Culture Magazine

World War II in Paris: the Hotel Meurice

By Sedulia @Sedulia

This is the Hotel Meurice on the rue de Rivoli. It's really something, isn't it? One of the great things about hotels is that they are open to the public. Anyone can go in and have a drink or coffee and wander through the gorgeous salons seen here.

During World War II, the Meurice was taken over by the Nazis, and made the headquarters of the German occupation of "Gross Paris" (greater Paris). On one of its top floors, a Swedish diplomat [I think it was] made the plea that saved Paris from being blown up by the departing Nazis as Hitler wished. According to the book Is Paris Burning?, Hitler had ordered explosives to be placed under such Paris monuments as the Senate, the Assembly, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre, and the bridges over the Seine; and this had been done. Hitler wanted to leave only rubble behind him if the Germans had to abandon Paris. (He also wanted to leave his own country in the Stone Age if it was defeated, as then it would not be worthy of him. At the end, he issued orders for German power plants, railways, factories and water supplies to be destroyed; these orders were disobeyed.)

The diplomat, who had somehow gotten word of the planned destruction, asked General von Choltitz if he wanted to be remembered as the man who destroyed Paris, or the man who saved Paris. Von Choltitz knew if he disobeyed orders he would have to become a prisoner of the Allies to survive. He sent his family out of harm's way and then chose to surrender Paris instead of blowing it up. Long after the war he received the Legion of Honor.

If you're interested in World War II, like me, buildings like the Meurice are full of atmosphere on these gray February days. The city is much brighter than it was during the war; when they made the movie of Is Paris Burning? they had to blacken and then re-clean the buildings used. One of my uncles, part of the D-Day invasion, met my beautiful French aunt, then a 17-year-old blond, at the Place de la Concorde in October 1944. I often think of them when I go by.
Here is a map of the main sites of the German occupation of Paris.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog