A new museum in Paris  brings to light the two-pronged struggle for freedom during the Second World War: the extensive military efforts from the outside, and the eroding force of the Resistance from within. The doors opened to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation.
This is the second incarnation of the original museum – previously located in Montparnasse – now renamed Musée de la Libération de Paris – Musée du Général Leclerc – Musée Jean Moulin. This new location is highly significant, not just because it is near Jean Moulin’s apartment and along the route taken by General Leclerc on 25 August 1944, but most strikingly because 20 meters below ground is the actual command post of Colonel Rol-Tanguy, head of the French Interior Forces (FFI) for the Paris region during the Liberation.
The former bomb-shelter turned headquarters of the Resistance, never before open to the public, is now the centrepiece of the visit where the ventilation ducts, telephone switch, and bicycle generator can still be seen alongside scores of personal items and artefacts. The spine-tingling atmosphere is enhanced through virtual reality headsets for visitors to dive 360 degrees into this pivotal time in history.
Even if you don’t have the slightest frame of reference before your visit, the museum’s informative design leads you along the buildup to the war, life under Nazi occupation, the campaign of the French forces working from abroad and the Resistance from within, all the way to the climax of the liberation of Paris and the uneasy adjustment that followed.
The exhibit follows the steps of two major figures of the time: Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque and Jean Moulin. Although the two never met in real life, they had a singularity of mind in their commitment to their homeland. Both carried forth the torch lit by General de Gaulle’s call to the nation of 18 June 1940. General Leclerc discharged his duty in the military campaigns leading to the liberation, and Moulin fulfilled his mission in the shadows as a hero of the resistance. Sadly he did not live to see Paris free again, as Jean Moulin met his end martyred by his captors. Weaving through these two life stories, and the many others who played their role, is an invitation to learn how history unfolded in appreciation of the superhuman demands made of ordinary men and women who were thrust into a seemingly impossible quest, and rose to the challenge.
Good to know: All the videos are subtitles and exhibits are displayed with English translations. Most of the visit is wheelchair friendly, except the underground command post that it is only accessible via 100 (very steep) steps.
Musée de la Libération de Paris
Place Denfert-Rochereau – 14th
Métro: Denfert-Rochereau (exit 1)
Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm