The new Musée de la Libération de Paris
25 August 2019

The new Musée de la Libération de Paris has opened!

On 25 August 1944, General Leclerc's 2nd French Armoured Division entered Paris and liberated the capital. For the 75th anniversary of this event, the new Musée de la Libération de Paris – Musée du général Leclerc – Musée Jean Moulin has been inaugurated on Place Denfert-Rochereau.


A mythical site steeped in history: the shelter used as Colonel Rol-Tanguy's command headquarters

In 2015, the City of Paris decided to move the Musée de la Libération de Paris from its former location on the Atlantique roof slab, above Montparnasse train station, to a more visible, more accessible site – also with its share of history attached: the two pavilions designed by the architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux in 1787, on Place Denfert-Rochereau.

The Ledoux pavilions conceal a historically significant underground command centre: 20 metres beneath them (down more than 100 steps) lies a passive defence shelter built in 1938 by the public authorities, who feared toxic gas bomb attacks.

From 20 August 1944, amidst the rumblings of a public uprising against the Occupying forces, Resistance fighter Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (1908-2002), Head of the Île-de-France (Parisian region) French Forces of the Interior (FFI), set up his headquarters in this very shelter.

An altogether unprecedented experience awaits visitors descending into this bunker, which is an unquestionable highlight of the new museum's exhibition trail. As the shelter where Colonel Rol-Tanguy, a prominent figure of the Resistance, ran his operations, it provides immersive insight into this landmark week of insurrection, building up to the Liberation of Paris.

The fates of Jean Moulin, General Leclerc and countless Parisians

The renovation, restoration and redevelopment of the two Ledoux pavilions required four years of studies and works and €20m in investment, including €13m funded by the City of Paris, and the donation of two funds – a legacy from Antoinette Sasse, painter, Resistance fighter and friend of Jean Moulin, and a donation from the Maréchal Leclerc de Hauteclocque Foundation.

In addition to exploring Colonel Rol-Tanguy's command headquarters, visitors to the Ledoux pavilions can also look forward to other new features. Formerly organised into three exhibition trails when the museum was at its Montparnasse station location, a visit to the Ledoux pavilions now follows a single chronological trail going back over the key stages of the Liberation.

It centres on the lives and achievements of Jean Moulin (1899-1943) and General Leclerc de Hauteclocque (1902-1947) – two remarkable men who never had the opportunity to meet. Jean Moulin was a high-ranking official with a penchant for art; Philippe de Hauteclocque, a cavalry officer: two men committed to serving France, each in their own area of expertise.

In the words of the historian André Kaspi, Professor Emeritus at Sorbonne University: “The museum shines the spotlight afresh on this tragic yet glorious time. Jean Moulin, hero and martyr of the Resistance, successfully united the women and men who fought back against the Nazi Occupying forces. Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, as head of the 2nd Armoured Division, played a key role in liberating Paris. Both kept alight "the flame of the Resistance" which General de Gaulle had kindled during his call to action on 18 June 1940.”

More than 300 objects, original documents and photographs are on public display alongside archive videos and personal accounts. Jean Moulin and Philippe de Hauteclocque, better known as Leclerc, guide visitors as they explore the events running from the interwar period to the Resistance, from the campaigns of Africa and the Normandy beaches right through to Paris' liberation, together with some forty portraits of Parisians that help to enhance understanding along the way.

To find out more, go to the museum's website.