The Palace of Versailles in WWII !

I have to tell you about the Palace of Versailles during WWII, using my black and white series no pictures, Recently the palace had made in French a recollection of this period and I am translating at best their post here in my blog, Therefore, here is the story and I hope you enjoy it as I.

A huge date of June 28, 1919 was signed the Treaty of Versailles in the palace, Signed on the anniversary of the Sarajevo bombing that triggered WWI, the Treaty of Versailles put a definitive end to the conflict, and defined the sanctions taken against Germany. The choice of location is also symbolic: it is in the Hall of Mirrors where the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871, that the Allied and German signatories meet ! An eventful day for the future on January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellery of the Weimar Republic, As this was becoming real, in 1933, the Ministry of Fine Arts asked all museums in the Île-de-France region to draw up evacuation lists for their works in the event of a conflict. The operation is supervised by Jacques Jaujard, Deputy Director of National Museums. At Versailles, Charles Mauricheau-Beaupré begins to draw up a first plan. In September 1933, he gave Jacques Jaujard a report of around twenty pages. In 1935, the chief architect Patrice Bonnet submitted his first conclusions to the Direction des Beaux-Arts. From the summer of 1936, the Department of National Museums worked on prospecting buildings likely to house the evacuated works. If many names circulate ,including that of the Château de Chambord ,everyone recognizes the need to keep these places secret.

On August 29, 1939 , the Palace of Versailles had part of its collections evacuated by truck to the castles of Brissac and Chambord. They carried a total of 494 paintings, including 283 in boxes, 32 tapestries and carpets, 52 hangings, 85 works of art, 32 pieces of furniture, including the monumental clocks by Passement-Caffieri and Morand, as well as furniture by large dimensions, particularly precious, such as Louis XVI’s desk and Marie-Antoinette’s jewelry holder , A number of works are nevertheless stored on site, notably in the Orangerie. By September 1939, the construction of shelters for the staff of the castle is done. Unable to build a shelter under the Cour de marbre or marble courtyard, the architect Patrice Bonnet built a first shelter, a blockhouse of earth bags on the terraces. The second shelter is under the vault of the bosquet de la Salle de Bal or ballroom grove, which can accommodate 300 people. At the end of the month, a new shelter is set up in the grotto of the bosquet des Bains d’Apollon , behind the sculpted group. October 4, 1939: the Grand Canal is dried up, Only the Pièce d’Eau des Suisses or swiss water piece is left in water.

On July 21, 1938 was the official visit to Versailles by British sovereigns. In this troubled political context, the British sovereigns went to France, and in particular to Versailles in July 1938. On this occasion, King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth were invited by the President of the Republic Albert Lebrun to dine in the Hall of Mirrors. Also, around this date, Gaston Brière leaves his position as chief curator of the National Museum of Versailles. He is replaced by Pierre Ladoué, former assistant curator of the Luxembourg Museum. By September 24, 1938 it was installed anti-aircraft defense machine guns on the roofs of the palace, On April 5, 1939: election of Albert Lebrun as President of the French Republic, In the spring of 1939, the exhibition “At Versailles in 1789” opens on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the French revolution. President Albert Lebrun, newly elected, solemnly inaugurates the exhibition. The Jeu de Paume room is refurbished, Madame de Maintenon’s apartment ​which hosts the exhibition is completely repainted.

By Autumn 1939, the windows of the Palace of Versailles are obstructed, Inside the castle, the wide entrances to the Hall of Mirrors are sealed off with thick brick walls. The sculpted decorations are dismantled, numbered and packed; the fireplaces , which cannot be transported ,are fireproof. In order to ward off possible bombardments, the windows overlooking the city and the gardens are obstructed by thick wooden panels fitted with fire shields, reinforced with sandbags. In the fall of 1939, the Palace of Versailles plunged into darkness. By September 3, 1939, France and Great Britain declare war on Germany, During the month of September, the park is closed to the public and the works it contains (statues, vases, gilded lead from the Bosquet de la Salle du Bal…) were sheltered in the Orangerie or evacuated to the grounds of the Vaux-de-Cernay abbey, like the statue in the Latona fountain. In the winter of 1939, the castle was no longer heated. The panes of the windows, which have been removed to allow the installation of dirt bags , allow the cold to pass inside, and it freezes in several rooms of the palace/museum. At the beginning of 1940, the thaw caused serious damage as the ceilings were pierced and the water ran down the walls and onto the paintings, particularly in the galerie des Batailles or gallery of battles, On March 27, 1940, the woodwork of the Chamber of the Queen, the Cabinet of the Pendulum and the Cabinet of the Council were evacuated.

In May 1940, faced with the advance of Nazis troops, the French population fled south. At Versailles, a dozen guards who remained in post left the castle and retreated to Brissac castle with their families. The staff remaining on site are spread over the estate: Ladoué and Bonnet are stationed at the palace, while Mauricheau-Beaupré oversees the Grand and Petit Trianon; they still benefit from the help of about twenty guards, still present. But a wind of panic is blowing over Versailles…On June 3, 1940, nazis aircraft bomb Versailles. Three shells fall near the Royal Opera, in the Avenue de Paris, and in the rue des Reservoirs. By June 9, 1940, the majority of the museum agents leave Versailles and withdraw to the south (Chambord, Brissac, Valençay) , on June 13, 1940, start the exodus of the population of Versailles.

By June 14, 1940, the Nazis entered Versailles. They take possession of the premises, hoist the swastika flag on the roofs of the palace. In the weeks that followed, a large number of soldiers and officials invaded the castle, visited the premises, and sometimes damaged certain rooms. The implausible has happened ; Versailles has fallen into the hands of the Third Reich… Between 1941 and 1943, the Palace of Versailles lived under Nazis occupation ; the headquarters of the Gestapo is installed rue des Saussaies. Quickly after their arrival, the Nazis troops criticized the state of destitution of the castle, and demanded the repatriation of the collections, still stored in the deposit castles. It was organize the partial restoration of the museum. The castle is still very popular with Nazis troops, but on the French side, there are fears for its future, especially as the bombardments in the French sky are getting closer and closer. In February and June 1944, the city suffered heavy bombardments targeting the Gare des Chantiers and the Satory camp. By August 25, 1944, Versailles is liberated by General Leclerc’s troops. Faced with the Allied advance, the Nazis fled the city. Versailles is safe and sound. From one army to another, Versailles offered itself to the eyes of the British and American troops, who invested the place, visited the castle and the Hall of Mirrors where, 25 years earlier, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. After the Liberation and until 1946, the works were gradually repatriated from the places of deposit, and put back in place in Versailles. There were camps of interntment for Jewish and others at the Saint-Pierre prison, Satory camp, and Borgnis-Desbordes barracks. After WWII, Versailles was in a rather catastrophic state. For this reason, a safeguard plan was initiated in 1952 by André Cornu, Secretary of State for Fine Arts. The Friends of Versailles society contributes to this plan in favor of the museum. And life went on as today !

The Palace of Versailles during WWII :

There you go folks, a sad period but gladly the Palace of Versailles came out ok for all future generations to enjoy. Thanks to some smart , alerte ,and hero folks around here. Hope you enjoy the post on Versailles during WWII as I

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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