In the course of researching my new book Where Did They Put the Gestapo Headquarters? I quickly learned of the historical significance of many Paris hotels. Most of these were built during the Belle Époque period (1871–1914) and are grand buildings. On 14 June 1940, the Germans quickly requisitioned them for their various divisional headquarters, administrative offices, and living quarters.
Since there are very few books written about specific Paris hotels, you can imagine my glee when I run across one. There is a book written by Tilar Mazzeo called The Hotel on Place Vendome. It is the story about the Hôtel Ritz and its role during the Occupation. I was very excited to find this potential reference source for one of the sites you will stop at in my new book. That is until I read the reviews. There were glaring historical mistakes as pointed out in detail by several of the reviewers. I couldn’t trust the content so I never purchased the book.
Unfortunately I cannot rate Paris Hotel Stories, a visually beautiful coffee-table book, any higher than one star. After reading several historical inaccuracies, I determined I could not rely on its content. In the section devoted to the Hôtel Meurice (page 36), the author states that ” In 1940 General Dietrich von Choltitz, the Nazi military commander of Paris, chose the Meurice as his headquarters and remained there throughout World War II.” In fact, von Choltitz arrived at the hotel on 9 August 1944, sixteen days before surrendering the city to General Leclerc. Second, the author writes “It was von Choltitz himself who signed the German surrender in the first-floor lounge.” That is not true. He verbally surrendered at the hotel. Von Choltitz met General Leclerc at the Préfecture de Police de Paris and briefly discussed the terms of the surrender document. Both of them then drove to Leclerc’s headquarters in the Gare Montparnasse where the document was signed. During the discussion on the Hôtel Lutetia (page 212), the author writes “But at the Lutetia−as at the Crillon and the Meurice−one should avoid talking about World War II; it would be in bad taste.” You’ve got to be kidding me? For goodness sakes, you’re writing a book about historically important hotels. Why would you not include those four years? The Lutetia was very important during the Occupation (Abwehr headquarters) and after (returning deportees). Before I use this book for anything, I think it would be wise to substantiate its content with a third party.
Author: François Simon
Date Published: 2003
Publisher: Assouline Publishing; New York