Rue Japy

Arrondissement 11

Number: 2

The Salle Japy on the left photographed about 1900

Opened in 1870 the road was named after the paternalist industrialist Frédéric Japy. In the late 18th century he invented machine tools that could make some parts of clocks and built workers’ housing to keep his skilled home workers close. Some of his workshops were nearby.

No. 2 was built in 1870 as a covered market, but it was then converted in 1884 into a gym that could also hold political meetings and was known as the Salle Japy. In the 1900 photograph above the Salle is on the left.

The Salle Japy was where the first steps towards unity of the different French socialist organisations took place between December 6 and 9 1899. Jaures, Guesde and Allemane were all present.

At the end of this meeting the new version of l’Internationale was sung together by the different groups for the first time, becoming the anthem of French socialism. The song’s words had been written in June 1871 by the Communard Eugène Pottier to the tune of La Marseillaise, but they were set to the currently-known melody in 1888 by the Belgian socialist Pierre De Geyter.

Many other significant left meetings took place in the Salle Japy. On April 22 1920 the Third Federal Congress of the Railway workers there decided to call an unlimited strike from May 1st for the nationalisation of the railways. On March 7 1925 Marcel Cachin told a Communist meeting there ‘It shouldn’t be that women have two bosses: their employer and their husband’.

But under the German Occupation the hall was also first used as an internment centre for around 5,000 ‘migrant’ Jews. ‘Foreign’ Jews were the first to be rounded up on May 14 1941 and then deported to their deaths.

On July 16 1942 when René Bousquet, Secretary-General to the Police for the Vichy Regime, ordered the partially autonomous French police to round up Jews in Paris, women and children were interned in the Salle Japy before being deported.

Avenue de La Motte Picquet

Arrondissements 7, 15

Numbers: 2

Demonstration September 1973 against Pinochet

Named in 1884 after Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de La Motte the road was first opened as the Avenue de l’Ecole Militaire in 1680.

The Chilean embassy was in a prime location at No. 2. It had previously been the private mansion of the Tour-d’Auvergne family.

Built in 1907 for Prince Henri de La Tour-d’Auvergne it was rented to the US Embassy until 1929 and then sold to Chile to become its Embassy

This is where Louis Aragon was allowed to take refuge for a few days on August 28 1939 by fellow poet and Communist, but also a diplomat there at the time, Pablo Neruda. Aragon had been attacked in the street by the extreme right-wing after the French Communist Party had been banned on August 25, two days after the Hitler-Stalin ‘Non-aggression Pact’.

In 1971 Neruda was named Ambassador to France, and he lived at No. 2 until the fascist coup in Chile in 1973.

The police attacked demonstrators protesting against the appointment by Pinochet of a new ambassador to France in March 1974

Jean Jaurès lived at No. 19 in the 1890s.


Rue Portefoin

Arrondissement 3

Number: 17

Rue Portefoin

A short, narrow road, in 1282 it was first opened by the Knights Templar as the Rue Richard-des-Poulies. Soon afterwards a wealthy man Jean Portefin built a private mansion there and its name was changed to Portefin, and in the 17th century to Portefoin.

No. 17 is the house where Honoré de Balzac lived in 1819, just up the road from Madame de Berny, his mistress at No. 3. Shown on the left of the Google Streetview image above, No. 17 became the agreed meeting place of the French Socialist Unity Committee after the Second Unity Congress held in the Salle Wagram in September 1900.

In January 1902 Allemane finally left the committee because Jaurès‘ daughter had gone to communion, and Alexandre Millerand had attended the September 1901 reception for the Russian Tsar Nicholas II.


Rue d’Ulm

Arrondissement 5

Number: 45,

The Ecole Normal Superieure in 1905

The Rue d’Ulm, going south from the Panthéon, was opened on January 6 1807. It was named after the crushing defeat of the Austrian army by Napoléon at the Battle of Ulm between October 15 and 20 1805.

It is largely known because since November 4 1847 it hosted France’s most prestigious higher education selective university, the École normale supérieure (ENS) at No. 45. This special institution was initiated by Napoléon on March 17 1808 when he created a ‘standard boarding school’ (Pensionnat normal) within Paris university to train arts and science teachers. The students had to follow military rules and wear uniforms and were chosen from those who performed best in the secondary schools.

Louis Pasteur‘s laboratory was based there from 1864 to 1888, and was where he discovered a vaccine for rabies. The photgraph above shows the ENS in 1905.

From 1888 to 1926 the socialist Lucien Herr was the director of the ENS general library, with one of the students he influenced being Léon Blum. Herr also convinced Jaures there in 1898 of the innocence of Captain Dreyfus.

Students who studied at ENS included Maurice Halbwachs (who died at Buchenwald), Marc Bloch (executed by the Gestapo on June 16 1944), Raymond Aron, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Weil, Georges Pompidou, Aimé Césaire, and Alain Touraine.

Perhaps the ENS’ most well-known left resident was Louis Althusser. He entered the ENS in 1945. Having passed the final exams with the highest marks, he began to work there from 1948, living in a staff flat provided by the ENS. This was where in 1980 in a fit of manic depression Althusser strangled his partner of 54 years.

In the aftermath of 1968 the Maoist group, La Gauche Prolétarienne (The Proletarian Left), held regular meetings in the Cavaillès lecture theatre. Among their leaders was Benny Levy. On October 21 1970 they used the ENS building to make Molotov cocktails.