JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON Thursday, 13 June 1940, two men walked out of the American Embassy in Paris into the vast and deserted Place de la Concorde. The French capital’s blacked-out streets presented a strange spectacle to Robert Murphy, the embassy’s counsellor, and naval attaché Commander Roscoe Hillenkoetter. The government, the army and most of the population had abandoned Paris. Two million people, including the vast majority of the 30,000 Americans that Murphy estimated lived in Paris before the war, had fled in fear of the conquering Wehrmacht. Thousands of victorious German soldiers were poised to occupy the undefended city at dawn. American Ambassador William Christian Bullitt, whom the departing French government had effectively appointed mayor of Paris on 12 June, had assured the Wehrmacht’s commanders that Paris was an ‘open city’. Open cities waived their right to resist in exchange for a peaceful occupation. Paris had already given up. Twelve hours earlier, at noon, Robert Murphy barely recognized the previously vibrant avenue des Champs-Elysées: ‘The only living creatures in sight were three abandoned dogs cavorting beneath the large French flags which still hung at each corner of the great concourse.’ On the opposite, Left Bank of the Seine, sheep belonging to refugees from northern France grazed on the Hôpital des Invalides’ ceremonial lawns.
Amid the forlorn expanse of the Place de la Concorde, its Egyptian obelisk swaddled in sandbags and its roundabout eerily devoid of traffic, Murphy and Hillenkoetter watched four spectral figures approach out of the darkness. Murphy recognized Chief Rabbi Julien Weill, religious head of Paris’s Jewish community. With the Grand Rabbin were his wife and two friends. Murphy appreciated their fears. As head consular official for the previous nine years until he became counsellor, Murphy’s responsibility had been the well-being of France’s American community. When the Germans began their rampage through the north of France in May, American citizens demanded embassy protection. At the same time, fourteen million Belgian, Dutch and French men, women and children took to the road ahead of the Nazis. Knowing of German atrocities in Poland during the Blitzkrieg of 1939, Parisians, especially Jews, were understandably fearful. Murphy reflected, ‘We in the embassy felt more sympathy for these victims than we did for a considerable number of Americans who became panic-stricken at the last minute and behaved as if they were particular targets of the Nazis. They had much less reason to become alarmed, since we were not at war.’
Rabbi Weill could have obtained an American visa and gone to New York, where his brother, Professor Felix Weill, taught French and was a United States citizen. Despite Nazi treatment of Jews in Germany and the lands the German Army had occupied since 1938, he had chosen to remain in Paris. Knowing now that the French government itself–including the tough and patriotic Jewish interior minister, Georges Mandel–had fled Paris, the rabbi was reconsidering his decision. Murphy thought that Rabbi Weill had ‘very understandable reasons’ for changing his mind. The rabbi asked Murphy and Hillenkoetter whether he and his family might find places in an embassy car, with its diplomatic immunity, leaving Paris. It was too late, Murphy said. German Panzer divisions surrounded Paris. The exiled American Ambassador to Poland, Anthony Drexel Biddle, Jr, and Embassy Secretary H. Freeman Matthews had departed with the fleeing French government for Tours and were following it on to Bordeaux. No other diplomats were leaving Paris that night. Nonetheless, Murphy lent the rabbi and his family a car whose chauffeur drove them to the city gates. There, German sentries ordered them to return.
The two Americans continued their promenade. No cafés were open, as some usually were at midnight. No light shone from any window or street lamp. The prostitutes had vanished from their usual posts along the rue Saint-Denis and up in Pigalle. The great nighttime gathering places, the markets of Les Halles and the jazz clubs of Montmartre, were closed. Many of the vibrant American ‘Negro’ community, like night club owner Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith and band leader Benny Carter, had left Paris in the autumn of 1939 or were about to sail on the last America-bound ship from Bordeaux. Even the most celebrated American woman in Paris, 34-year-old chanteuse Josephine Baker, had left–first as a Red Cross nurse aiding the war’s refugees, then for the safety of her country chateau. ‘The few people who remained in the city were buttoned up in their shuttered homes,’ Murphy noted. The only light Murphy could see was arching across the sky north of Paris, each burst of artillery reminding him of a shooting star. Commander Hillenkoetter similarly recalled, ‘Contrary to rumors, the night passed quietly, although artillery firing could be seen and heard in the northwest.’
The night sky was at last clear of a week’s all-pervasive black smoke including that from the burning files of the French government and British Embassy. Most of the conflagration had come from the Standard Oil Company’s petroleum reserves. Standard’s man in Paris, William Dewitt Crampton, had set the stocks alight at the request of the French General Staff only after checking with the American Embassy. Robert Murphy, rather than let a full month’s supply of petrol fuel German tanks, had told Crampton to go ahead.
Murphy, the red-haired Irish Catholic diplomat from Milwaukee, and Hillenkoetter, a 43-year-old Annapolis graduate from St Louis, returned to the rue de Boissy d’Anglas at the northwest corner of the Place de la Concorde. They heard, coming along the Seine from the east, the gigantic bells in the Cathedral of Notre Dame’s spires tolling midnight to herald the new day, 14 June 1940. The embassy’s iron gates, opposite the façade of the now-shuttered Hôtel Crillon in its brooding Palladian majesty, opened to admit Murphy and Hillenkoetter. They entered the chancellery, where, along with Ambassador Bullitt and a skeleton staff, they waited for the German army. Theirs was the last walk anyone took through free Paris.
The American community in Paris, the largest in continental Europe, had little to fear from the Germans. The United States stood aloof from the war between Germany and the Allies, and it enjoyed the respect of both sides. Although Ambassador Bullitt had advised American citizens without vital business to leave when France and Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, about half had elected to stay. The drôle de guerre, which the Germans called the Sitzkrieg and the British and Americans the ‘phoney war’, dragged on for the next eight months. Only the occasional air raid drill or the sight of sandbags around the monuments disturbed their routine. In May 1940, the German advance through Holland and Belgium into France was so swift that the Americans who feared life under German occupation fled south from Paris. Three weeks before the city fell, as the French and British armies retreated, The New York Times’ front page announced, ‘Most Americans Staying in Paris’: ‘The United States Embassy said that of the slightly more than 3,600 Americans in the Paris district on Dec. 31, about 2,500 are still here. They are mostly businessmen and members of their families and newspaper men, more of whom have been arriving recently.’
The journalists were not the only American arrivals. American Field Service ambulances, funded and directed by the indefatigable sister of New York financier J. P. Morgan, Miss Anne Morgan, ferried wounded British and French soldiers to hospitals from the front throughout the Battle of France. As soon as the Wehrmacht invaded neighbouring Belgium on 10 May, hundreds of young American men rushed to France. They swore to defend democracy, just as 17,000 Frenchmen had answered the Marquis de Lafayette’s call to fight for American independence. So many Americans attempted to join the French Army during the Battle of France that the French could not accommodate them all. Twenty-seven-year-old Tom McBride of Queens, New York, and twelve aviator colleagues attempted to reconstitute the old Lafayette Escadrille, the squadron of American pilots who fought for France in the Great War. When they reached Paris on 1 May 1940, they were welcomed by General Aldebert de Chambrun, a direct descendant of Lafayette, and the air minister. ‘They showed us all over Paris,’ McBride said, ‘then dropped us cold.’ He complained, ‘All the Air Minister would say was, “Wait. Wait. Wait.”’ The French Air Corps commissioned McBride a lieutenant, but he never got the chance to fly against the Luftwaffe. Undeterred, he went to Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
American citizens who remained in Paris had little to fear. The embassy issued more than 1,000 red certificates, signed by Third Secretary Tyler Thompson, to indicate which houses and businesses belonged to American citizens and could not, under international law, be touched. The Americans’ institutions–the American Hospital in the fashionable western suburb of Neuilly, the American Library in the rue de Téhéran, the American Cathedral on the avenue George-V, the American Church on the Quai d’Orsay, the Rotary Club, the American Chamber of Commerce and many other clubs and charitable societies–were still functioning. The American Church bulletin had announced the previous Sunday, ‘The American Church will continue its activities and remain open throughout the days to come. The building will be open daily and the various groups will meet as usual.’ The Americans’ newspaper, the Paris Herald Tribune, went on publishing until 12 June, the last paper sold in Paris before the Germans arrived. The American Ambassador, despite White House and State Department entreaties, refused to leave. ‘No American ambassador in Paris has ever run away from anything,’ Bullitt cabled President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ‘and that I think is the best tradition we have in the American diplomatic service.’ That tradition dated to Gouverneur Morris’s decision to stay during the French Revolution. Elihu B. Washburne continued it throughout the German occupation of 1870. In 1914, when Germany’s offensive put Paris within range of the Kaiser’s artillery, every ambassador except the American, Myron T. Herrick, fled. Bullitt would not to be the first to cut and run.
Born in Philadelphia in January 1891 to a WASP family of rich lawyers and railroad magnates who traced their American ancestors through Patrick Henry and Pocahontas, Bullitt spent much of his youth in Europe. His mother’s family, the Horowitzes, was originally German Jewish. The family spoke French at home, and he learned German in Munich. Graduating from Yale in 1912, Bullitt covered the world war in Russia, Germany, Austria and France as a correspondent for the Philadelphia Public Ledger. When America entered on the Allied side in 1917, the State Department hired him to conduct research for its intelligence section. President Woodrow Wilson took him to the Paris Peace Conference in 1918 as part of the American commission. Bullitt resigned, along with historian Samuel Eliot Morison and six other diplomats, to protest the terms of the Versailles Treaty. He pointed out to Wilson that the treaty, with its other flaws, left three million Germans under Czech rule and abandoned thirty-six million Chinese in Shantung to Japan. His resignation letter lamented, ‘But our government has consented now to deliver the suffering peoples of the world to new oppressions, subjection, and dismemberments–a new century of war.’ He predicted, ‘This isn’t a treaty of peace. I can see at least eleven wars in it.’ Political oblivion followed, but he had the funds to enjoy himself in a palace in Istanbul and luxurious apartments in Paris. His only novel, It’s Not Done, sold 150,000 copies in 1925–prompting Ernest Hemingway, whose books were not selling as well, to mention him in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1927 as ‘Bill Bullitt or Bull Billet, a big Jew from Yale and a fellow novel writer’. He married Louise Bryant, whose late husband, John Reed, had died in Russia after documenting its revolution in Ten Days that Shook the World. Bullitt and Louise had one child, Anne, and divorced in 1930. When his friend Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in 1933, he appointed Bullitt America’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union. Bullitt’s initial enthusiasm for the Russian Revolution collapsed in the face of Stalinist repression.
In 1936, FDR assigned Bullitt to Paris, where the French admired his style. He employed an excellent chef, served only the finest wines, dressed immaculately and flirted in flawless French. Bullitt rented the Château de Vineuil-Saint-Firmin in thoroughbred country at Chantilly, where he entertained France’s senior politicians at weekends. Ernest Hemingway, who had left Paris in 1929 but visited during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, came out occasionally to shoot clay pigeons. During the week, Bullitt lived with his daughter, Anne, in the embassy residence in avenue d’Iéna. He negotiated vigorously in Europe for American interests, while advocating the French cause in Washington. No foreign ambassador was closer to the French cabinet, many of whom confided personal and state secrets in him. After three years in France, during which the country received persecuted Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria, Bullitt hated Hitler as much as he did Stalin. In March 1940, the German Foreign Office released a ‘White Book’ of transcripts seized in Warsaw in which Bullitt told the Polish Ambassador to Washington, Count Jerzy Potocki, that ‘the French Army is the first line of defense for the United States’. The German press accused Bullitt and Ambassador to Britain Joseph Kennedy, despite Kennedy’s reputation for appeasement of Nazi Germany, of ‘using all their influence to aggravate the atmosphere of hostility in Europe’. The Nazis regarded Bullitt as the American diplomat most hostile to Germany, and they were probably right. No one fought harder to persuade America to send planes, tanks and other armaments to France. He had even arranged for French pilots secretly to test fly the latest American warplanes.
When the French government left Paris on 10 June, Bullitt telegraphed Secretary of State Cordell Hull: ‘This Embassy is the only official organization still functioning in the City of Paris except the Headquarters of the military forces, Governor and the Prefecture of Police.’ Italy, seeing that Germany would win, declared war on France and launched an invasion from the south that the outnumbered French repulsed. A few hours later, at the University of Virginia, Roosevelt declared, ‘On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger struck it into the back of its neighbor.’ He had borrowed the phrase from Bullitt. Gallup published its latest poll the same day: 62 per cent of the American people believed that, if Germany defeated both France and Britain, it would attack America next. The following day, Bullitt cabled Roosevelt: ‘I have talked with the Provisional Governor of Paris, who is the single government official remaining, and it may be that at a given moment I, as the only representative of the Diplomatic Corps remaining in Paris, will be obliged in the interest of public safety to take control of the City pending arrival of the German Army … Reynaud and Mandel just before their departure requested me to do this, if necessary.’
On 12 June, the day that Prime Minister Reynaud and Interior Minister Georges Mandel made him in effect Paris’s provisional mayor, Bullitt attended a prayer service at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Kneeling in the front pew, he was seen to weep for the city and country he loved.
Secretary of State Hull urged Bullitt to follow the French government to Tours and persuade the French to fight on from their bases in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Bullitt argued that, in the absence of FDR’s commitment of American arms, the French would ignore him. He cabled Hull after the service in Notre Dame, ‘As I said to you when you telephoned me the night of Sunday the 9th my deepest personal reason for staying in Paris is that whatever I have as a character, good or bad, is based on the fact that since the age of four I have never run away from anything however painful or dangerous when I thought it was my duty to take a stand. If I should leave Paris now I would no longer be myself.’ Bullitt was saving Paris. Hull was asking him to save France.
A few hours later, Bullitt wrote a follow-up telegram to Hull: ‘I propose to send my Military Attaché and my Naval Attaché to the German General Commanding the forces in the Paris area to explain the situation and return with suggestions of the German command as to methods of facilitating the orderly transition of government.’ German forces agreed to enter the city peacefully the next morning, but someone fired on German truce officers near the Porte Saint-Denis in the north of Paris. General Georg von Küchler, the German 10th Army commander who had demolished Rotterdam only a few weeks earlier, responded by ordering an all-out air and artillery assault on Paris. It was scheduled for eight o’clock in the morning, leaving Bullitt only hours to save the city from destruction. His communications, like everyone else’s, had been sporadic since the French Army cut Paris’s telegraph lines as it withdrew on 11 June. A chance telephone call from the American Embassy in Berne, Switzerland, opened a line for Bullitt to relay a message to Berlin. He urgently requested the Germans to recognize that ‘Paris has been declared an open city’. He proposed a parley early the next morning, 14 June, to save lives on both sides and prevent the destruction of Paris. Bullitt wanted to spare Paris the fate of Warsaw the year before, when the Luftwaffe demolished much of the Polish capital and killed 17,000 people.
General von Küchler agreed to try again before bombing the city. However, the French commander of the Paris region, 48-year-old General Henri-Fernand Dentz, refused a German demand to negotiate the transfer of power. His orders, he told the Germans via a radio link through the Prefecture of Police, were to provide security. He was not authorized to hold discussions with the enemy. At 2.25 in the morning, the Germans radioed Dentz: ‘Delegates till 5 a.m. German time on the fourteenth at Sarcelles. Comply–otherwise attack ordered on Paris.’ (German time was Greenwich Mean Time plus two hours, an hour later than in Paris.) Dentz acquiesced, sending two officers, Major Devouges and Lieutenant Holtzer, to treat with the Germans at Écouen, 12 miles north of Paris. At 5.30 a.m., Paris time, the two sides settled terms for the handover. The French achieved one amendment to the document: withdrawal of a forty-eight-hour non-stop curfew on the grounds that it contradicted the German requirement for public services like water and electricity to function normally. German Major Brink compromised by limiting the curfew from 9 p.m. to dawn. With the document signed, von Küchler cancelled the bombardment of Paris. Bullitt’s intervention had spared the City of Light.
Some Germans did not wait for the official capitulation. At 3.40 in the morning, a German soldier on motorcycle sped through the 11th Arrondissement, between the Place de la Nation and the Place de la République. More troops penetrated the city in trucks and armoured cars, followed by large units marching in formation, all spit and polish to impress the Parisians. The first American resident of Paris to see them was most likely Charles Anderson, who lived in Montmartre and rose before sunrise each day to take the Metro train to work. Born in Lebanon, Illinois, in 1861, Anderson ran away from home to join the Barnum Circus when he was 15. He enlisted in the American Army as it was completing the annihilation of the Indian tribes. In 1884, he worked his way by merchant ship from Boston to Europe. When his seaman’s pay ran out in France, he volunteered for the French Foreign Legion. Military service took him to the North African desert and, during the Great War, to Paris. On leaving the Legion after the Armistice of November 1918, he became an interpreter at the International Transport Company of Maurice de Brosse. De Brosse, in the frantic days before the Germans arrived, urged Anderson and his French wife, Eugénie Delmar, to leave Paris and come south with him. Nazi racial policies could be harsh on a black American, especially one married to a white woman. Anderson answered, ‘No, I’ll stay. No need to run.’
M. de Brosse asked Anderson what he would do in German-occupied Paris. When Anderson answered that he would report to work every day as usual, de Brosse pleaded, ‘The office will be closed!’ Anderson, a patient man who taught chess to young people in the evenings, said, ‘That doesn’t matter. I’m too old now to change my ways.’ De Brosse left, and Anderson stayed. He was almost eighty years old. On the morning of 14 June, Anderson watched German troops occupy an apartment building opposite his seven-room flat in Montmartre. The soldiers were courteous to him, and he was polite in return. The occupation, he decided, would not change his life. And he went to work.
Ambassador Bullitt, fearing a communist revolt in the working class suburbs, had made it a condition of his appointment as acting mayor of Paris that the police and firemen remain at their posts. He had also requested that Washington ship Thompson sub-machine guns to protect the embassy, mainly from the communist uprising that he wrongly predicted. Diplomatic manuals did not dictate protocol for an American ambassador to turn over a foreign capital to a conquering army, so Bullitt improvised. General Bogislav von Studnitz, commander of Germany’s 87th Infantry Division who would soon be Provisional Military Governor of a city he had never visited, simplified Bullitt’s task by instructing his staff to requisition the Hôtel Crillon at 7.55 that morning. The Crillon was only a dozen yards from the embassy wall. Von Studnitz, noted one French writer, was the type of Prussian officer that generations of Frenchmen thought ‘were born with monocles fixed to their eyes’. One of his first acts on entering the city was to put Paris one hour ahead to Berlin time.
Bullitt instructed Counsellor Robert Murphy, military attaché Colonel Horace H. Fuller and naval attaché Commander Roscoe Hillenkoetter to pay a courtesy call on General von Studnitz ‘as soon as he appeared to be settled’. When Murphy saw the Swastika rise on the roof of the Crillon, he decided ‘the moment had arrived for us to make our call’. Their purpose was to keep Bullitt’s promise to Premier Paul Reynaud to ensure a peaceful occupation. When the three Americans left the embassy that warm summer morning, a military convoy passed between them and the Crillon. One car stopped, and a German lieutenant asked in English, ‘You are Americans, aren’t you?’ They nodded. The lieutenant, who said he had lived in the United States, asked, ‘Can you tell us where we might find a suitable hotel here?’ Murphy laughed. ‘The whole city seems to be in your possession. It has hundreds of empty hotels. Take your pick.’
Inside the Crillon’s gilt lobby, Murphy saw a French police commissioner amid a throng of Germans. ‘You can’t imagine what happened,’ the man said. He told Murphy, Hillenkoetter and Fuller that a German colonel stopped him earlier that morning and ordered, ‘Open that hotel. It will be our headquarters. Take down the French flag from the roof, and replace it with this German flag.’ The empty hotel’s doors and shutters could not be opened, and the colonel warned, ‘If that hotel is not open in fifteen minutes and the French flag is not down, we will shoot it down and shoot you, too!’ A locksmith opened the doors in time, but the commissioner was still in a sweat.
‘Murphy!’ one of the German officers in the Prince of Wales suite upstairs called out. Murphy knew Colonel Weber from his years as US Vice-Consul in Munich. Weber, now von Studnitz’s aide-de-camp, welcomed the Americans, wrote Murphy,
as if we were all old friends, ushering us immediately into the drawing room where the general was talking with a dozen staff officers. We had expected to spend only a few minutes with the general, but he had previously ordered champagne from the Crillon’s excellent cellars and was in a mood to answer all the questions of our military and naval attachés. The only information we had about the progress of the war was what we had heard from western and Berlin radio broadcasts, which necessarily were confusing. General von Studnitz, who had served as German military attaché in Poland, said he appreciated it was the duty of attachés to gather intelligence for their governments and he was quite willing to inform us fully and frankly.
Von Studnitz gave the attachés a ‘clear and concise summary of the military campaign to date’ and predicted that ‘mopping up operations in France would not require more than another ten days, after which preparations would begin for crossing the channel to England’. Von Studnitz believed the British, without a single army division intact and most of their heavy artillery abandoned at Dunkirk, would not resist. Hillenkoetter asked how the Germans would cross the Channel, but von Studnitz ‘brushed aside this question with the comment that all plans were made’. The war, he added, would be over by the end of July, in six weeks. Walking the short distance back to the embassy, Murphy and the two attachés agreed that ‘none of us was at all sure he might not be right’.
Commander Hillenkoetter, recalling the same encounter, but without the champagne, wrote that ‘although it was only 10.30 a.m., we were offered a glass of what the General said was the very best brandy in the Crillon’. Hillenkoetter reported that von Studnitz was ‘most happy to make his call on the Ambassador at 1:30 p.m. as the Ambassador wished–assured us that all American property would be protected, and that we could count on the best of cooperation as far as the German military were concerned’. Von Studnitz invited Hillenkoetter and Fuller to attend the review of the Green Heart Division, the 185th Infantry, which he had once commanded, in the Place de la Concorde at 3.30 that afternoon. The two Americans could think of no polite way to refuse.
For Colonel Horace Fuller, the experience of handing Paris over to the Germans was galling. The 1909 West Point graduate had been briefing American and British journalists daily that the French Army would not hold. ‘Colonel Fuller was the only man in Paris who knew what was coming,’ Quentin Reynolds, the Collier’s Weekly correspondent, wrote. ‘He advised us to make plans to get out. He told us “off the record” that the French Army wouldn’t even bother to defend Paris.’ Fuller’s astute observations contrasted with the French government spokesman’s reply to a question from Virginia Cowles, the attractive American correspondent of Britain’s Sunday Times, asking whether Paris would be declared an ‘open city’: ‘Never,’ he said. ‘We’re confident that Hitler’s mechanized hordes will never get to Paris. But should they come so far, you may tell your countrymen we shall defend every stone, every clod of earth, every lamp-post, every building, for we would rather have our city razed than fall into the hands of the Germans.’ Colonel Fuller had fought the Germans in the Great War, when he commanded the US 108th Field Artillery Regiment in the Meuse-Argonne and Ypres-Lys offensives. Clare Boothe, covering the invasion for Life magazine, asked Fuller ‘what’s going to happen’:
His hands trembled. His eyes were quite bloodshot from loss of sleep. He tried to smile, but he couldn’t. He said, ‘Oh, there’s hope of course–the morale of the French–we can deliver 1,000 planes a month soon.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘don’t talk morale and economics, talk WAR. What do you think?’ He said so wearily, ‘I don’t want to think any more, I want to use my heart. You see, I want them to win so much, so very much,’ he said. ‘I fought with them at Chateau-Thierry in the last war–and oh, they’ve been Goddamn dumb, but dear Christ I love them.’
Back in his office at the chancellery, Murphy saw German soldiers climbing over the embassy gate: ‘They were running a telephone wire across our courtyard to the Crillon Hotel.’ To Murphy’s shock, the embassy’s ‘picturesque colored doorman’, George Washington Mitchell of North Carolina, was helping them. Mitchell had come to Paris before the Great War as a rider in a cowboy and Indian show. Murphy, who knew Mitchell was married to a German woman and spoke German, demanded to know why he had disobeyed orders not to allow German troops onto embassy premises. Mitchell said the soldiers were from Hamburg, where he knew people, and were ‘nice fellas’. Bullitt reacted with fury, not at George Mitchell, but at the Germans. He sent word to von Studnitz to remove the telephone cable at once. Henceforth, any German soldier breaking into the embassy grounds would be shot. The Germans removed the wire, but they posted a sign in front of the embassy that said, ‘Amerikanische Botschaft’, ‘American Embassy’. It was one of hundreds of signs the Germans affixed all over Paris for their troops and the German civilians, both administrators and tourists, who would arrive in their wake.
Von Studnitz, recalled Hillenkoetter, came to the embassy on time at 1.30 p.m. and spoke with Bullitt for about ten minutes ‘of correctness’. An hour later, Hillenkoetter and Fuller accompanied Bullitt for a similar, formal session at the Crillon. At 3.30, as promised, the two uniformed American attachés met General von Studnitz in the Place de la Concorde. With Nazi newsreel cameramen poised to record the military march-past, von Studnitz invited them to join him on the reviewing stand. ‘Both Fuller and I could easily see how that would look in newsreels, photos, etc.–two American officers taking a review with a German general. So we hastily, but firmly, declined, saying that we didn’t feel worthy to share the General’s honor; that it was his division and his glory; and that it would be a shame to deprive him of even a share of the glory.’ Fuller and Hillenkoetter diplomatically disappeared into the crowd. Robert Murphy, however, stood uncomfortably beside the German generals as the Green Heart Division goose-stepped across the great square to thumping martial music. When the parade ended and Murphy was walking back to the embassy, he complained to New York Herald Tribune correspondent Walter Kerr, ‘The general wanted the ambassador, and the ambassador told me to take his place.’ From an upper window of the embassy, a young diplomat hired locally in Paris, Keeler Faus, surreptitiously took photographs of the German troops in the Place de la Concorde.
Associated Press correspondent Philip W. Whitcomb, a graduate of Washburn University in Kansas and of Oxford, watched the same parade from the pavement and detected a bizarre normality:
On that day the garbage-men cleaned the streets alongside of German troops as they marched up the Friedland and Wagram Avenues or across the Place de la Concorde. The underground railway men ran their trains, though some carried only Germans on their way through Paris. The telephones worked. The police, under instructions to obey German orders, were all on duty, though on June 14th they were little more than members of the silent throng lining the streets through which the Germans moved.
The triumphalism of the military parades offended even a few Germans. A 33-year-old officer, Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, shared his disgust with General Franz Halder and his staff in Paris. Hitler deserved death for this nihilism, von Stauffenberg said. Although Major General Henning von Tresckow was brave enough to second him, General Halder counselled von Stauffenberg that the German public was unlikely to support a coup at a time of military victory.
Martial parades established themselves as facts of daily life that Parisians soon treated with the indifference they accorded to red lights.