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A New Museum in Paris

On August 25, 1944 – after 1,533 days and nights of humiliation, deprivation and fear – the Nazis were driven out of Paris  and the city was free. De Gaulle led the grand march of the victorious French and Allied troops down the Champs Elysees, where the incoming Nazi troops had paraded on June 14, 1940.

On the 75th anniversary of this day, in August 2019,  the Museum of the Liberation which preserves these memories will open in its new home in the historic pavilion Ledoux on Place Denfert-Rochereau. I  visited it  one year in its previous hard to find location above the Gare Monparnasse; the eclectic collection of artefacts on view – wartime newspapers, photos and posters, ration books, uniforms, documents and much else.- produced a collage that was both affecting and personal. The story of these extraordinary days it told through the histories of two exceptional men: Marshall Leclerc and Jean Moulin, one who served France under the battle flag, the other who worked in the shadows.

The aristocratic Philippe_Leclerc_de_Hauteclocque, known simply as Leclerc, took part in the Normandy Invasion of 1944 as commander of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division. This illustrious division was the one later assigned by the Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower,  to liberate the French capital. When  Leclerc died in a plane crash in Algeria in 1947, he was accorded the honour of being buried in a crypt in Les Invalides.

The  underground work of the leader of the French resistance forces, Jean Moulin, is the other focus of the museum. A local government administrator from Bezier, Languedoc, Jean Moulin was entrusted by De Gaulle with the difficult task of unifying the French resistance efforts.  He was twice captured  and tortured by the Gestapo.  He died in Gestapo custody. His presumed ashes were interred first in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris before being transferred to the Panthéon on 19 December 1964.

The museum traces the overall history of the war, as well as the stories of some of the ordinary people who endured it, through thousands of objects, both military and domestic and hundreds of eye witness reports; it  puts in context the period between the two World Wars, the events of the African campaigns, the Normandy beachheads and eventually the liberation of Paris.

After its official inauguration on the 25th August, the new museum will open to the public on 27 August. Thereafter, it will be open daily except Mondays. Admission will be free.

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