Paris is beautiful because it has history. Where ever we turn we see it. We may not know the details, we may not know the story, but we can see it, immediately and without question.
One will look at the La cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and will say, ‘There is a story there, and I know history when I see it, and it has been made here, many times.’
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Panthéon, Napoleon’s tomb all manifest history. We cannot look away. We whip out our cameras and take pictures.
With little notice, I think, and often ignored are other references to the stories that have made Paris historically vibrant.
I am reading Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance by Robert Gildea. It tells the stories of the many ordinary men and women who resisted the Nazis and the Vichy government during World War Two. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Who were they? Where did they come from? What prompted them to risk their lives? As I read, I ask myself, “Would I have stepped forward and risked my life? What measure of courage do I have?”
Around Paris are small placards permanently attached to walls and columns. In a few words they tell the names of those who died resisting the occupation of France during the war.
On August 25, 1944 Paris was liberated. During the days preceding, the Germans were still counterattacking and killing Resistance fighters as they encountered them in the city.
If you walk around the Odéon and Saint Sulpice quarter, but not exclusively there, you will see where young men and women died. Evidence of such resistance is commemorated all over Paris.
The doctor Jules de Seze, who fought during the World War 1 and earned the Chevalier de la Légion d’ Honneur Croix de Guerre, was killed by German gun fire on August 20, 1944. He was 70 years old.
Marcel Raoul, a combattant also during the WW 1, died while fighting for the liberation of Paris on August 21, 1944. He was a part of the FFI, or Forces françaises de l’intérieur.
Victor Rastello, 44 years old, died on a corner where an Italian restaurant now exists.
On August 25, 1944, the day of liberation, Jacques Guierre, 20 years old, died. He was also a FFI. He died on the corner outside the Odéon Theatre just north of the Jardin du Luxembourg. But wait, there’s more!