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Paris Trip

As you read this, Sandy and I are on an airplane returning to the States after spending several weeks (and a lot of money) in Paris. A comment we seem to always receive is “Oh, what a nice place to spend your vacation.” Well, as we have to explain, it’s really not a vacation. We are walking the walks, shooting photos, and interviewing people as part of the research for our next book. I wore my Fitbit and we walked an average of 8.4 miles per day. We take one Sunday off to grab a lunch and sit in the Luxembourg Gardens and watch the kids sail their little bateaux (boats) in the water basin and watch the Gendarmes chase off people who move their chairs too close to the basin.


Hope You’ve Enjoyed the Instagrams!

Sandy and I hope you’ve enjoyed the brief Instagrams that we sent out each day while in Paris the past two weeks. There are a lot of good photos and comments collected in those two weeks. We met some very interesting people while tracking down the significant sites of the Nazi Occupation of Paris.


Les Journées du Patrimoine or The European Heritage Days 

Stew standing in the hallway of the former headquarters of the Gestapo. Cell doors lined the hallway. Photo by Sandy Ross.
Stew standing in the hallway of the former headquarters of the Gestapo. Cell doors lined the hallway. Photo by Sandy Ross.

We planned our trip so we would be in Paris over the weekend that European countries celebrate their culture, history, and heritage. It is a time when government buildings are opened to the public, entrance fees are waived, and otherwise off-limit sites can be visited.

We visited the Le ministère de l’Intérieur or the Ministry of the Interior. Our friend, Annette, came in from Rotterdam for the weekend and accompanied us. Of course, Rapahëlle Crevet was our guide for the day as she worked her magic with all of the bureaucrats and police.

The Ministry of the Interior has always been responsible for the police force—even during the Occupation when Vichy was the collaborationist government. Adjoining and connected to the ministry are the offices located at 11, rue des Saussaies. This was the address of the Gestapo headquarters (I guess I just gave away the secret to the next book Where Did They Put the Gestapo Headquarters?).

Hook inside holding cell used to chain prisoner before being led off for interrogation and torture in the former headquarters of the Gestapo. Photo by Sandy Ross.
Hook inside holding cell used to chain prisoner before being led off for interrogation and torture in the former headquarters of the Gestapo. Photo by Sandy Ross.

We were allowed to go through the halls and cells on the floors where the victims were held, interrogated, and tortured. In the cells are the iron eye-hooks where they were chained before being led off for interrogation. Graffiti remains on the walls as they scratched their messages of defiance, their pride in France, and wishes for liberty. Read More Paris Trip

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Statuemania

So you read the title of this blog and automatically assumed I was going to share my opinion with you concerning recent events around our country. You were interested to know what I thought about the desire and the movements to destroy or relocate certain statues, paintings, or other memorials that certain people might find offensive.

No, I wanted to talk with you today about the deliberate destruction of approximately 1,750 bronze statues throughout France during the German Occupation of World War II. Not since the French Revolution had so many statues been destroyed (albeit for different reasons).

The Victor Hugo monument in Paris. Photo by anonymous (1908). Georges Lafenestre, L’œuvre de Ernest Barrias, Paris, Renouard, 1908. PD-70+. Wikimedia Commons.
The Victor Hugo monument in Paris. Photo by anonymous (1908). Georges Lafenestre, L’œuvre de Ernest Barrias, Paris, Renouard, 1908. PD-70+. Wikimedia Commons.

During the latter part of the 19th-century, the French government known as The Third Republic began a wide-spread campaign to erect bronze statues. These men (Joan of Arc being the lone woman) were considered heroes of France but in the minds of the citizens, they were closely associated with a widely considered corrupt government. This period of time was sarcastically dubbed “Statuemania.”  Learn more.

What Happened?

Well, first of all, the Nazis invaded France on 14 June 1940 and began a four-year occupation. Hitler created two zones in France: The Occupied and Unoccupied (Paris was in the Occupied Zone). After seventy years in existence, The Third Republic was replaced by the Vichy government headed by Marshal Pétain and Pierre Laval.

Pétain’s collaborationist government was located in the small spa town of Vichy—the Unoccupied Zone. By November 1942 with the Allied successes in North Africa, all pretenses of a separate government were gone when the Germans eliminated the Unoccupied Zone and began to increase their direct role in running occupied France including higher demands for agricultural products and other resources (including non-ferrous metals) to feed the Nazi military machine. Learn more about the Vichy government here.

After France was liberated in August 1944, it became clear that Pétain and Laval had sanctioned laws, decrees, and actions that far exceeded Nazi expectations (including quotas for the deportation of Jews). During their separate trials, Pétain and Laval tried to argue in their defense that they were only trying to keep the Nazis happy and so avoid greater hardships for the French—at least as long as you weren’t a Jew, Freemason, communist, gypsy, homosexual, political opponent or any other type of untermensch (inferior person). Read More Statuemania