The last week of August is a great time to be in Paris – to remember the liberation of the city at the end of World War II (August 25, 1944). Today’s Le Parisien treats us to a video of the liberation.
It’s impossible, unless you had been living in Paris at the time of the German occupation to truly understand the meaning of that day. Imagine that for the past few years, Parisian residents had to watch German soldiers march each day from one end of the Champs Elysees to the Place de la Concorde – finishing up within view of the Commanding officer’s window at the Hotel Meurice. Nevertheless, Parisians also don’t forget that it was the same commanding officer who spared the city from being leveled. Therefore, a video is posted today right next to the Paris Libere video which features the German who saved Paris from burning – Dietrich von Choltitz.
The Germans were by no means the first invading forces to storm into Paris in decide to settle down for as long as possible. The Romans settled in around the Left Bank, close to the actual Pantheon. The Normans got as far as the city gates, but were turned away, the English camped out here until Joan of Arc helped Charles VII get his act together and the Russians and Prussians paid a visit to the capital in reciprocity for Napoleon’s visits to Berlin and Moscow.
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Here is an excerpt from one account of the Russians and Prussians parading down the streets of Paris written by Chateaubriand:
“The army of the Allies entered Paris on March 31, 1814…was it worth while for Napoleon to commit an act that would be remembered, since he was to reign only for so short a time? The Russian Emperor and the Prussian King rode at the head of their troops. I saw them pass along the boulevards. Though I was numbed and crushed as if the name “Frenchman” had been torn from me and replaced as in the mines of Siberia by a felon’s number, I felt a growing anger against a man whose glory had brought us to such a pass.”
Is it any wonder then, that since the days of Napoleon, Parisians are generally suspicious of those who flaunt their power? Who overextend themselves – they know that when you go out to feast at another person’s expense, some day, sooner or later, you will be called upon to pay in kind.