A sad day in Paris. In this, the holy week of Christendom…one of its most sacred and beautiful monuments caught fire. The conflagration was reportedly brought under control around 3am.

And when dawn came, Parisians found Notre Dame ‘disfigured, but still standing.’ Its oak beams — dating from the 12th century — were charred and still smoking…its roof had caved in.

It’s ‘catastrophic,’ says a friend who lives nearby.

Notre Dame Cathedral catches fire
Smoke billows from the stone cathedral towers
The gargoyles of Notre Dame against the blaze

Brennt Paris?

Adolf Hitler tried to destroy Notre Dame. He sent the order to his man on the scene, General Dietrich von Choltitz, to blow up all the city’s monuments, its bridges, its railroad stations — everything.

He wanted the city levelled. He knew the allies would take Paris soon (they were advancing toward it from Normandy), but Hitler insisted that Paris be ‘complete rubble’ when they arrived.

On the 24th of August, 1944, Hitler telephoned von Choltitz. ‘Brennt Paris?’ (is Paris burning) he asked.

But by then, two things had changed. First, von Choltitz saw which team the gods of war were on…and he had no trouble imagining himself in front of an allied military tribunal or a firing squad after it was over.

He preferred to face the music as the ‘saviour of Paris’ rather than its destroyer.

Uneducated animals

Second, he had become convinced that der Führer was mad. It was just a matter of time, he reasoned, before Hitler went off the rails completely, the war would be lost, and all the fantasies of the Nazi regime came to an end.

According to one account, he answered Hitler’s call with sarcasm:

Yes, Notre Dame is burning. The bridges have all been blown up. And I’m personally breaking the stained glass windows in the Sainte-Chapelle. [Built by St. Louis in the 13th century.]

By then, it was not Hitler that von Choltitz feared, but French resistance fighters.

They were firing on the remaining German troops from rooftops all over the city. Von Choltitz tried to make a deal with them. He wanted to surrender, but he was careful about whom he should surrender to. Many of the resistance fighters were undisciplined; they might hang him immediately.

On August 25, a unit of the Free French army entered the city; von Choltitz surrendered as soon as they arrived at his headquarters in the Hôtel Le Meurice.

Later, von Choltitz was held in prison in England, along with other leading officers. Their conversations were secretly recorded. In one of them, the general recognized his error:

We all share the guilt. We went along with everything, and we half-took the Nazis seriously instead of saying to hell with you and your stupid nonsense. I misled my soldiers into believing this rubbish. I feel utterly ashamed of myself. Perhaps we bear even more guilt than these uneducated animals.

Today, 75 years later, perhaps only one single, distorted face, looking up from his ashpit in Hell, takes some demonic pleasure…

…in seeing Notre Dame burnt.

World improvers

But many are those — the ‘uneducated animals’ — who still think they can bang, bend, and bamboozle the world into a better shape.

Yes, Dear Reader, Hitler is gone. But the world improvers remain.

In America, they seem to be divided into two camps. The one — where socialists and assorted other leftists hang out — believes that capitalism has failed terribly…and it should be abandoned.

The other — which attracts Wall Streeters and Republicans — believes that win-win capitalism is valuable, perhaps even indispensable. But, they say it needs to be controlled, directed, and reformed.

Our task tomorrow: to figure out which claptrap is most dangerous. The half-wits on the left? Or the dimwits on the right?

Stay tuned…


Bill Bonner