Paris Bombed - History

Paris Bombed - History

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On Sunday August 30th a German pilot dropped three bombs on Paris near the Gare L'Est. The bombs injured two civilians. The German pilot was Lt. Ferdinand Von Hisseden.

This Day In History: An Anarchist Bombs Café Terminus In Paris

On this day in 1894, the French anarchist Emile Henry was in Paris sipping a beer at the Café Terminus, which was located conveniently just across the street from the Saint-Lazare train station. Henry&rsquos plan was to detonate the homemade bomb he had slipped into his overcoat pocket before leaving home and escape using the train station.

It was nearly 8 p.m., an orchestra was playing music. Henry lit a cigar and continued to wait. He claimed during his trial that his intention that night was to kill as many bourgeoisie as possible. To him, they represented everything that was wrong with society. The anarchist movement during that time in Paris was made from a tapestry of young men who were unable to advance socially. Ironically, Henry had been offered ample opportunity from the French society he so willfully wanted to destroy.

Engraving depicting Henry&rsquos capture after he lit the bomb in Cafe Terminus. Public Domain

Despite his father&rsquos past entanglements with radical fringe political movements, Henry&rsquos academic aptitude was acknowledged. From a young age, France offered him a scholarship that endowed him with access to an excellent education. With that came opportunities to engage on a wide social spectrum. His intellectual dexterity landed him in an elite France university.

It could be that Henry found himself being pulled by polarized ends of the universe. He was invited into a social sphere totally incompatible with his upbringing. Henry was born to a revolutionary line of ancestors his father and brother were both members of radical fringe groups. His brother, in particular, was an anarchist. Henry&rsquos brother was basically a spokesperson for the cause. To be a part of that, Henry had only two assets at his disposal. His keen chemistry skills and his life.

That night in Cafe Terminus, he pulled the bomb from his coat pocket, lit the fuse and tossed it in the air toward the direction of the orchestra. The explosion killed one person and left twenty injured. Henry&rsquos escape plan was thwarted when he was stopped, first by a waiter, then a patron. He never saw his 22nd birthday, was found guilty executed at the age of twenty-one.

ISIL stages series of terrorist attacks in Paris, culminating in massacre at Bataclan theater

On November 13, 2015, a cell of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant commits a string of terrorist attacks across Paris, killing 131 and injuring over 400. It was the deadliest day in France since World War II, as well as the deadliest operation ISIL has carried out in Europe to date.

2015 had already seen a number of major terrorist attacks, in France and elsewhere. In January, a group known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula carried out five separate attacks across the city, the deadliest of which occurred at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The following months, terrorists attacked a Jewish community center in Nice. In August, passengers prevented a self-identified “jihadist” from carrying out a shooting a train from Amsterdam to Paris, and on October 31 ISIL claimed responsibility for the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 en route to St. Petersburg, which killed 224.

The attacks on this day began with a series of suicide bombings outside the Stade de France, where the French national soccer team was playing Germany with President François Hollande in attendance. One person was killed, but further bloodshed was averted because the bombers failed to enter the stadium. The stadium attack was immediately followed by a string of shootings and another bombing at restaurants closer to the city center, culminating in a massacre and hostage-taking at the Bataclan theater in the middle of a sold-out rock concert. After more than two hours, the French police stormed the theater, resulting in the deaths of the three assailants.

As France mourned, its government declared a state of emergency and stepped up its bombing campaign against ISIL. On November 18, one of a series of police raids across the region resulted in the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of the attack. Abaaoud held dual Belgian and Moroccan citizenship, while seven of the nine Paris attackers were either Belgian or French. The perpetrators had ties to ISIL’s Brussels cell, which coordinated a number of attacks in Europe including a string of suicide bombings in the Belgian capital the following March. Though a number of ISIL-inspired stabbings and attacks, usually by one or two isolated perpetrators, occurred across France throughout 2016 and 2017, the Paris attacks represent the high-water mark for ISIL’s activities in Europe.


When the Germans invaded France in May 1940, about 175,000 Jews resided or had found refuge in Paris. Many initially left the city, only to return after the armistice was signed in June and Paris became the seat of the German military administration. The majority of Parisian Jews lived in the 4th, 11th, 18th, and 20th districts. By late September 1940, a German census registered 150,000 Jews in Paris, including 64,000 foreigners.

The persecution of Jews in Paris began in October 1940, when the Nazis bombed seven synagogues in the city. German Security Police official Theodor Dannecker, the SS "Jewish expert," ordered the centralization of Jewish organizations, "Aryanization" or transfer to non-Jewish ownership of Jewish businesses, and several other anti-Jewish measures. During 1940-1941, the Germans arrested 10,000 Jews in Paris. About the same number fled the city to the unoccupied zone in the south. In 1942 the Germans began systematic deportations of foreign and stateless Jews from Paris to the Drancy, Beaune-la-Rolande, and Pithiviers transit camps. French police assisted in the roundups for these deportations. From these locations, German authorities deported the Jews to killing centers.

In June 1942, Jews in Paris were ordered to wear yellow Star of David badges for easy identification. In mid-July, the French police concentrated 13,000 Jews in the Vélodrome d'Hiver sports arena in south-central Paris. After being held there for days without food or water, these Jews were deported via Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau. While thousands of Jews went into hiding, nearly 30,000 Jews were deported from Paris during 1942. By mid-1943, 60,000 Jews remained in the city. The Germans began to deport Jewish residents of orphanages, nursing homes, and hospitals. Early in 1944, the Germans also began to deport Jewish citizens of France as well.

Thousands of Jews hid in Paris or fled Paris to hiding places in the French provinces. Thousands more fled to neutral Spain, Portugal, or Switzerland. At least 3,000 Turkish, Hungarian, and Italian Jews were repatriated. Many Jews joined the French resistance. Parisian Jews were aided by a variety of Jewish clandestine and semi-clandestine organizations, including the Communist "Solidarite," the Bundist "Amelot," the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants Children's Aid Society), and various underground Zionist groups.

Allied forces liberated Paris on August 25, 1944. At least 50,000 Parisian Jews, most of them foreign-born, had been deported and murdered.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Abaaoud, 28, is described as the suspected ringleader in the Paris attacks. He died in a long gun battle with police, who raided a flat in Saint-Denis on 18 November.

Investigators believe he was involved in the bar and restaurant killings. His fingerprints were found on a Kalashnikov left in the Seat car abandoned in Montreuil.

He grew up in the Brussels district of Molenbeek and was an associate of Salah Abdeslam.

Implicated in four out of six foiled attacks this year, he was believed to have joined militant group IS in 2013.

Belgian police believe he had been in Athens, directing a militant cell in Verviers in eastern Belgium when it was raided by security forces in mid-January 2015. Although Greek authorities were following him, he managed to evade a police raid, a BBC investigation has found.

He had also been in contact with Mehdi Nemmouche, accused of shooting dead four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014.

Abaaoud's father had become aware in the past month of his son's links to terrorism and believed he had become a psychopath, according to lawyer Nathalie Gallant.

Chakib Akrouh blew himself up using a suicide vest during the police raid on the flat in Saint-Denis.

He is thought to have been the third man involved in the bar and restaurant attacks that left 39 people dead as his DNA was found in the Seat car in which the three killers were driven.

Akrouh, 25, was born and raised in Belgium, of Belgian-Moroccan descent. He travelled to Syria in 2013 and was given a five-year jail sentence in absentia while he was there.

He was killed in the Saint-Denis explosion and it took police eight weeks to identify his remains, by matching his mother's DNA.

Bataclan concert hall attack

The 29-year-old French national of Algerian descent blew himself up after the massacre at the Bataclan, eight days before his 30th birthday. He was identified from a fingertip, found in the concert hall where 89 people were killed.

Born in the poor Paris suburb of Courcouronnes, he was known to police as a petty criminal - getting eight convictions between 2004 and 2010 but spending no time in jail.

Between 2005 and 2012, he lived in Chartres, near Paris, where he reportedly worked as a baker and played football with fellow employees. He attended a mosque with his father.

A local Islamic association leader said he showed no signs of being an extremist. Other residents said the family was "very nice".

In 2010, however, he was identified by the French authorities as a suspected Islamic radical and his details were entered in a database.

Since then Omar Mostefai appears to have been able to travel to Syria he may have also spent time in Algeria.

A senior Turkish official confirmed to the BBC that Omar Mostefai entered Turkey in 2013 and there was no record of him leaving the country.

The official - who spoke on the condition of anonymity - said that in October 2014 Turkey had received an information request regarding four terror suspects from the French authorities.

During the official investigation, he said, Turkish authorities identified a fifth individual - Mostefai - and notified their French counterparts twice, in December 2014 and June 2015.

"We have, however, not heard back from France on the matter," the official said. He added that it was only after the Paris attacks that the Turkish authorities received an information request about Omar Ismail Mostefai from France.

Cafe de Paris bombed

Between July 1940 and January 1942 I worked for a firm manufacturing military uniforms and equipment in Lexington Street, Soho. It was situated on the corner of Brewer Street, close to the Lex Garage. One morning a bomb dropped about forty yards away from us in Brewer Street, near the corner of Rupert Street. It demolished the building, passing through four floors and the street was filled with dust. Some very brave Canadian soldiers climbed up the rubble caused by the bomb and rescued people who were literally hanging on the walls of their demolished homes.
Soon after this incident the local A.R.P. organised fire watchers from surrounding businesses. One of the posts was our premises, supplied with stirrup pumps and the job was to extinguish incendiary bombs that fell in the streets or on roofs. As I was too young for military service, I was roped in. The trouble was when you were on watch, on for example a Monday night, you left for work on Monday morning, stayed all night at work during the air raids, began work again on Tuesday morning, not returning home until after work on Tuesday evening. You were hoping against hope that your own home hadn’t been bombed whilst you were away.
Another job I was detailed for was to go on the roof of the premises (it was four floors up) when the air raid siren sounded. I was accompanied by another lad, Joe Fleming, who was sadly killed during the last year of the war whilst flying in the R.A.F. Business carried on in the workrooms despite the siren sounding. Should the sound of bombs dropping come closer, we pressed a switch on the roof which sounded an alarm throughout the building. The staff then left their jobs and took shelter in our very large basement. Lucky us! were the last ones down as we had to check every workroom had been evacuated.
One morning, coming off fire watch after a very heavy night raid, I had a walk around the area and saw where one of the bombs had fallen in Coventry Street, a direct hit on the ‘Café de Paris’, killing most of the customers of this night club, plus the band leader ‘Snake Hips’ Johnson and his orchestra — what a mess when seen in the cold light of dawn.
We were living at number 7 Dawlish Street at the time, near the corner of Wyvil Road, off South Lambeth Road. Just a small house with a family living downstairs and us upstairs. The backyard was all flagstones so there was no air raid shelter. When the siren sounded, should the lady downstairs be out shopping, my mother would take in any washing that was hanging in the backyard, then grab the woman’s two little children and take shelter in the coal cellar under the stairs. With her rent and insurance books clasped tightly in her hand and the downstairs cat under one arm, she would wait patiently for the Luftwaffe to drop its bombs.
I would like to point out that when I had a look round the streets where we lived after bombing raids, most of the houses that had been damaged still had the stairs and the cupboard beneath standing intact. I think that’s where most people had sheltered during the Zeppelin raids of the first world war that’s what my mother told me anyway, and she was always right.
One night the house was badly damaged by the bombing and was no longer habitable we just had to find somewhere else to live. Fortunately my father was off duty with the fire service so we borrowed a costermonger’s barrow from Wilcox Road market, loaded on what bits and pieces were undamaged and pushed it around the streets to find somewhere to live. We were lucky to discover a two storeyed house at number 1 Walberswick Street off the South Lambeth Road, near the Tate Library. The ground and first floors were empty we took up residence on the first floor and the family from Dawlish Street lived on the ground floor. Although the backyard was flagstones, a small area was earth and an Anderson Shelter had been installed there. Like Dawlish Street, the house was lit by gas light, courtesy of the South Metropolitan Gas, Light and Coke Company.
We suffered quite a few heavy raids there but were quite safe in the shelter. One raid in the vicinity struck a house nearby and most of the debris fell on the shelter, blocking the entrance. I managed to clear this with an old coal shovel which was inside the shelter. Although it was dark outside, a nearby gas main had been struck and by its light I managed to see what I was doing quite well. So, I imagine, did the German bomber crews!
Soon afterwards I received my call-up papers and in January 1942 I toddled off to No. 12 Infantry Training Centre at Canterbury, not being discharged until February 1947, although I was also recalled as a “Z” Reservist in 1952 for further duty.

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Prelude to the attacks

France was shaken on January 7, 2015, by a deadly assault on the offices of satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo. A pair of Islamist militants armed with assault rifles burst into the magazine’s Paris offices and murdered 11 people, including editor Stéphane (“Charb”) Charbonnier. Over the following 48 hours, six more people were killed in attacks in and around Paris. The actions of Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, the French Algerian brothers who had attacked Charlie Hebdo and killed a police officer as they made their escape, were claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Amedy Coulibaly—who had coordinated his actions with the Kouachi brothers but had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS)—killed a police officer before murdering four hostages in a kosher grocery store in Paris. All three attackers were killed in gun battles with police.

The attacks led to a dramatic increase in domestic security spending, with French Pres. François Hollande pledging more than $850 million to fund counterterrorism efforts. There was also a spike in the number of reported Islamophobic incidents following the attacks, a worrying development given that France was home to western Europe’s largest Muslim community. The increased security measures did not prevent an attempted attack on a high-speed passenger train in northern France on August 21. Ayoub El-Khazzani, a militant with ties to ISIL, smuggled an AK-47, a semiautomatic pistol, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition onto the crowded Paris-bound train. A potential massacre was averted when El-Khazzani was subdued by passengers, among them a pair of off-duty U.S. military personnel who were traveling on holiday. In September French warplanes began striking ISIL targets inside Syria France already had been targeting ISIL positions inside Iraq since September 2014.

The next reports of shootings came to the south of the first restaurant attacks, at La Belle Equipe bar in the rue de Charonne in the 11th district.

Witnesses said that the attackers arrived in a black Seat. Two men opened fire on the terrace of the cafe.

"It lasted at least three minutes," one witness said. "Then they got back in their car and headed towards Charonne station."

Nineteen people died in the shooting, with a further nine in a critical condition.

Art Looted in Paris During World War II: A Family History

The Mona Lisa left its home in the Musée du Louvre during World War II and traveled all over France, moving from one hiding place to the next. Museum curators sent each other secret messages over the BBC “La Jaconde a le sourire” (“The Mona Lisa is smiling”) meant that the painting had arrived at its clandestine destination safe and sound. In the fall of 1939, the painting rode from Chambord to Louvigny in an armored van flanked by two escort vehicles. A museum curator sat next to the Mona Lisa—which had been carefully packed onto an ambulance stretcher—and watched over her, the way a worried father might watch over his ailing daughter. At some point during the ride, the curator started to feel woozy, and he nearly fainted as he climbed out of the van in Louvigny. His prized companion, however, was still smiling her mysterious smile she had made it through the trip unharmed.[i]

As it turned out, the curators at the Louvre needn’t have been so concerned. When the Nazis occupied France in 1940, they made no effort to steal artworks from the Louvre or any other national museum[ii]. Instead, they raided private galleries owned by Jewish collectors and dealers. The Nazis stole thousands of artworks from French Jews, ultimately robbing France of more than a third of its privately owned art[iii]. In 1938, Hitler had issued a law stating that every piece of looted art would fall under his direct control. He intended to display works of classical art and antiques in the Führermuseum, a cultural center that he planned to build in his native country, Austria[iv]. Hermann Göring, one of Hitler’s senior officers, also envisioned himself as a sophisticated art connoisseur despite Hitler’s directive, he kept many of the finest looted artworks for his own personal collection[v]. The Nazis had no interest in modern art—“degenerate art,” as they called it—but stole it anyway with the aim of selling it[vi].

If museums like the Louvre had used their armored cars to rescue people instead of paintings, perhaps some lives could have been saved. As it was, museums packed up their artworks and whisked them away to safety, and the Nazis rounded up Jews and deported them to concentration camps. The looting of Jewish art during World War II happens to be a part of my family history. My great-grandfather, Paul Byk, was a Jewish art dealer who lived and worked in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, and he was extremely lucky to have been able to move to the U.S. before the war broke out. His cousin and business partner, Jean Seligmann, unfortunately stayed behind in France. The Nazis eventually captured and killed him, and they stole all of the company’s art.

Earlier this week, I spoke with my grandma and her sister and they each told me the story of their father and his cousin during the war. I have done my best to piece together a true account, but no one’s memory is perfect these events occurred a long time ago, when my grandma and her sister were still growing up. My great-grandfather, Paul, was born in Germany in 1887. When he was a young man, he moved to Paris to help his cousin, Jean, run the family’s art company, Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co. The company dealt in art and antiques from the 17th and 18th centuries, including works by Francisco Goya, Frans Hals and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Their collection consisted of paintings, engravings, statuettes, furniture, tapestries and clocks, among other forms of decorative art. My great-grandfather had clients all over Europe and the U.S., and occasionally did business with celebrities like William Randolph Hearst and Greta Garbo. In the 1920s and ’30s, he traveled back and forth between New York and Paris, where he worked out of their office at 23 Place Vendôme.

In 1939, right before the war broke out, my great-grandfather decided to leave Paris for good. Paul and his family traveled to New York on the SS Champlain, a ship that was torpedoed by the Germans later on in the war. Paul’s cousin, Jean, also fled Paris my great-aunt believes he took refuge in a safer part of France. Jean’s wife, however, stayed in Paris with their children she wasn’t Jewish, so they weren’t in danger. According to my great-aunt, Jean couldn’t bear to be apart from his wife, so he snuck back into Paris before the war was over. He might have survived if the family’s maid hadn’t given him away to the authorities in 1941, the Nazis captured him and brought him to the Prison du Cherche-Midi, a French military prison in Paris that the Nazis used to house and execute political prisoners during the war. They tortured Jean at Cherche-Midi until, eventually, they shot him.

The Nazis also stole much of the art in the company’s collection. They stored it—carefully sorted and labeled—in a mine in Germany. My great-grandfather mentioned the theft in a letter to his client, William Randolph Hearst: “Our [Paris] place….has been Aryanized and a lot of our valuable antiques have been taken over by the Germans….Our London place has been bombed.”[viii]

On the day of his execution, at 3 a.m., Jean wrote a letter to my great-grandfather on a scrap of brown paper. No one knows for certain how the note reached Paul, but my great-aunt suspects that Jean bribed one of the prison guards to send it. My great-aunt still has the note. The message, written in pencil, has faded over time, but the last line is clear: “Adieu, I embrace you for the last time.”

The original note, framed beneath a photo of Jean. Jean’s note, up close.

After the war, the Allies set out to recover the artwork looted by the Nazis. The “Monument Men,” civilians and service members belonging to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives initiative (MFAA), found art hidden in caves, castles and salt mines all over Germany, Austria and Italy. Only a fraction of the looted art was reclaimed, however, as many of the rightful owners had been killed in the Holocaust today, thousands of unclaimed works still belong to museums all over the world. Some people have argued that museum curators haven’t made enough of an effort to identify stolen works in their collection and return them to the living relatives of their rightful owners. In 1998, roughly 100 French museums responded to this criticism by hosting a series of exhibitions in which they displayed their Nazi-looted works Philippe Douste-Blazy, the Minister of Culture at the time, explained that he wanted “to show that the reality is much more complex than rumors that say French museums have hidden ‘treasures’ stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis.”[ix]

The Musée du Louvre, alone, houses more than a thousand Nazi-looted works of art[x]. The only indicator of these paintings’ murky provenance is the acronym typed on the accompanying wall labels: MNR, for Musées Nationaux Récupération (National Museums Recovery)[xi]. Alone, the letters are so vague and obscure that one might even wonder whether the museum still feels uncomfortable drawing attention to the issue. No matter what the Louvre’s motives are, it is clear that the museum has missed an opportunity to honor the memories of the works’ original owners.

Be sure to read Untapped Cities’ article about the Musée Nissim de Camondo, housed in the former home of a family of Jewish art collectors. The family donated their collection to France before they were deported and killed at Auschwitz their house and art are preserved exactly as they left it.

Couch, 18th century. Arnold Seligmann collection. Maritime Landscape, Francesco Guardi, 18th century. Arnold Seligmann collection. The Chevet of Notre Dame, view from the Quai de la Tournelle, Albert Lebourg, 19th century. Arnold Seligmann collection. Chinese armoires, 18th century. Arnold Seligmann collection. The Setting Sun, J. Hoppner, circa 1790. Arnold Seligmann collection. Meditation, Eugène Carrière, 19th Century. Arnold Seligmann collection. Portrait of a Man, Hans Schopfer, 1538. Arnold Seligmann collection. Portrait of a Young Woman, Paulus Moreelse, 16th or 17th Century. Arnold Seligmann collection.

[i] Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: the Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War (Vintage, 1995): 88.

[ii] Sarah Houghteling, “Hunting for Looted Art in Paris,” New York Times (November, 2010).

[iii] Houghteling, “Hunting for Looted Art in Paris.”

[iv] Michael J Kurtz, America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe’s Cultural Treasures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006): 20.

[v] Kurtz, America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: 21.

[vi] Barbara Pash, “Art of the Matter: Willy Korte’s mission is to recover Jewish-owned artworks looted by the Nazis during World War II,” Baltimore Jewish Times (March 14, 1997).

[vii] Germain Seligman, Merchants of Art: Eighty Years of Professional Collecting (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts Inc., 1961): 233.

[viii] Letter to Hearst, July 9, 1941, Hearst Papers 40:20.

[ix] Gail Russell Chaddock, “To Quell Doubts, France Exhibits Nazi-Looted Art,” The Christian Science Monitor (April 8, 1997).