Monday, April 9, 2012
Books and reports conflict over the date of Hitler's only visit to Paris. Albert Speer, the architect who accompanied him, wrote in his memoirs that it happened on June 28, 1940. Arno Brekker, the sculptor, also on the visit, writes it occurred on June 23rd. Two other in the entourage gave the date as June 23rd.
Life Magazine published several photos in July. All we know is that it happened on an early Sunday morning - hence the June 23rd date - a Sunday - makes sense and the Fuhrer disdained parades. He spent only three hours in Paris.
Here's Hitler's first stop
was the Opera Garnier. Speer, the reliable or unreliable narrator, wrote "The great stairway, famous for its spaciousness, notorious for its excessive ornamentation, the resplendent foyer, the elegant, gilded parterre, were carefully inspected. All the lights glowed as they would on a gala night. Hitler had undertaken to lead the party. A white-haired attendant accompanied our small group through the deserted building. Hitler had actually studied the plans of the Paris opera house with great care. Near the proscenium box he found a salon missing, remarked on it, and turned out to be right. The attendant said that this room had been eliminated in the course of renovations many years ago. 'There, you see how well I know my way about,' Hitler commented complacently. He seemed fascinated by the Opera, went into ecstasies about its beauty, his eyes glittering with an excitement that struck me as uncanny. The attendant, of course, had immediately recognized the person he was guiding through the building. In a businesslike but distinctly aloof manner, he showed us through the rooms. When we were at last getting ready.to leave the building, Hitler whispered something to his adjutant, Briickner, who took a fifty-mark note from his wallet and went over to the attendant standing some distance away. Pleasantly, but firmly, the man refused to take the money. Hitler tried a second time, sending Breker over to him; but the man persisted in his refusal. He had only been doing his duty, he told Breker.
That's Speer and Brekker flanking Hitler who were both given military uniforms to wear. Hitler supposedly said "Take one here and take the next in front of the Buckingham Palace and take the one after that in front of the skyscrapers."
Here's the entourage in front of the Invalides where Hitler, at Napoleon's tomb, vowed to return Napoleon's son's remains from Austria. Hitler did though Napoleon was long past caring and the French people ignored this act which held some symbolic import to Hitler.
Here Hitler's group is at the last stop on the esplanade before Sacre Coeur. Notice that Hitler had changed coats - in an old newsreel he changes mid tour before he steps into the open Mercedes where he sat shotgun in the front seat beside his driver. None of his private guard, the Lebenstandarte, according to accounts accompanied him. Hitler chose to bring his artists and architects to see Paris so they could design and dwarf the scope for buildings in the Third Reich.
Three things raise questions for me - why didn't Speer get the date correct? Why did Hitler change his coat? Why spend only three hours in Paris?
Cara - Tuesday