Home
Home
Paris Mosque
Louvre Parvis
The Prince Imperial
An Unwelcome Visitor
The Luxembourg
The Tuileries
Marshal Ney
St Germain des Pres
Paris
Insolite
Montmartre
and
Parc Monceau
   Les Halles 1898 by Leon Lhermitte                Petit Palais, Fine Art Museum
                                                                                                    

St Germain des Pres

L'Eglise de St Germain des Pres by Laloue

One of the many remarkable things about Paris is that there is hardly a street or a building which does not have some sort of history attached - some more and some less, but all of them fascinating in some way or other.
For the first time visitor to Paris, it is almost compulsory to see the famous sights of the city - the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Notre Dame and so many others, but if you wish to capture the essence of the city it is necessary to seek out the hidden corners or the seemingly innocuous buildings to uncover their secrets.

Even just a short walk will reveal historical associations from every era and most of time you will be following in the footsteps of the great and the good , and the not so good people, who made the city what it is today.

The following ramble, which is no further than a mile or so, is crammed with so any places of interest, I have reluctantly omitted  several.  It is just one of many such walks through the streets of Paris.  The walk begins bottom left at Hotel Lutetia.
  
  Hôtel Lutetia
                                      If you exit the Métro  station Sèvres – Babylone, you cannot miss the Lutetia which takes up virtually the whole block on no 45 Boulevard Raspail.  Built in 1910, the Lutetia is reminiscent of Gaudi's Casa Batlló in Barcelona, with the very name of Lutetia having historical connotations - Lutetia was the pre-Roman town that pre-dated Paris. 
The number of celebrated guests is legion and includes Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso,  André Gide, Peggy Guggenheim, Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Becket, André  Malraux,  Saint-Exupéry, Samuel Beckett who wrote several chapters of Ulysses here, and a young army officer named Charles de Gaulle, who spent his honeymoon night here in April, 1921, and 20 years later left here for exile in England, leaving behind a trunk which he recovered on his victorious return in 1945.

Although in other circumstances the Lutetia's superb architecture and long list of celebrities would be enough to regard the building as one of the finest hotels in Europe, it was the war years and their aftermath which truly defines the Lutetia.  When war was declared in September, 1939, many artists of every genre, fled from endangered countries and found refuge in the Lutetia, which was well-known for its connections to the world of music and painting.  However, when the Nazi's occupied Paris in June, 1940, many of the residents were captured while others escaped, and the Abwehr occupied the building.  The Abwehr was the official intelligence and counterintelligence service of the German military  and as such its main task was to break the Resistance and capture its leaders.  The Lutetia was teeming with German code-breakers, spies, informers, collaborators, and Nazi-sympathisers, and rumours of torture persist - and those post-war films we all know so well, of moonlit nights and agents parachuting down into the arms of waiting Germans and early morning hammering on doors by men in overcoats with the collars turned up - those agents were more than likely to have been Abwehr based in the Lutetia.    






Unquestionably, the most poignant era in the history of the Lutetia was after the war ended and the hotel was requisitioned as the place of repatriation for concentration camp survivors and prisoners of war, with relatives posting pictures of their loved ones on the walls in the hopes that someone would recognise them.  Parisians gathered daily to await the busloads of camp survivors and there were many harrowing scenes when survivors of the camps arrived still in their tattered camp uniforms to be greeted by wives and children, horrified by their skeletal condition; even more harrowing was when anxious relatives were told their loved ones would not be returning at all and had died years previously.  It is quite telling that the Lutetia has no plaques on its walls of its famous guests, nor anything to recall the years of German occupation, but there is a plaque to the time when the hotel was a repatriation centre - possibly it's best and worse days.





 Like to comment or ask a question ?  Go to ;
[email protected]