French Senate reveals Hitler bust in cellar
The French Senate says it is investigating the discovery of a bust of Adolf Hitler from the Nazi occupation in its cellar.
Le Monde reported “that the 35cm-high bust had been found along with a Nazi flag measuring two by three metres in the vault of the Senate”.
Most senators said they had been unaware of the objects and rejected rumours that a Nazi cell had operated in the building after the war.
“I was not aware of the presence of this bust,” Senate president Gerard Larcher said, adding that he ordered an inventory of the cellar.
The Senate’s inventory of German items in its possession include many documents and furniture stamped with the Nazi eagle.
A spokesman for Larcher initially described the claims as “fake news”.
The find underlines France’s reluctance to confront its collaborationist past. General de Gaulle strove for national reconciliation after liberation in 1944 by promoting the myth that overwhelming numbers of civilians joined the Resistance.
Damien Déchelette, the chamber’s chief architect, revealed the Hitler bust had been kept in a storeroom. “It’s never been taken out. No one has ever done anything with it,” the architect said.
Le Monde reported that few people knew the objects were there.
After much obfuscation by officials, the newspaper finally had confirmation from Déchelette, who asked: “How ever did you find out?”
In August 1944 the Germans were surrendering to the French army and Resistance.
In the Luxembourg Palace and the neighbouring Petit Luxembourg, retreating members of the Luftwaffe smashed walls and furniture. The smaller building was used as the residence for the Luftwaffe chief Hugo Sperrle and is now used by Larcher.
Historian Cécile Desprairies said: “Flags were taken as trophies. Buildings were pillaged. The liberators took whatever they could of the occupier. The black market in Nazi goods flourished and, indeed, it is still there.”
The bust and flag might have been seized and hidden in the cellar as the building resumed its functions as the upper house.
The Petit Luxembourg also has a concrete bunker that was built before the Second World War as an air-raid shelter for senators and was possibly used by the German occupiers.
The bunker contains a “cyclomotor” for charging batteries by pedal-power during a blackout, rubber protective suits for toxic attacks and radio set.
The history of wartime Paris and its liberation remains an uncomfortable subject for the French. Picture credit: Wikimedia