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Paris In The 1940s: A Decade Of Devastation And Rebirth

As World War II raged throughout Europe, the “City of Light” transformed into a city of darkness. While the Germans declined to physically destroy the city upon its 1940 occupation, their presence greatly tested the Parisian psyche. Over two million Parisians fled as the Germans arrived, but those who remained in the capital faced interrogations, curfews, rations, shortages and arrests. The German occupation of France (1940-1944) remains a humiliating time in the history of Paris and, more broadly, France.

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Paris Catacombs: Tunnels Of Death In The City Of Light

Paris Catacombs Wall

Source: ASA 100

Millions of people travel to Paris every year. It has some of the most recognizable landmarks and tourist attractions in the world. However, few of them make the time to visit the city of light’s dark corners: the catacombs. Housing some of the largest ossuaries in the world, if you ever find yourself in Paris, make sure to visit the City of the Dead resting right beneath your feet.

Paris Catacombs Entrance

A rather unassuming entrance…Source: Wikipedia

So what is it? An ossuary is a site used as a final resting place for skeletal remains. Sometimes these can be just a box or a room or, as is the case with Paris, an entire underground lair. Down in the catacombs, you will find the skulls and other bones from over six million people.

Paris Catacombs Three Skulls

Just three random skulls. About six million more where they came from. Source: Blogspot

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Paris Through Pentax

It’s hard to tell what this video makes you fall in love with more: the place or the camera.

Early 20th Century Paris In Amazing Color

Before the days of Photoshop, Instagram filters and instant home-editing software, there was little that could be done to adequately convey the energy, mood and spirit of a moment captured in time to its viewer. Enter the Lumiere brothers in 1903 and their invention of autochrome technology (a composite of black and white emulsion passed through a series of red, blue and green filters), and you’re that much closer to showcasing the depth and dimension of subjects immortalized by film. While the Lumiere brothers’ innovative method was abandoned in 1935 in favor of Kodachrome technology, they present a dreamy, serene and richly-saturated narrative on early 20th century Paris:

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Invalides, 1918.

Early 20th Century Paris Jardin

Invalides, 1909.

53 Rue Cambon

53 rue Cambon, 1918.

Early 20th Century Paris Vendeuses

Vendeuses de Moules, 1920.

Early 20th Century Paris Saint Cloud

Porte de Saint Cloud, 1920.

Early 20th Century Paris Roquette

Rue de la Roquette, 1918.

Early 20th Century Paris Rambuteau

Rue Rambuteau, 1914.

Rue du Pot de Fer

Rue du Pot de Fer, 1914.

Pont Alexandre III

Pont Alexandre III, 1914.

Early 20th Century Paris l'Ecole Polytechnique

Rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique, 1914.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame, 1920.

Boulevard Exelmans

Boulevard Exelmans, 1920.

Early 20th Century Paris Madeleine

Madeleine, 1914.

La Seine

The Seine, 1914.

Jardins du Trocadéro

Jardins du Trocadéro, 1920.

Hotel de Ville

Hôtel de Ville, 1918.

Early 20th Century Paris Pont de la Concorde

Pont de la Concorde, 1914.


Pathé Gobelins, 1918.


Trocadéro, 1937.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower, 1912.

Avenue Hoche

Avenue Hoche, 1924.

Early 20th Century Paris Angle Boulevard

Angle Boulevard Raspail, 1914.

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All images come courtesy of Paris 1914, which seeks to restore these rare photos to their original glory.

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