Relive the history of the Second World War in Paris Region
Welcome to the Paris Region
Seventy-five years ago, Allied forces landed at Normandy to liberate France, and reached Paris several weeks later.
Read on to find out more about places commemorating our history.
Paris liberation museum
The new Musée de la Libération de Paris - Musée du général Leclerc - Musée Jean Moulin
has just opened in Place Denfert-Rochereau where, 75 years ago, General Leclerc passed through to liberate
Paris. This new location is doubly important historically, as it was also here in this pavilion – now
open to the public for the very first time – that the chief of France’s combined resistance forces
Colonel Rol-Tanguy set up his command post. The museum is dedicated to the history of the Second
World War and packed with a collection of over 7,000 artefacts from military and daily life, each
telling a tale of both famous and lesser-known WW2 history. Get ready for your visit to come alive,
with thousands of documents and photographs and over one hundred unique audio-visual accounts.
Musée de l'Armée
The Musée de l’Armée is to be found inside the Hôtel National des Invalides, and is one of the biggest museums of military art and history in the world, with an incredible collection of over 500,000 artefacts.
As you wander around this magnificent building, which was ordered by Louis XIV
as a home for his veteran soldiers, you’ll also be able to wind your way through the area dedicated to the two world wars.
From the pen with which the Nazis surrendered on the 8 May 1945, Adolf Hitler’s desk blotter and the uniform of an American foot soldier from the first wave of assault in
1944 to weapons and everyday objects, the museum is full of items which bear precious testament to the greatest conflict of the 20th century.
The museum’s Charles de Gaulle Historial is an audio-visual area of almost 2,500m 2 which retraces the footsteps of statesman, leader of the Free French and founding president of the Fifth Republic, Charles de Gaulle. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the history of the 20th century, where this man had a powerful and lasting effect.
The history of Mont-Valérien is intertwined with the Second World War in the unhappiest of ways. Originally a medieval worship site, in 1941 German authorities chose the Mont-Valérien fort and clearing as the main execution site for hostages and members of the Resistance in the Paris area and occupied France. Traces of graffiti left by those condemned to death still remain in the chapel and, together with the bullet-ravaged execution posts, make a visit through the site a poignant experience.
In the crypt, the remains of 16 men and women – soldiers and members of the Resistance who died for their country – have been symbolically laid to rest in sixteen cenotaphs draped in the French flag. The fort, which has also functioned as a military base, is also home to museums on the French Signal Corps and military carrier pigeons.
The Shoah Memorial – Paris
The Shoah Memorial in the Marais traces the history of French Jews with a particular focus on the Second World War and a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust. This place of remembrance opened 60 years ago following the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, on the site of the Memorial of the Unknown Jewish Martyr. Your visit will be an emotional one, with a variety of artefacts (documents, photographs, personal items and videos) walking you in the footsteps of the 76,000 men, women and children who were deported under the Nazi regime.
The Shoah Memorial – Drancy
Originally a social housing complex built to the north of Paris in the Thirties, the Cité de la Muette became an internment camp in 1941, and in 1942 was made a transit detention camp for holding Jews before their deportation from France to extermination camps. Just like the Shoah Memorial in Paris, the Shoah Memorial in Drancy is now a place of information and learning, using video accounts, archived documents and photographs from the period to tell the story of around 63,000 French Jews who passed through this camp.
The Pantheon is an iconic Parisian monument, and one of the capital’s most poignant memorials. An architectural masterpiece of the 18th century, the crypt here is the final resting place for some of the greatest names in French history, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo. In 2015, this shrine to the Great Men of France also became home to the remains of 4 heroes of the French Resistance, acknowledging the decisive role they played in the history of the Second World War.
American Cemetery – Suresnes
On the slopes of Mont-Valérien to the west of Paris, the American Cemetery – a small, three-hectare area of US soil – is a touching place of remembrance and the only one in Europe to pay tribute to both world wars. Initially intended as a resting place for fallen soldiers from the Great War, it is also home to the remains of 24 unknown soldiers who died during WW2. With its imposing chapel and rows of white marble crosses, this is a perfect – and very fitting – place for remembrance.
Air and Space Museum
The Air and Space Museum is the oldest existing aerospace museum in the world, and celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Head for the hall on 1939-1945 and discover an display of legendary war planes including the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, Douglas C-47A Skytrain, Dewoitine D.520, North American P-51D Mustang and the iconic WW2 American military aircraft: the famous Dakota. Sit inside the plane and step into the shoes of an Allied paratrooper preparing to jump – it’s an experience like no other.
… All the way to Normandy
Head out of Paris with your expert guide and driver to find out more about one of the greatest chapters in the history of the Second World War. In small groups, you’ll get to retrace the steps of the Allied forces in Normandy, from the D-Day landing beaches to the American Cemetery where all those men who so valiantly fought to liberate France have been laid to rest. A poignant day from start to finish.
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- Copyright image: Jacques Robert - SGA DMPA