64 years of peace … this day, a day the French remember not to forget …

Photo: The Liberation of Paris Today, 64 years ago World War Two ended. Hitler was dead; his ally in Rome, Mussolini, was dead and his other ally, the Emperor of Japan was no longer a ‘god’ but just a man. Some say he should have been hanged (hung if you speak American English …) just […]

The Liberation of Paris

Today, 64 years ago World War Two ended.

Hitler was dead; his ally in Rome, Mussolini, was dead and his other ally, the Emperor of Japan was no longer a ‘god’ but just a man. Some say he should have been hanged (hung if you speak American English …) just like Mussolini. Or he should have killed himself as Hitler had done.

So, today is a public holiday here in France. Victoire is what this day is called on our calendars. Victory. The Day of Victory.

You will know (?) that during WW2 Germany occupied France and that the French officially collaborated with them: France had a puppet government headed by Philippe Petain (he of WW1 heroism) and based in the spa town of Vichy.

Well, it not being something to be proud of, the French have been struggling to come to terms with this part of their history; now they have. Yet, there is an age-group (those in the 40s and early 50s) who is not so knowledgeable about the War because for years it was not on the curriculum of French schools. Now it is. Our current President (Sarkozy) even wanted a day to be set aside when French school children should ‘remember’ the War. His idea has not though materialized: Some teachers objected saying that the curriculum now deals perfectly well with the War, while some parents did not want their little ones scared by horror stories.

However, President Sarkozy was not the first French President to have ‘mentioned’ the war – mentioned the unmentionable. His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was the first.

President Chirac had even gone so far as to admit France’s complicity in the Holocaust; French police and gendarmes, also officially collaborating with the Germans, assisted the Germans in rounding up Jews, members of the ‘Resistance’ and anyone (French and foreign but living in France) who opposed the Occupation.

I’m not going to go into what the French did with Petain and the Collabos – Collaborators – but they were dealt with, and not a day to soon.

But I am writing about this because it gives me an opportunity to speak of ‘my’ murderer: Dr. Marcel Petiot. I’ve written a book about him and my manuscript is currently with Paris publishers for a French edition, and another publisher is ‘very interested’ to publish an English edition. I am patiently waiting to hear from all of them … (No, I did not write it in French!)

Dr. Petiot was guillotined in Paris in May 1946 for the murder of 26 people, but police and pathologists thought that he had murdered many more, probably around 200. Their estimate was based on the amount of human remains they had found in a townhouse close to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées that belonged to him. On Saturday, March 11, 1944 neighbors had called the cops and fire fighters to the townhouse because for days a stinking smoke had been pouring from the house’s chimney. Breaking in, they found human remains being incinerated in the furnace of a water-boiler that stood in the house’s basement while more human remains were being devoured by quicklime in an outhouse.

Petiot had lured his victims to his townhouse pretending that he, as Head of a Resistance cell could help them flee occupied France; he charged them enormous fees for his bogus escape route, and after their death, he went with a cart to their homes to steal the belongings they had left behind.

Not a nice story … but an interesting story, and it is also very scary.

Petiot had gone on the run and was not arrested until that October; Paris had been liberated from German occupation in August, two months after D.Day. He lies buried in a cemetery that my apartment building overlooks. I am not now joking when I say that I believe that he had found me and that it was not I who had found him … I believe (do Christians not do so too?) that there are people who, when they leave our ‘zone’, do not go straight to heaven or straight to hell. They linger in purgatory, there, to suffer the knowing of not knowing what awaits them. As in Dante’s Divine Comedy, there they wait, hoping that they may be forgiven their sins. And this is where (I think) Petiot is and somehow he got through to me.

But I will be blogging about Dr. Petiot again …

Meanwhile, today, from all our public buildings and from all our buses flutter the French Tricolor. During the War and Occupation it was the Nazis’ red, white and black Swastika that fluttered from all those buildings the Germans had requisitioned. It also fluttered from the Eiffel Tower. And every day at noon the German army goose-stepped down the Champs-Elysées to the accompaniment of a brass band.

This brings me to a bitter-sweet (sick?) joke the Brits used to tell about the French.

Well, here goes … Why are the Paris boulevards lined with trees? Answer: The German army likes to march in the shade … Ooi!

Vive la France! I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

11 Responses

5-8-2009 at 12:49:00

I almost remember those days, Matt does more than I. I am glad Paris was preserved, but at what cost?

5-8-2009 at 15:10:00

Dr. Petiot’s story is one I want to read.

5-8-2009 at 20:37:00

I would love to read your Petiot book.

5-8-2009 at 21:46:00

Thanks for the history part ^^

may i ask you why you were interrested in writing about this serial killer story ? Are you writing about his past life ? about what turned him into a murderer ? about the war ? I’m curious !!!

Vous avez titillé ma curiosité madame Marilyn ^^

5-8-2009 at 22:03:00

Hopefully you will be able to read the published version Gynie.

5-9-2009 at 06:08:00

Gynie —

Comme notre amie Jo j’espère que un de ces jours vous pouvez lire mon livre …

Le Dr. Petiot était un homme très intéressant.

Le manuscrit de mon bouquin – le titre : Die in Paris (Mourir à Paris) – est avec plusieurs maisons d’édition (Français et Anglais) … et maintenant … on verra …

I can not understand why I became interested in Dr. Petiot. Il a tombé sur ma tête un jour … et voila – après quatre ans un livre.

I tell his story – his unhappy childhood in Auxerre, his years as Mayor in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne and his killing in Paris (Rue le Sueur, 16eme arrondissement) – quartier très chic comme vous savez!

Now I am writing another book. This one is about the poet Boris Pasternak …

Maybe I am a little mad too … comme le Dr. Petiot!

5-9-2009 at 06:11:00

Jo – You are on my list for a copy … ha!

5-9-2009 at 12:44:00

Boris Pasternak that is also interresting !!

you are full of surprise !!
i wish you good luck so and hope you can get some cool publisher ^^

5-9-2009 at 13:04:00

I’ll look forward to it – so long as you don’t send me the French version. I am too lazy to struggle through it these days.

5-9-2009 at 18:14:00

Dr Petiot ………

I would say that you have a winner here ……..

If only I am a publisher!

5-9-2009 at 19:03:00

That’s the problem isn’t it. We would all publish, but we aren’t the decision makers.

If you wish not to miss one of my blogs, do subscribe.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Should you wish to contact me you can do so by email: marilyn@marilynztomlins.com