covers the wounds he inflicted on himself when he tried to commit suicide. The photo of Jean Moulin in “the hat” has become an icon seen all over France.

liberation of Paris

Paris was liberated in August 1944 after Allied forces had fought across France from the landing beaches at Normandy. General Eisenhower initially planned to bypass Paris in order not to slow the Allied advance towards Germany, but Generals Le Clerc and de Gaulle ordered an uprising in the city (which infuriated Eisenhower) that forced his hand. French troops lead the entry into Paris. The German commander, General von Choltitz, defied Hitler’s orders and did not set off explosives which had been placed to destroy many of the most important buildings, monuments and bridges.

Read Is Paris Burning by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins for a spectacular account of the liberation of Paris.

Pat and I attended the 65th anniversary celebration of the liberation of Paris, held in the great plaza before the Hotel de Ville. It was a moving event, even without understanding the words spoken. Several veterans, who presumably participated in 1944, spoke while pictured then and now, as did a young woman we think might have been a descendant of Charles de Gaulle. We were pleased also by the recognition given to France’s World War II allies, including particularly General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill.

celebration of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Paris in August 1944

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