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World War 2 Tours in Paris

Hubby and I are looking for tours in Paris about WW2 when we are there in May….anyone have suggestions? This is our third trip there and we have been reading a lot lately about France and its place in WW2…..interested in learning more. We have been to Normandy…..thank you!

Posted by
21709 posts

Paris, itself, did not figure greatly in WWII. It was spared a lot of war damage unlike London or other major cities. It was an R&R location for many German soldiers and especially officers. I cannot even remember see any museum related to WWII. I am not sure the average resident is proud of the role that Paris played -- or non-role.

Posted by
717 posts

Thanks Frank….am aware of that…..just want to see anything we can if there is something there……..

Posted by
658 posts

But Paris was definitely a goal of the allies while liberating France, and was the culminating event in the battle for Normandy. There is a relatively new museum called Musée de la Libération de Paris that is in an underground bunker used by the resistance (I believe). I have yet to visit due to limited travel the past couple of years, but it is on my list for (hopefully) this June. I have also heard there are walking tours centered around the resistance in Paris.

https://www.museeliberation-leclerc-moulin.paris.fr/

Posted by
3340 posts

A recommendation that highlights the French Resistance during WWII: https://sightseekersdelight.com/
They have a walking tour called PIECE DE RESISTANCE. We took two walking tours with them several years ago. At that time they were not offering this tour. We did enjoy their Montmartre & Jewish Tour. If we return we would take the Resistance Tour.

Posted by
1 posts

We took the Context Travel's Paris Under Occupation Tour as well and really loved it. Highly recommend. Turns out there was quite a bit of activity in Paris during WW2.

Posted by
9682 posts

I've done the Paris Walks "Paris during the Occupation and Liberation" walk twice (pre-covid) and it is excellent. Both guides that I had, Brad and Chris, were extremely knowledgeable and interesting. Paris Walks requires reservations now and is only doing this tour once a week but if it fits in your plan, I'd definitely recommend it.

http://www.paris-walks.com/summer-walks_m.html

I agree about the Paris Liberation Museum. It is excellent. There are some displays that are only in French but when I was there in 2019 right after they opened, enough was in English that I did fine.

Posted by
437 posts

Word of warning about the Liberation museum - if you go down to the bunker, it is 100 steps (pretty steep, too) back up................ But, was a great museum, I went in October!

Sorry Frank, but to say there isn't much in Paris to do with WWII is completely wrong.

There are memorials all over Paris on buildings where members of the resistance fell, having been shot by the Germans. Almost every school has a plaque with the number of Jewish students deported to concentration camps with the connivance of the Vichy government. There is the Shoah Memorial in the Marais, the Deportation Martyrs Memorial at the tip of Ile de la Cite behind Notre Dame and the Memorial de la Shoah de Drancy.

Then there is the Liberation of Paris Museum - General Leclerc Museum - Jean Moulin Museum almost opposite the catacombs. Jean Moulin was of course a leader in the resistance and General LeClerc the commander of the 2nd Armoured Division whose troops liberated Paris.

And it would be hard to overlook the museum of WWII at Les Invalides. You could stay busy for a couple of weeks just visiting such sites in Paris. And the above are just off the top of my head... doubtless there is much more!

Posted by
658 posts

There are also several memorials to soldiers and civilians alike in Père Lachaise cemetery.

Posted by
8390 posts

In all these years I've never disagreed with you Frank, but I do on this one. During my early years in Paris in the 1970s, parents of friends told me about hearing the sounds of the firing squads at dawn coming from the different forts that surrounded the city. Others about the men and women shipped to horrid forced labor in the German factories. In addition to the plaques on the walls where people died, the occupation permeated the city.

If you equate involvement with destruction, the 19th along the canal was destroyed by bombs. It's all rebuilt with modern buildings now

Jane, a walk through any cemetery, you'll see family gravestones with lists of names some photos and "Lost in the Shoah" engraved on them. It's extremely personal and moving.

Posted by
5250 posts

Frank can look after himself, but I think he meant that Paris didn't see any major fighting or bombing in WWII because it was occupied after the 1940 "armistice." It wasn't a military target for either side, so spared the damage that destroyed so much of London, Berlin, and other cities. Of course the Jewish population suffered a great deal, and there was street flighting before the 1945 liberation, so no question that the war impacted the city, and there are all kinds of memorials in various places.

I took Paris Walks' occupation walk years ago and it was excellent. I visited the Jean Moulin Museum before it was renovated, liked it then and probably would like it more now. Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collings and Dominque La Pierre is a good book about the last days of German occupation, and they made a good movie of it too. Also I'd recommend the "historical spy novels" of Alan Furst, set mostly in the run-up to the war, some set mainly in Paris and all with some Paris episodes, for good flavor of life there and then.

Posted by
3681 posts

Actual evidence or icons of the street fighting -- for that's what the liberation battle was -- mostly boils down to bullet holes in old buildings. The value of a tour depends on narrative skills of the guide.

Yes, there are relatively recent symbols and archives, including the Holocaust memorial, certainly worth visiting. But the actual military value of the campaign is debatable. For instance, the old book (and subsequent movie) Is Paris Burning is based on the German commanders who refused a scorched-earth retreat -- well worth remembering, but not so visually exciting on a tour. And aside from raising French morale, and the reputation of de Gaulle, some argue that the military force could have strategically been better exerted elsewhere on the Western front.

The city museum, Carnavalet, mounted an engrossing display in about 2015 on how the fighting was pictured just after it happened, including its own 1946 exhibit, and contrasting more recent attitudes. But the museum closed shortly after for a five-year renovation and I haven't been back to see if any of that stuff is still shown.
https://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/musee-carnavalet

Posted by
2389 posts

There are also several memorials to soldiers and civilians alike in Père Lachaise cemetery.

I agree with Pharmer Phil. At Pere Lachaise, I saw memorials to people who were murdered at Auschwitz. Those memorials are among my most compelling memories of Paris.

Posted by
9682 posts

the museum closed shortly after for a five-year renovation and I haven't been back to see if any of that stuff is still shown

@Southam…I visited the Carnavalet in October and did not see an exhibition like that. I’m not saying it’s not there as the route through there is exceedingly convoluted!! Honestly I saw some stuff twice so I probably missed things as well.

Posted by
3681 posts

Pam: Thanks for your attention, although it is disappointing to hear that the end-of-the-war material may have been packed away. Lots of other stuff to see, according to my friend and part-time resident.

Posted by
1154 posts

You might be interested in the Suresnes American cemetery across the river from the Eiffel Tower in the suburb city of Suresnes. It holds remains of Americans killed in World Wars I and II. It's little known and you'll likely have it to yourselves. Go to abmc.gov for a list of American cemeteries across France and all of Europe, including those close to Paris.

Posted by
9682 posts

George, I've had the American Cemetery on my "to-do" list for a few years. It looks very easy to get to from that suburban rail line.