The first time I heard about the Hotel Lutetia was when Eva and Werner Bernstein came to Paris. Werner and Eva met in Rochester, New York. She was a dentist and he showed up in her office just as she was getting ready to finish up for the day. As he sat in her dentist chair, he looked up at Eva and decided on the spot – love at first sight! Eva and Werner had much in common – they were both Jewish refugees from Europe during World War II. Werner was a Berlin musician. He played piano in cafes, and eventually night clubs in New York and Rochester. Eva came from Austria, and could still remember as a child the days of Cossacks riding into her village. She aupaired near Florence and obtained her credentials as a dentist before coming to the US.
After several dates, Eva and Werner eventually married in Rochester, New York and returned as often as possible to Europe once the war had ended. When they came to Paris, they stayed at the Hotel Lutetia on the Left Bank. The ornate Belle Epoque building located on 45 Blvd. Raspail, not from the Bon Marche department store, had its splashy Art Deco style interior completely restored, back in the 1980s.
During the war years, the hotel no longer represented the carefree days of the twenties. It was one of the hotels requisitioned by the Gestapo during German occupation of Paris during World War II. Before and after the German occupation, the Hotel served as a temporary lodging for displaced Jewish refugees that were trying to flee other parts of France and Europe that were already occupied by the Germans (see the wikipedia entry for more details on this). Finally when the French and American forces liberated Paris, once again, the Hotel Lutetia became a meeting point for survivors of concentration camps to return and reunite with family members.
Hotel Lutetia was not the only famous hotel requisitioned by the German forces. Hotel Meurice, Rue de Rivoli on the Right Bank was the lodging designated for the commanding governor – Dietrich von Choltitz. If you remember in “Is Paris Burning”, von Choltitz decided to ignore Hitler’s command to firebomb Paris.
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On the IvyParis site that a commenter accused the hotel reviewer of ‘trivializing’ Gestapo as being ‘not very nice’. This was followed by a comment on the supposed cresting of ‘Nazi-chic’.
I think it’s important to understand the history of a building. The fact that the reviewer mentioned the Nazi occupation of the Lutetia is a good thing (see if you can find the same about the Meurice!), but also it should be known that for some Jewish refugees this was a temporary home – and, eventually a place to return to in happier times. Whenever I go to Hotel Lutetia for a drink, I think of Eva and Werner.
I’d be eager to hear from anybody who’s stayed at the Lutetia of knows more about the days when it was used as a meeting point for refugees. Thanks.
45, boulevard Raspail | 75006 Paris | France
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