Beyond the Textbooks

Hitler and the Eiffel Tower

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Adolf Hitler and his entourage pose in front of the Eiffel Tower shortly after the fall of France. Photo Credit: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin / Art Resource, New York/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

One of the most recognized structures in the world is located in Paris, France. With just those clues alone (well and the title of the post…) many have already guessed that this post is about the Eiffel Tower. A prominent element of the Paris skyline since 1889, it intercepted German radio communications and worked as a communication relay during the First World War.

When Paris fell to German occupation on June 14, 1940, French resistance fighters allegedly cut the elevator cables to the Eiffel Tower. This meant that if Hitler wanted to hoist a swastika flag, a soldier would have to climb the roughly 1710 stairs to the summit platform.

As Allies neared Paris in August 1944, a Frenchman scaled the tower and hung the French flag. When it became obvious that the Germans would lose Paris, Hitler ordered General Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, to turn the city into rubble – including the Eiffel Tower. General von Choltitz did not carry out the command. Reportedly, within hours of the Liberation of Paris, the Tower’s lifts worked again.

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  • http://www.melissamarsh.net Melissa Marsh

    Didn’t know that about the elevator lines being cut. That’s cool.

    I had to laugh, though, when you said that Hitler ordered Paris turned into “rumble.” I had this vision of the German soldier facing off against the French Resistance in a dance a la West Side Story. =P

    • http://historybyzim.com Zim

      Oh geez! I, and Microsoft Word, obviously had similar thoughts as you but with more finger snapping! :)

      • Isabella

        LOL! Yes! That is hilarious!

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  • Christa

    Reading Rutherford’s ‘Paris” – cutting of elevator cables of Eiffel Tower before Hitler’s invasion of Paris. Checked with Google (fact or fiction?) Viva Google and Rutherford!! No excuse for not knowing.

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  • Silver

    There actually is rare footage of german troops hoisting the Reichskriegsflagge right at the top of the Eiffel Tower and it fluttering crazy in the wind. Go look it up on youtube.

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