1940-1944

Occupation and Resistance

Hitler met Vichy France’s 80-year-old head of state on October 24 1940
German motorbikes travelling up the Champs Elysée in a victory parade in 1940
The politics of Liberation in August 1944. This map in Matthew Cobb’s Eleven Days in August’ (2013) showshow nearly all of Paris’ 600 barricades were built in left-leaning and working class areas of the city

Occupation, Collaboration, Resistance, Liberation, De Gaulle, Communist Party – in progress

Rue Guy-de-La-Brosse

Arrondissement 5

Number 12

This 100m-long street, named from 1839 after Louis XIII’s doctor (1586-1641) who planted up the nearby Jardin Royal with medicinal plants from 1635. It is now known as the Jardin des Plantes. The street runs from the Rue Jussieu to the Rue Linné.

In 1928 the International Quaker Centre of the Society of Friends in Paris opened an International Youth Circle at No. 12. Every Tuesday it used to hold meetings with a range of pacifist, trade union, religious and political figures speaking.

Lucie Bernard used to attend the Tuesday evening meetings held at the ‘Cercle international de jeunesse’ set up by the Quakers here in 1928

One of those who started to attend in the early 1930s was Lucie Bernard (Aubrac). Among the speakers were Gandhi, Ilya Ehrenbourg, Jean Zay and René Belin, the anti-Communist trade unionist who became Minister of Labour under the Vichy Government and who after the war helped to rebuild ‘yellow unions’ in France.

PLACES

Palais du Luxembourg

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 15-17 Rue Vaugirard

During the Revolutionary Terror (April 6 1793 to July 28 1794), the Palace became an overflow prison, holding among others Danton and Desmoulins who were both executed on April 5 1794.

In December 1830 a demonstration against the clemency shown to Charles X’s former ministers, was violently put down outside the Palace.

The Palace was the location of the Workers’ Commission set up after the February 1848 revolution. Workers had demanded a Minister of Labour, calling the post a ‘Minister of Progress’, but this had been turned down and Louis Blanc accepted the position of President of the Commission instead.

Others nominated to the Commission included Albert and the followers of Fourier, Victor Considerant and François Vidal.

Pierre Marie de Saint-Georges, the Minister responsible for the National Workshops set up in 1848 was also based at the Palace. On June 22 Louis Pujol was nominated spokesperson of the 56 delegates chosen by a workers’ meeting at the Panthéon to negotiate with Pierre Marie.

The meeting took place at the Luxembourg Palace, and Pierre Marie’s attack on the delegation, asking if they were ‘slaves’ to Pujol, fueled an anger that observers credited with sparking the huge June 1848 workers’ uprising.

In May 1871 the military tribunal set up in the Palace summarily sentenced hundreds of Communard fighters and supporters to be shot in the Luxembourg Garden at the back of the palace, just below the statues of French queens.

On July 3 1880 Victor Hugo finally got the amnesty for the Communards through the Senate, based at the Palace more or less continuously since 1805.

After the Germans occupied Paris in 1940 they made the Palace the headquarters of the Luftwaffe, where it was visited by Hermann Goering. His Luftwaffe Field Marshal was also given a luxurious apartment there. It also served as an administrative centre covering prisoners of war.

The Palace was one of the last bastions of German opposition at Liberation in August 1944. Its soldiers only finally surrendered on August 25 to the resistance fighters led by Colonel Fabien, when they were faced with 5 tanks detached by General Leclerc and the threat of air strikes.

PLACES

Rue Marbeuf

Arrondissement 8

Numbers 33, 39

A Karaite-Jewish Russian exile who had arrived in France in the 1930s, Michel Szkolnikoff, made one of the biggest fortunes during the German occupation of Paris. He bought about 50 addresses in the Champs-Élysées area, including 16 in the Rue Marbeuf.

Sequestered in 1944 upon the liberation of Paris, the Aubrac family was given an apartment in No. 39 on their return and lived there until the spring of 1946.

Szkolnikoff was killed in Spain in 1945 by the French security services as they tried to bring him back to France for trial. All the properties in Rue Marbeuf were sold off individually in 1947-48. Not all his massive fortune was ever fully restored to the French state.

Since 1798 the new road built running alongside the Grand Égout (the major drain collecting sewage from Paris right-bank) had been called ‘the street of squashes’ (rue des Gourdes) since these had been grown for hundreds of years in the bog that covered the area from there to the Place de la Concord. But in 1829 it was renamed the Rue Marbeuf, after the Marquise de Marbeuf who had owned the nearby Marbeuf Garden, and who was executed on February 5 1794 for having ‘been found guilty of wishing the Prussians would come to Paris’.

In 1982 a car bomb planted by Carlos (Ilich Ramírez Sánchez) was exploded outside No. 33, the offices of a pro-Irak and anti-Syrian regime Lebanese newspaper, killing one person and wounding 66.

PLACES

Rue Montalembert

Arrondissement 7

Number 7

The swish Hotel Pont Royal occupies much of this short street opened in 1913 off the Rue de Bac leading to the Pont Royal. It was given this name in 1924, after a theoretician of liberal Catholicism, Charles de Montalembert (1810-1870).

In October 1944 this hotel was where Lucie Aubrac was lodged with her children while a delegate to the National Consultative Assembly, before moving to the Rue Marbeuf in January when her husband Raymond was abruptly fired from his job as Commissioner of Marseilles because of his pronounced left leanings.

From the 1930s the basement bar at the Hotel Pont-Royal was used by Gaston Gallimard (1881-1975), head of the Gallimard publishing house as a discrete meeting place with intellectuals and writers such as Hemingway, Malraux, Gide, de Beauvoir, Camus, Sagan, Sartre and many more in the 1930s and 1950s.

in 1928 Gallimard purchased the effectively adjacent 5, Rue Sébastien-Bottin (at the time 43 Rue de Beaune) as his new headquarters. As managing editor of La Nouvelle Revue française (NRF) from, 1911 to 1940, Gallimard gave Gide the literary editorship and was the first publisher of Malraux and Sartre.

In June 1940 Gallimard moved to the South of France trying to please the Germans by leaving a writer, Drieu la Rochelle, who espoused ‘Socialist Fascism’ as Editor of the NRF. Accused by the Germans of employing Jews and communists La Rochelle fired them.

The Gallimard press was accused of collaborationism during the Occupation and La Rochelle committed suicide in March 1945.

In 2011, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Gallimard publishing house, the section of the street Rue Sébastien-Bottin that included No 5 was renamed Rue Gaston-Gallimard.

Two minutes from the Hotel Pont Royal is the publishing house Gallimard, now in a street named after its founder

PLACES

Rue Rataud

Arrondissement 5

Number 5

Named in 1877 after Marc Rataud, the Second Empire mayor of the 5th arrondissement from 1860 to 1870, the road climbs gently up the hill called the montagne Sainte-Geneviève.

In the 1930s 5 rue Rataud was both where Lucie Bernard (Aubrac ) lived as a stuident and housed the office of the Quakers’ International Refugee Aid society

Lucie Bernard (Aubrac from 1950) rented a flat in no. 5 from 1935 to 1938. This was the same address in the Latin Quarter that was expanding to the North as was used from 1933 to 1937 by the French section of the Society of Friends for their International Refugee Aid society, which supported refugees from Germany and then Spain.

Rue Rataud began to see the construction of several educational buildings from 1882, including this Municipal School for Physics and Chemistry

Originally a cul de sac called the rue des Vignes after the vineyards planted down one side of the street, from 1882 it saw the construction of the Paris centre for science that became one of the 205 engineering universities in France allowed to award an engineering degree, the École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la ville de Paris.

Rue Rataud in 1899. On the left are the grounds of a convent and further down, on the right, gardens belonging to the Ecole Normale that would soon be built over.

From the 1900s the area was rebuilt to further accommodate buildings attached to the elite universities such as the École normale supérieure, in the nearby rue d’Ulm, known as the ENS, originally created in 1794.

PLACES

Sorbonne

Arrondissement 5

1, rue Victor Cousin 

The best-known Paris university was not just an added extra to the city. In many ways it and the growth of a complex of partly-religious partly-educational buildings actually created the city. Throughout the Middle Ages the Sorbonne and nearby religious institutions drew the sons of young wealthy people towards Paris from across Europe.

The university was the principal motor of the city’s growth before the Court years. It was founded by Robert de Sorbon in 1257. Richelieu ordered its rebuilding and had doubled its size by 1642.

For nearly eight centuries its students have included many of the most radical thinkers and activists – often ready to challenge the status quo that was more often than not represented by the university’s teachers.

Among the left students who passed through the Sorbonne were Lenin’s younger sister – a few years after he had been invited to lecture there on the Russian agrarian question. Lucie Aubrac, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre also studied there.

One exception to the dominant anti-radical teachers at the Sorbonne was Marc Bloch, who taught there from 1936 to 1940 when he was dismissed for being Jewish.

In May 1968 the Sorbonne was at the centre of the student demonstrations that had begun at Nanterre. Partly as a result it was divided in 1970 into several different institutions and several now include the word ‘Sorbonne’ in their titles.

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PLACES

Avenue Trudaine

Arrondissement 9

Number 12

A broad tree-lined road just to the south of the Farmers’ general tax wall, it was opened by a royal decree in 1833, and named after an early 18th century peer of the realm who had a rare reputation for honesty in his post as Prévôt des marchands de Paris (Paris’ Prefect for Commerce, the equivalent of today’s Mayor of Paris).

Its most remarkable building is a huge, historic secondary school, the Collège-lycée Jacques-Decour, where Lucie Aubrac was nominated to teach in 1946.

The Collège-Lycée Jacques-Decour viewed from the North, with the Boulevard des Batignolles in front of it and the Avenue Trudaine on the other side.

The school was originally founded in the 15th century as the Sainte-Barbe college of Paris University. Its current building was moved there by Haussmann and constructed between 1867 and 1876 on the site of the old Montmartre abattoir.

The name was changed in 1944 from Rollin (the name of an 18th century historian) to Jacques Decour, the resistance pseudonym of Daniel Decourdemanche (1910-1942), who had taught German at the Lycée since 1937.

Decourdemanche had joined the Young Communists and then Communist Party. His first book called Philisterburg after teaching in 1932-33 in Germany denounced the risks of nationalism and racism.

He was 32 when he was shot in May 1942 after the French police who arrested him passed him over to the Germans for his role in the Association of Revolutionary Artists and Writers that had been headed by Louis Aragon.

Every year his goodbye letter to his parents is read in the school where his parting words were:

I consider myself a little like a leaf that falls from a tree to help become soil. The quality of the soil depends on that of the leaves. I am talking about French young people.

Daniel Decourdemanche’s headstone in Montmatre Cemetery

PLACES

Rue Victor Cousin

Arrondissement 5

Numbers: 1, 14

This is a street that has witnessed many barricade battles. With the Sorbonne University at No. 1, it was the site of confrontations between the police and students in 1968 and 2006.

After the Sorbonne was forcibly evacuated by the police in May 1968
The remains of the barricade across Rue Victor Cousin where it crosses Rue Cujas. On the right of the street the Pantheon Cinema was showing Albert Finney, Billie Whitelaw and Liza Minnelli in Charlie Bubbles.

In March 2006, after Sarkozy’s government introduced a law to force those under 26 to take whatever job they were offered and over the following two years, if they were dismissed by their employer, they would have no entitlement to unemployment benefit. University and secondary school students mobilised massively against the law, with demonstrations beginning at the Sorbonne. The law was withdrawn by the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin in April.

After dislodging students occupying the Sorbonne from March 10 to March 10 2006, fighting took place in the nearby streets. The riot police then closed off the Rue Victor Cousin, the Sorbonne Square and several other streets until April 24. A key symbol for the opponents of the new employment contract, during this period the police were attacked several times, with railings and molotov cocktails.

Further up the street, after it crosses the rue de Cujas is the independent Cinéma du Panthéon (there since 1907). It is opposite the nursery school at No. 14 where Lucie Bernard/Aubrac worked part-time in 1936.

An uninspiring facade and French and European flags outside the school at No. 14 where in the 1930s Lucie Aubrac taught in the nursery school

Originally called the rue de Cluny after an ancient abbey, in 1864 the short street south of the Rue de la Sorbonne was renamed in honour of the educational reformer, Victor Cousin (1792 – 1867). Forced into exile in 1821 for his liberalism, he became a Professor at the Sorbonne University after the 1830 Revolution.

Cousin helped structure French education in the 1840s inserting the history of philosophy into the French secondary school curriculum. This is still taught to all French school students up to the age of 18.

Cousin’s philosophy of eclecticism, merging British empiricism with French idealism, dominated mainstream philosophy from the 1830s to the 1880s. But it was not without its critics.

In his 1839 ‘Refutation of EclecticismPierre Leroux wrote: ‘M Cousin is an excellent translator of phrases, but a dreadful translator of ideas‘. Bakunin in 1882 wrote that ‘This superficial pedant, without a single original idea… this illustrious philosopher has cleverly prepared for the the use of the student youth of France, a metaphysical dish whose consumption, made compulsory in all the schools of the State has condemned several successive generations to indigestion of the brain

Much earlier, in 1741, a much more serious contributor to French philosophy and left thought, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, lived at the St Quentin hotel (finally demolished in 1892) that was on the present location of 7 rue Victor Cousin, but was then 14 rue des Cordiers. In 1744-45 Rousseau stays there again, marrying his mistress, Thérèse Levasseur.

You won’t find this hotel because the rue des Cordiers used to link the rue Victor Cousin and the rue St Jacques but was built over by the southern section of the Sorbonne.

PLACES