Laura's Reviews > Is Paris Burning?

Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collins
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's review
Apr 12, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: war, history
Recommended to Laura by: Gene Bennion
Read in April, 2005

Summer of 1944. Every bridge, historical landmark, and civic building in Nazi-occupied Paris was wired with explosives. Hitler’s plan was to reduce the city to rubble if Allied troops got too close. He didn’t know that the Allies were planning to bypass Paris, and of course the resistance fighters didn’t know Paris was rigged to blow up. Their hope was to bring things to a head once the Allied forces were near enough to help, unaware of the consequences. Throw into the mix the unlikely hero of the story: General Dietrich von Choltitz, the newly-appointed military governor of Paris. He loved Paris. Plus he had met Hitler and realized the Führer was mad. However, his duty was to his country, and he knew his family was under watch in Germany. Could he disobey a direct order, sacrifice his duty, and endanger his family? On the other hand, could he actually be responsible for destroying the most beautiful city in the world at the behest of a madman?? You'll have to read the book to see how he helped keep the different incendiary elements from blowing up long enough to keep Paris from blowing up.

You get a truly gripping account of living in occupied Paris, and a sense of just how close the world came to losing it. The drama is presented mostly at an individual level: stories of Resistance and FFI in-fighting, diplomats and their mistresses, people smuggling messages in bicycle baskets. Interestingly, most of the characters are motivated by survival or profit, not ideology; on some level, von Choltitz ultimately placed culture above politics. Though I’m not a big fan of the French (what Anglophile is?), the thought of that most magnificent city burning left me breathless and a bit teary through the entire book. Best to read it while you're visiting Paris, so you can reassure yourself that everything turned out okay. Vive la France!
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Sohom Majumdar Do you know that when the Allies got into the city they found a soldier was sitting on the top of Notre Dame which was fully wired with explosive & the German soldier had enough time to blew it up.When he was asked that why he didn't do it he said he was so much lost in the view of that place that he denied Fuhrer's direct order.That was beautiful.

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