Somewhere in the endless steppes of Central Asia lies a treasure. One man holds the key to it, a fragment of an ancient map. But in his restless quest, Charles isn't looking for fame or ... See full summary »
How Paris was saved from total destruction at the last minute
It is amazing how few people seem to be aware of how near Paris came to total destruction just as the Nazis were pulling out in August, 1944. Hitler gave the order to the military governor of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, to raze Paris to the ground and kill as many of its 1.5 million inhabitants as possible, just as the American troops were approaching the city. Hitler threatened to kill von Choltitz's wife and children if he did not carry out the order. Von Choltitz had only been in place for two weeks, and his predecessor had just been executed and his family killed because he had displeased Hitler. So all the major monuments and all the bridges except for the Pont Neuf were mined and ready to be blown up. The whole of the Marais and the Bastille would have been flooded in water 30 feet deep. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, everything of note, was ready to be blown up. All the explosive charges were in place. But then the Swedish Consul, Raoul Nordling, intervened and managed to persuade von Choltitz at the last minute not to destroy the city. Why is this hair-raising story not better known? The story was made the subject of a play, DIPLOMATIE (DIPLOMACY), by Cyril Gely, and now this has been intensely and brilliantly turned into a film by the genius Volker Schlöndorff. He has chosen two fantastic actors to play the two leading characters. Niels Arestrup plays General von Choltitz with such iron conviction that you really do believe he is about to blow up Paris and nothing can stop him. And Nordling is played by André Dussollier, with equal effect. The two of them play psychological chess with one another and eventually Paris is saved, but only just. There is a lot of genuine archive footage of the Liberation included in the film. This is a magnificent bringing alive of a turning point in history. All young people should be made to see it.
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