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Old March 18th, 2009, 08:59 PM   #1
brisavoine
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Paris under the bombs

I'm opening this thread to debunk yet another myth about Paris, namely the myth that Paris was not bombed during World War II.

This thread is a copy and paste of a thread on the French forum. I have translated the explanations in English.



During World War II, Paris was not as heavily bombed as other European cities such as Warsaw, Rotterdam or London, but it suffered bombing raids nonetheless. Those are now largely forgotten, leading to the myth of a city that was spared destruction, probably because most of the bombings took place in working-class districts of Paris, which people tend to disregard (if it's not Haussmannian, it's not Paris... yet another cliché).

Paris was essentially bombed by the British and the Americans, and not by the Germans, which is probably another reason why most people prefer to forget about these embarassing bombings by allies of France. The reason why there were relatively few German bombings is because the French Third Republic declared Paris an "open city" in June 1940 to spare its population (the Battle of France was already lost, so the government thought it was preferable to save the then 6 million inhabitants of Greater Paris rather than make a totally useless last stand in Paris and risk the lives of millions of people). This still leads to lots of hateful comments from American far-right circles, as we've seen these past few years, so I don't need to insist on this.

Then in August-September 1944 the retreat of the German army across northern France was so sudden and rapid that a few days after the liberation of Paris in the end of August 1944 the French capital was beyond German bombing range, so Hitler could not "burn Paris" as he intended to do, but he did use his deadly V1 and V2 on Antwerp and London which remained under German bombing range until almost the end of the war unlike Paris.

Concerning the Allies, the British and the Americans targetted the many factories located in Greater Paris, one of Europe's largest concentration of industries which were used by the German occupation forces. That's why it is essentially the working-class districts of Paris that suffered from the Allied bombing raids.

The most terrible bombing raid took place on the night of April 21, 1944 in the area of the Porte de La Chapelle, in the 18th arrondissement. The entire area was destroyed (Anglo-American bombers targetted the La Chapelle marshalling yard, which they largely missed). 641 people were killed and 377 wounded during that raid, which is a death toll as high as during the worst nights of the London Blitz, and a higher death toll than during the very famous Coventry bombing raid of November 1940 by the German Luftwaffe! Today the Coventry bombing raid is still remembered far and wide, but the Paris bombing raid of April 21, 1944 is largely forgotten, I wonder why.

These are some pictures of the Porte de La Chapelle area in the 18th arrondissement after the April 21, 1944 bombing raid:









Rue Championnet, near Montmartre, on April 22:






The Métro repair shops in St Ouen were also destroyed during the same Allied bombing raid:


This is what a Parisian living in the 7th arrondissement (where the Eiffel Tower is located), and who owned a factory at the Porte de La Chapelle, wrote about that awful night of blitz in a letter to his wife who was refugee in Brittany (publisher's notes between brackets):
Quote:
Here are some details about the catastrophy. First, a night of utmost uproar. During 2 hours and 15 minutes, a mind-boggling racket. Everything was shaking in the apartment [located in the 7th arrondissement in the very heart of Paris]. At last I went down the stairs and tried to cheer up this excellent Mrs Dantin [the famously bad-tempered doorkeeper, an awful drunkard old lady] who was stricken with panic. The night sky was lighted with flares and fires, and you could see as in broad daylight. I called our warehouse right away, but there was no dial tone. I immediately thought of the worst. Thus, I woke up at 5am and boarded the first Métro carriage which stopped at Jules Joffrin station. From there I reached, running more or less, the warehouse. Everything was burning. The Porte de La Chapelle was particularly knocked down. All the houses have collapsed on the ground. A bomb exploded over the Métro which is in shambles. From the Porte de La Chapelle to our warehouse [ca. 1 km], everything was flames and devastation. The bombing was very dense. Our warehouse offered a pitiful outlook. I immediately went to the basement where I knew several of our workers had sought refuge. It was intact, which immediately reassured me (...)

And voila. Here, air raid sirens after sirens, bombings after bombings. It's non-stop! Again this morning, you could see the flying fortresses quite distinctly in the sky. I'm glad that you are over there in the peace and quiet of the province. Life here is becoming really difficult. Lots of people are leaving Paris. Several districts (the 14th arrondissement, the 18th arrondissement, the Plaine St Denis, etc.) were evacuated. In the Plaine St Denis, there were this morning 416 coffins. Several corpses still remain under the rubbles. An entire family, not far from our warehouse, met their end: father, mother, 6 children! Time bombs are still exploding. Fires are thanks God over. (...)
The April 21, 1944 Anglo-American bombing raid over Paris outraged all of France, and was a big blunder on the side of the Allies just a few weeks before the Normandy landing. The Vichy leader Marshal Pétain personally went to Paris a few days after the bombing and received a triumphal welcome (an event that French bashers often compare with the triumphal welcome received by Charles de Gaulle only 4 months later during the liberation of Paris, forgetting to mention the particularly tragic circumstances of Pétain's visit to Paris).

Moving to another area of Paris, the working-class district of Billancourt, to the south of the 16th arrondissement, was during the war a favorite target of the Allies because the Renault factories were located there. At the end of the war, the Billancourt district was almost entirely destroyed. Many people were killed.

In this video you can see images of Billancourt after the British bombing raid of March 4, 1942 which killed 348 people:
http://www.ina.fr/archivespourtous/i...ce=AFE85000752

In April 1944 the Renault factories in Billancourt were bombed yet again. Some bombs fell on line 9 of the Métro and damaged the Billancourt underground station:



Other Métro stations that were deeper underground than the Billancourt station were used as shelters during bombing raids, same as in London. For example here at Pyrénées Métro station:



In comparison, people seeking refuge in the London tube across the Channel:



In order to protect the Paris industrial output from Allied bombings, the Germans transformed some Métro stations into war workshops working for the German war machine. Here the Porte des Lilas Métro station photographed shortly after the liberation of Paris:



Bombings happened also during the daytime. Here at the Longchamp Racecourse (horse racecourse that is) in March 1943, people are running to the shelters during an Allied bombing:



Not everybody managed to reach the shelters on time:



(to be continued... with more pictures of bombing raids over Paris)
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Old March 18th, 2009, 09:36 PM   #2
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very interesting, thanks.
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Old March 18th, 2009, 09:47 PM   #3
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Merci pour ce sujet, je ne savais pas que Paris avait été bombardé pendant la seconde guerre mondiale...j'ai un peu honte de mon ignorance...
Je pensais qu'elle l'avait été seulement pendant la guerre avec la Prusse...
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Old March 18th, 2009, 10:57 PM   #4
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great subject breeze... very interesting
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Old March 18th, 2009, 11:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP View Post
Merci pour ce sujet, je ne savais pas que Paris avait été bombardé pendant la seconde guerre mondiale...j'ai un peu honte de mon ignorance...
Je pensais qu'elle l'avait été seulement pendant la guerre avec la Prusse...
moi aussi, very interesting, thanks to share
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Old March 18th, 2009, 11:13 PM   #6
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More to come tomorrow.
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Old March 18th, 2009, 11:17 PM   #7
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Very interesting and informative topic, thanks for the pictures and your spotless translations Brisavoine!
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Old March 19th, 2009, 07:23 AM   #8
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Wow...amazing. I think most people think that Paris got away without being too badly bombed but these pics show a different story.
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Old March 19th, 2009, 07:29 AM   #9
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powerful photos.
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Old March 19th, 2009, 01:04 PM   #10
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Very interesting, thanks!
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Old March 19th, 2009, 01:53 PM   #11
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Why is every Parisian on this webside trying to "debunk myths about Paris"? I find it a bit ridiculous tbh. Paris was bombed (I did know this) but it hardly damaged the city much. At least not compared to other European cities.

Minato Ku has posted several threads where he´s trying to show that Paris is infact a smelly ugly city infested with American fast food chains and that the historic centre needs to be overshadowed by skyscrapers. Why all this?
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Old March 19th, 2009, 02:07 PM   #12
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You exagerate a bit.
If myth about Paris were true, nobody would try to debunk it.

We, parisian, are upset to see our city always descrived as a museum city only good for tourism, always the same picture of the Eiffel tower, Opera, Louvre, Montmartre, Invalide and la Defense.
Always showing the same scene : accordeonist for toursits, cafe for tourists...

It is not because the center was quite untouched that the city was not bombed.
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J’aime Paris et je veux des tours !

Last edited by Minato ku; March 19th, 2009 at 02:17 PM.
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Old March 19th, 2009, 02:13 PM   #13
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It looks bad, but I think the Rotterdam or Warsaw bombing was way worse.
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Old March 19th, 2009, 09:51 PM   #14
brisavoine
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Let's continue our report.

Further in the suburbs, there were also many bombing raids. Sartrouville, in the western suburbs of Paris, was bombed by the Americans three times in May and June 1944. 250 people died and 1,000 were wounded.







80% of Athis-Mons, in the southern suburbs, was razed to the ground during the Allied bombing raid of April 18, 1944. 300 people died, 4,000 people were left homeless. Athis-Mons had to be entirely rebuilt after the war.









Even the world-famous Versailles, in the western suburbs, was bombed by the Allies. In the bombing raid of June 24, 1944, more than 250 people were killed and 400 people injured. The area that suffered most damages was around the Versailles-Chantiers train station. Here is a map showing the bomb impacts. No bomb fell on the Castle of Versailles (to the left of the map):



The Versailles-Chantiers train station after the bombing raid:



And the damages in Versailles:









One of the 250 casualties in Versailles, killed while asleep:



The Allied bombing raids were a windfall for the Vichy Regime which used them as a tool in their propaganda against the British and the Americans. Here in this 1943 poster that was placed in the streets of many French cities, Roosevelt is being labelled a "murderer":



Headline in the pro-German newspaper "Aujourd'hui" after the first Allied bombing of the Trappes marshalling yard, in the southwestern suburbs of Paris, which killed 50 people on March 6, 1944. The headline reads "A municipality in the Seine-et-Oise département devastated by the "liberators" ":



Now turning to the Germans, like I said there were few German bombings of Paris due to the reasons I explained yesterday, but let's talk about these few German bombing raids nonetheless.

During the Battle of France in May-June 1940, there were two German bombing raids over Paris. The first one took place on the night of June 3, 1940. 500 aircrafts of the German Luftwaffe bombed in three waves 3 French Air Force bases, 22 train stations and 15 factories in the Paris area, in particular in the Billancourt-15th arrondissement (Javel) area. 254 people were killed, 652 people were injured. This bombing raid spread panic among the Parisian population, and many Parisians fled the city towards the south of France, clogging the roads already clogged with refugees from Belgium and northern France, which hindered the movements of the French army (this tragic episode is know as the Exodus, with 8 to 10 million Belgian and French civilians fleeing the German advance and completely clogging the French road network; this is, incidently, the largest movement of population in Western Europe since as far back as historical records exist).

Here is one German aircraft that was shot down by the French anti-aircraft defence during that bombing raid:



In retaliation, the French Air Force bombed Frankfurt and Munich the next day (June 4), and a French aircraft flying from Bordeaux dropped a bomb over Berlin on June 7, which was the very first bombing of Berlin in WW2. These French bombing raids over Germany are totally forgotten today, I wonder why, leading to the myth that France did not resist the Germans during WW2. You can find out more about the incredible feat of the French pilot who bombed Berlin (very far into German territory) in English here:
http://warandgame.blogspot.com/2008/...to-berlin.html
http://blinkynet.net/wwii/verne.html

The second German bombing raid over Paris took place on June 11, 1940. I don't have details about that raid. On June 13, the commander of the French armies, Weygand, declared Paris an "open city" to spare the civilian population like I said yesterday.

The next waves of German bombings took place in 1944. Hitler was furious that the German general Von Choltitz had not carried out his order to destroy Paris before the Allies arrive, so he ordered the Luftwaffe to bomb the city just after its liberation in the end of August 1944, but by late August 1944 the Luftwaffe was fortunately too weak to organize some large scale bombing raids. The most notorious bombing raid took place on the night of August 26, 1944 (a few hours after Charles de Gaulle and the Free French paraded on the Champs-Elysées). Several districts of Paris were hit: the Bichat Hospital in the north of the 18th arrondissement, the Blanc-Manteaux neighborhood in the famous Marais district, in the heart of Paris, the Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement, the Porte de Montreuil in the 20th arrondissement, the Porte de Vitry, Plade d'Italie, and Porte d'Ivry in the 13th arrondissement, the Mouffetard neighborhood in the 5th arrondissement, and the Bastille area. In the suburbs Bagnolet, Pantin, Montreuil, Sceaux, Bourg-la-Reine, Charenton-le-Pont, Saint-Maur, Ivry, and Vitry were hit by the Luftwaffe. The wine market (now the Jussieu university in the 5th arrondissement) was also hit, which immediately lighted the alcoohol stocked there. Thousands of wine caskets burnt all night, turning the Paris night sky into a reddish bright sky which made a deep impression on people who witnessed the liberation of Paris.

I don't know how many people died during that German bombing raid. The next day the Free French newspapers talked about it. "Paris bombed by the Luftwaffe" says this one:



"Savage bombing of the capital" says this other one:



Here is the picture of a building in the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, in the heart of the Marais, itself in the heart of Medieval Paris, which was destroyed by German bombs during that raid. 21 people died in that street during the August 26, 1944 German bombing raid:



A few days later, the front had moved so much east that the German Luftwaffe could not bomb Paris anymore, and even the V1 and V2 could not reach Paris as I explained yesteday, which spared Paris the fate endured by Antwerp and London.

Finally, since Parisian women will always remain Parisian women, here is a surreal scene photographed in a Paris hair salon on August 1, 1944, only three weeks before the liberation of Paris, while large parts of Europe and Asia were experiencing death and destruction.

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Old March 20th, 2009, 12:31 AM   #15
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So breathtaking, absolutely compelling. Please more.

Thanks a lot.
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Old March 20th, 2009, 12:41 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Bricks View Post
Why is every Parisian on this webside trying to "debunk myths about Paris"? I find it a bit ridiculous tbh. Paris was bombed (I did know this) but it hardly damaged the city much. At least not compared to other European cities.

Minato Ku has posted several threads where he´s trying to show that Paris is infact a smelly ugly city infested with American fast food chains and that the historic centre needs to be overshadowed by skyscrapers. Why all this?
smelly ugly city... are you talking of calcutta?

great work brizavoine!
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Old March 20th, 2009, 12:51 AM   #17
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Thanks a lot for this thread brisavoine! Moi non plus je ne savais pas que Paris avait été bombardé pendant la 2GM.
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Old March 20th, 2009, 02:54 AM   #18
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Very interesting!! Great job!
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Old March 20th, 2009, 03:04 AM   #19
Langur
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Bricks View Post
Why is every Parisian on this webside trying to "debunk myths about Paris"? I find it a bit ridiculous tbh. Paris was bombed (I did know this) but it hardly damaged the city much. At least not compared to other European cities.

Minato Ku has posted several threads where he´s trying to show that Paris is infact a smelly ugly city infested with American fast food chains and that the historic centre needs to be overshadowed by skyscrapers. Why all this?
My thoughts exactly. They seem really insecure. It's a shame because their "Paris of myth" is also the Paris that's worth a damn.
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Old March 20th, 2009, 03:06 AM   #20
Langur
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martounet View Post
smelly ugly city... are you talking of calcutta?
Actually Calcutta's not so ugly. It has some magnificent architecture. I'll post some of my pics sometime.
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