Monday, April 9, 2012

Hitler's Tour of Paris

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 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.
So French.

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


  1. Interesting post Cara. Sorry I missed meeting you while you were in Seattle. Maybe next time.

  2. Hitler was convinced that Paris and all of France was going to belong to him and to the Thousand Year Reich. There was no hurry. I'm curious as to why they were wearing coats that appear too heavy for a day in June.

  3. Funny, my reaction to the coats was why, with Italians as allies, couldn't they have come up with something more stylish before coming to Paris on holiday?

  4. Evidently Speer and Brekker disliked each other. I still wonder why Hitler only spent 3 hours in the jewel in his crown...there's a story there methinks Cara

  5. From Speer's account in his book, Hitler saw what he wanted to see and "he showed no interest in the most beautiful architectural works in Paris, the Place des Vosges, the Louvre, the Palace of Justice, and Sainte-Chapelle." Reading further one gets the impression that he had seen what he wanted to see and in his mind was already visualizing the creation of a more grander Berlin, grander than Paris.

  6. I agree with Jeff regarding the coats, in particular in the last photo - Hitler looks like he borrowed his from a dentist. Knowing him he probably never returned it.

  7. Why spend only three hours in Paris?

    He was still at war with England. As he said on more than one occasion, Hitler, who was awarded the Iron Cross, a high military honor, for his service in WWI, regarded himself as the first soldier of the Third Reich. So in this sense it is not surprising that he would not want to be seen as idly sightseeing in Paris while Germany was still at war -- it would be in keeping with the role he saw himself playing.

    Also, for the same reason he lived a rather spartan lifestyle generally during the war, especially so while at his eastern front headquarters, which was where he spent the majority of his time after the attack on the Soviet Union -- it was basically a bunch of cramped concrete bunkers in the middle of a forest in Poland. In postwar writings many Germans who were there complained it was dank and mosquito ridden in the summer, and very cold in the winter. Overall a rather uncomfortable place to spend much time.

    The fotos of Hitler in what looks like a leather trenchcoat (which he often wore) were probably taken early in the day when it was perhaps still cool. Being June I'm sure it warmed up later, and all that leather was then probably rather heavy and uncomfortably warm.

    1. That's a good analysis. Hitler was also concerned about a possible assassination attempt which is why he made a surprise visit at a very early morning hour.

  8. kgnd'lnkb'wrlkndb 'ls

  9. OMG !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;D

  10. I am writing about this event at the moment as part of my spy thriller. I am aiming to mix fact and fiction together (hopefully seamlessly) to provide a best-selling novel, perhaps one of the authors could contact me privately to allow me to ask more questions and to gain a greater insight?

  11. They were wearing coats/jackets to conceal firearms. This outraged the RSD and SS guards IMMENSELY.