Visiting Square des Epinettes, Paris, France: historic, green oasis, and its fascist interlude in World War Two
Surviving Nazi German plunder
Square des Epinettes is a peaceful oasis of 10,420 square metres of greenery in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, France.
Dating from 1893, it was designed by archiect Jean-Camille Formigé (1845-1926)(1). Features of the Square include various species of mainly deciduous tree, a central, music kiosk, and statues of prominent local residents, Jean Leclaire (1801-1872)(2) and Maria Desraimes (1828-1894)(3).
While the tumults of World War One did not involve the foreign military occupation of Paris, this is indeed what occurred in World War Two: albeit under the agreement of the fascist French State (French: Etat Français), which had suddenly replaced the Third Republic (French: Troisième République) in 1940, much of France, including Paris, was occupied by Nazi German troops (4).
Statues melted down
1943 comes and the war was proceeding for the Axis powers with many material shortages, not least in metals. The statues in Square des Epinettes which represent Jean Leclaire and Maria Desraimes become in the minds of the occupying Nazi German authorities far more valuable as potential resources for the war economy than for their cultural value. Thus it came about that these statues were cut from their bases and melted down.
1944 arrives and so does the Liberation of Paris, led by the Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle. At the end of World War Two, cultural damage takes a low priority in the massive task of post-conflict reconstruction that a number of decades pass before attempts to recast the these statues occur. In the case of the statue of Jean Leclaire, it takes 28 years, in fact. In the case of the statue of Maria Desraimes, indeed, it takes 40 years.
Thus in 1983, the last, significant damage done at Square des Epinettes by the fascist occupying forces was at last rectified.
June 21, 2013
(1) Other works by Architect Formigé include the square of Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Paris, and numerous other creations, including many which were religiously inspired.
(2) Jean Leclaire (1801-1872) was a local industrialist influenced by Social Catholic thought. The original statue which depicted him, dating from 1896, was by sculptor Jules Dalou (1838-1902).
(3) Maria Desraimes was an activist for women's rights. The original statue which depicted her, dated from 1898, was by sculptor Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841-1905).
(4) After 1942, France was totally occupied by Nazi German troops.
Also worth seeing
The very diverse visitor attractions of Paris cannot properly be expressed in a few phrases, but these include: the Paris Opera (situated quite close to Saint-Lazare Station), the Eiffel Tower; Sacré-Cœur church on Montmartre, the French National Assembly in the Bourbon Palace; place de la Concorde ; the Madeleine church; ; the Arc de Triomphe ; and many others.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available; however, visitors to Paris may wish to explore the city via its excellent public transport system. The nearest Métro station to Square des Epinettes is Guy Môquet. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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