Postcards from Paris: From lockdown to liberation under Nazi occupation
Having recently stumbled across a news story about two Parisian streets left frozen in time after a World War Two era film set had to be abandoned as the city went into lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak, I decided to delve into the America in World War Two resource to learn more about the city of light that âwent darkâ during the years of German occupation from June 1940 to August 1944.
Within the resource are fascinating photographs and postcards showing the eerily empty streets of Paris, a far cry from the Paris of popular imagination portrayed in the travel literature aimed at US personnel: âPARIS! Magic name, evoking a swarming City throbbing with life, but also, full of dreams.â 
Standout collections from the resource show the devastation inflicted on France by the war, such as the postcards sent to Mrs. Smith by her husband.
Writing about the city of Le Havre, Smith adds: âAnother view of Le Havre as it used to look. To the left in this view is just a mass of ruins â with only the shell of a building still standing here and there.â
His postcards are beautiful, but also informative, with his captions providing an insight into life under German occupation. The back of a postcard of the Eiffel tower is accompanied by a scribbled note reading âaway in the background underneath the bottom arch you can see the military school where the Germans held out for a while last August.â
Even after the Germans left the city, a military presence remained and life for Parisians was far from âbusiness as usualâ. This can be seen in these fascinating photographs from the Minnie Peterson and Paul Katsigiannis collections, in which you can see a plane flying underneath the Eiffel tower, makeshift barricades and crowds lining the streets to celebrate Liberation Day:
Plane flying through the legs of the Eiffel Tower, The Minnie Peterson Collection.
Makeshift barricade including a propped up poster of Hitler, Paul Katsigiannis Collection.
View looking down onto parade of French Resistance fighters in Paris, Paul Katsigiannis Collection.
Another American solider, Herman J. Obermayer, writing home to his parents about his experiences of post-liberation Paris, describes the celebrations that took place to mark the first Bastille Day since the cityâs liberation:
âAlthough we are continuing to work as usual you can already hear bands and rockets, and crowds as the French are preparing for the biggest binge in their history. The first Bastille Day since the liberation will be celebrated for three days with continual parades, and all night street dancing every night. If things go right I hope to get in town tomorrow night and get in on a little of the excitement.â 
In another V-mail, Obermayer describes the spirit of the French people, arguing that: âIt is experiences like Liberation Day that make you feel justified in snickering at the French claims to interest in the Japanese War. Celebrations like Bastille Day, Liberation Day and V-J Day stem from the people themselves and seem to show conclusively their lack of interest in our war.â 
It is this emphasis on âthe people themselvesâ that appears to have driven the cityâs recovery following its turbulent years of occupation and this quote from a newspaper article reporting on conditions in Paris feels like an appropriate point on which to finish, as it encapsulates the very essence of the city shining through as it rebuilt after the war:
STILL GLAMOROUS- In spite of lack of food and transportation, Paris is recovering its old peacetime glamour now that the Germans have been driven out.
 Indispensable Guide-Book to visit Paris and environs, The Burton Smith Collection 2012. Material sourced from The National WWII Museum.
 Pfc. Herman J. Obermayer, France, to Mr. and Mrs. Obermayer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 13 Jul 1945. The Herman Obermayer Collection 2004. Material sourced from The National WWII Museum.