We’ve become immune to the stories we hear every day about professional athletes who get into trouble with the law. Their crimes range from acts of violence to murder and everything in-between.
Our story today is about one of these athletes. He was a French footballer. In other words, he played soccer. His saga starts with the first World Cup in 1930 and ends fourteen years later with his execution at the hands of the French Resistance. He was a well-known and vicious Nazi collabo (collaborationist).
Meet Our Villian
Alexandre Villaplane (1905–1944) was born in Algiers and between 1921 and 1935 played football (i.e., soccer) for various French club teams. Known for his vicious tackling and headers, Villaplane’s greatest achievement was on the pitch (i.e., field) playing for the French national team (known as Les Bleus or The Blues). The national team kit (i.e., uniform) is red, white, and blue. Unfortunately, by 1944, Villaplane was wearing a different uniform and was better known for his cruelty, blackmail, and murders.
The first FIFA World Cup was played in Uruguay between 13 to 30 July 1930 and consisted of thirteen teams including France and the United States (yep, you read this correctly and here’s the other shocker—the United States national team came in third).
Villaplane was named captain of the French National World Cup team, Les Bleus. France was one of four teams in Group 1: Argentina, Chile, and Mexico rounded out the group. On 13 July 1930, he led the team to its only victory of the 1930 World Cup—a 4 to 1 score over Mexico. The next two games (against Argentina and Chile) were both 1 to 0 losses. Only Argentina broke out of the group stage and advanced to the knockout stage. Ultimately, Uruguay would beat Argentina in the finals with a score of 4 to 2. The World Cup was ultimately seen as the highlight of Villaplane’s football career. After this, his club career went into a downward spiral. Read More Les Bleus, Le Collabo et Le Execution
On Monday, 22 March 1944, the crumpled and broken body of Pierre Brossolette (1903-1944) lay on the ground outside the building located at 84, avenue Foch in an upscale Parisian neighborhood of the 16th arrondissement (district).
After two and a half days of torture by the Gestapo, Brossolette recovered enough consciousness to determine he was about to divulge information about his colleagues in the French Resistance. He stood up in his cell and flung himself out the sixth floor window. His last words were “all will be fine Tuesday.”
The Street of Horrors
Upon entering Paris on 14 June 1940, the Germans and the various military and civilian units began to immediately appropriate hotels, vacated buildings (many by Jewish citizens), French government buildings, vacant embassies, or just kicked out the existing residents of a building they wanted to occupy.
The different departments of the Nazi police system (commonly grouped under one name: Gestapo) annexed many of the buildings on Avenue Foch. It didn’t take long for the Germans to settle into Paris. The Abwehr (German Intelligence Service) had been operating in Paris during the 1930s and it was clear they had “mapped” out the entire city and identified all potential sites for the Germans to occupy.
The building at 84, avenue Foch became the main headquarters for the Gestapo. The sixth floor was converted to torture rooms and cells. Throughout the Nazi Occupation, the neighbors could hear the screams from the victims of Gestapo torture. Parisians quickly determined this street was not a place you wanted to visit.
Avenue Foch became known to the French as The Street of Horrors.
Stew takes you on a walking tour of buildings, places, and sites significant to the theme of each of his books. But most importantly, you will learn the intricate stories of the people and places that many other tours do not.
Mr. Ross brings the streets of Paris to life, making it possible for you to stand on the very spots where the grand and tragic events of the French Revolution took place. If you are looking for more than just the typical tourist experience in Paris, then this book is must reading!
Dan Carpenter | Historian & Author
Stewart Ross’ book is full of interesting documents and research, it put you well on the tracks of Marie Antoinette, Danton, Robespierre and many more, whether in Paris or in Versailles, extremely interesting and easy to read!
Raphaelle Crevet | Certified Tour Guide, Paris, France