Paris’ WWII plaques get new life

Paris’ WWII plaques get new life

2nd September 2009, Comments 0 comments

A commemorative website is keeping Paris's wartime memories alive.

"Guillois Michel fell here for the liberation on 20 August, 1944," reads one plaque on a Parisian street. "France Bloch-Serazin, deported resistance member, executed in Hamburg, February 12, 1943," reads another.

Guillois Michel died at 38 Avenue de l'Opera, as the plaque at that address records. The plaque for resistance fighter France Bloch-Serazin is at 1, rue Monticelli, in the south of Paris, where she once lived.

As Paris marked the 65th anniversary of its liberation from Nazi occupation last week, thousands of commemorative plaques on the walls of the capital keep alive the memory of those who suffered -- and those who resisted. And now a website, initially set up to simply record the plaques, is breathing new life into the memories of those who died to liberate the city.

Francois Tanniou, who is passionate about what he calls "the duty to remember," started the website ( in 2004 to record all the plaques in Paris connected to the occupation and liberation.

The website had 600 plaques when it was launched, said Tanniou but thanks to private contributors who sent in photos of others, it quickly grew.

Adolf Hitler posed in front of the Eiffel Tower
Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940: Adolf Hitler posed in front of the Eiffel Tower with his architect Albert Speer (left) and his favorite sculptor Arno Breker

Half the plaques relate to the week of the uprising in August 1944; the fierce street fighting and the arrival of General Philippe Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division, which helped liberate the capital.

Relatives of those who had died also wrote in, providing personal details of resistance fighters who had died in the battle to drive out the Nazi forces -- or had been captured, deported and executed.

"He will never know how proud we are of him," writes one man of his grandfather who died in a camp in Austria after being deported for belonging to the resistance.

"Thank you for preserving the memory of these acts of courage," writes the grand-daughter of another victim.
Today, thanks to those contributions, Tanniou's website has registered some 1,060 plaques accompanied by photos and comments from relatives.

The Paris authorities meanwhile, continue their work.

While most of the plaques were put up shortly after the war, new ones have appeared on the walls of private and public buildings around the city -- once the buildings' owners have agreed and the council has voted it through.

In 2001, the city authorities decided to honour the memory of the 12,000 young Parisians deported simply because they were Jewish.

More than 300 plaques have since been put up on the walls of schools that stood at the time of the occupation -- like the one on a primary school at 11 rue Vivienne in the 2nd Arrondissement, in the heart of the capital.

"To the memory of the pupils of this school deported between 1942 and 1944 because they were born Jewish, innocent victims of Nazi barbarism with the complicity of the Vichy government. We will never forget them."

Pierre-Marie Giraud/AFP/Expatica

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