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Cardiff University historian contributes to new Second World War Museum in Paris

20 August 2019

Museum of the Liberation of Paris – General Leclerc Museum – Jean Moulin Museum

The people who fought for the Liberation of Paris during the Second World War will be remembered at a major new museum.

Professor Hanna Diamond of Cardiff University has been historical advisor at the revamped Museum of the Liberation of Paris – General Leclerc Museum – Jean Moulin Museum, which opens on August 25 in the French capital. The date marks 75 years since the historic day when Nazi troops surrendered the city.

The only British historian to be brought on to the museum’s Conseil Scientifique, an advisory board of eminent historians, curators and archivists, Professor Diamond’s research focuses on the ways French men and women experienced the Second World War. Personal testimony, both oral and written, is key to her work and she is currently publishing on the ways in which its use informs public understandings of the past.

Focusing on Second World War heroes Philippe de Hauteclocque and Jean Moulin, as well as other key individuals, the museum’s newly renovated home is the eighteenth-century Ledoux pavilions at Place Denfert-Rochereau, above the former headquarters of the Parisian Resistance. More than 300 objects, original documents and photographs, as well as archival videos from eyewitnesses, will retrace key events around this period. Visitors will also get the chance to tour the key command post of the French Resistance located 100 steps beneath the building, which has been faithfully and accurately restored.

Based in the University's School of Modern Languages, Professor Diamond said: “It has been a great privilege to work with the Museum of the Liberation of Paris – General Leclerc Museum – Jean Moulin Museum on this important project. The historical significance of this period cannot be overstated. The day that marked the end of the Occupation in France was only part of the story; this museum brings to light the experiences of the people who made it possible and their contribution to the events that helped shape the country that we know today.

“Visitors from the UK and further afield will also gain a great deal from the stories that are told here, learning about how these significant personalities and others in the French Resistance acted to secure victory. As we reach the 75th anniversary, it is fitting that the fascinating stories from this time are captured and preserved for future generations.”

Philippe de Hauteclocque, later known as General Leclerc, was a French general who led the French Second Armoured Division during the Liberation of Paris.

Jean Moulin was a hero of the French Resistance who was smuggled out of France to London to meet Charles de Gaulle, leader of the “Free French”. In January 1942, he was parachuted back into France, to unite the disparate Resistance groups to create an organised Movement, which later helped defeat German forces.

Dr Sylvie Zaidman, Museum Director said: “We invited Hanna Diamond to join the museum’s Advisory Board because of her expertise on the Second World War. Her contribution to the permanent exhibition relating to the exodus of civilians in May/June 1940 was so productive that we decided to organise a dedicated exhibition on the topic."

Professor Diamond will be working with Dr Zaidman to co-curate the museum’s first exhibition to run from February next year, which deals with the exodus and the impact of the defeat on Paris.

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