Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Walking Tour of WWII Paris - a great way to see the city

My final activity of my trip was a World War II walk of Paris. Run by Getaway Tours, this 2+ hour experience was sensational, and I highly encourage anyone who visits Paris to take advantage of it – especially if the tour is led by Gil, my guide. As opposed to the locations and museums of Normandy that I visited, Paris does not contain a lot of signage for WWII history, so the walk is a must. Not only did I see a lot of Paris in a short time, but I also learned a great deal about the Nazi occupation, life for Parisians during the war, the French Resistance, and the Battle for Paris and liberation in August 1944. In addition, I found out tidbits of French history, French culture, Paris lore, architecture, and more.

I won’t give you my notes of the whole tour – you can check out a lot of it on video. However, here were some of the highlights:

*The Resistance started immediately, and a lot the push for resistance were from communist groups who wanted to ascend to power. Other groups aligned with Charles de Gaulle
*The resistance had three major goals - gather intelligence for the Allies (cool spy stuff), sabotage, and help soldiers to get back once behind enemy lines
*There were a ton of hiding aces in Paris to hep the Resistance
*The resistance would rarely (if every) try to assassinate Nazi's due to retribution
*An uprising was not expected in Paris, and the Nazis that lived there had a pretty easy life - no fighting, good food, wine and lodging
*Life under occupation was incredibly difficult for the French - lack of supplies, ration cards, living conditions - but they kept their French "way of life" as much as they could
*Dietrich Von Choltitz disobeyed Hitler's "scorched earth" policy and order to destroy Paris - a great story (and part of "Is Paris Burning?")

Gil (the guide) did a fantastic job of storytelling, combining historical fact with the personal emotions of both the French and the Germans. As I walked away from the tour, I made a mental list of the topics that I want to research more (Von Chovlitz, the resistance, the black market, Nazi life in Paris, Deportation, DeGaulle, Louis XIV) and realized that just by raising my curiosity, it was a great experience. I was also incredible jealous of how cool Gil’s job is – walking around a beautiful city, talking history and telling stories, meeting people from all over the world. I always wanted to be a historical tour guide (not surprising, considering that I love the microphone), so maybe this will give me some ideas for a new career if the teaching gig doesn’t work out.

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