Initially a subject of criticism from the French intelligentsia, the Eiffel Tower eventually became a cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable sites in the whole world. The Eiffel Tower was initially constructed to serve as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair.
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The Eiffel Tower’s affair with the World War
The Eiffel Tower was not excluded from the events of the first and the second world war. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, a radio transmitter was situated in the tower which jammed German radio communications, seriously hindering the enemy’s advance on Paris and contributing to the Allied victory at the East Battle of the Marne from 7–12 September 1914.
The Germans captured Paris during the Second World War. As they arrived at the French capital, the French cut the lift cables of the Eiffel Tower. The site remained closed to the public during the years of the war and the elevators were repaired only in 1946.
The German troopers had to go up the tower to hoist the swastika flag. However, the flag was massive and was blown away within a few hours. A smaller one flag was put in its place. The French Tricolour remained lowered until 25 June 1944, when the Germans were expelled from the capital.
Hitler’s visit to Paris
Hitler visited Paris only once, and reportedly, he would continue appreciating the French capital for months afterward. He was so moved by the city, especially upon visiting Napoleon’s tomb. Although, he preferred to stay on the ground when he was at the Eiffel Tower.
Hitler’s attempt to destroy Paris
After the visit, in an attempt to “destroy” Paris, the Germans considered a massive construction program of new public buildings in Berlin, to impose architectural achievements. He had ordered such a plan to his friend and architect, Albert Speer, also noting: “Wasn’t Paris beautiful? But Berlin should be far more beautiful. When we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow.”
By August 1944, the fate of the Nazis had already changed and the Allies were nearing Paris. Nearing defeat, Hitler ordered General Dietrich von Cholitz, the newly-appointed military governor of Paris, to demolish all Parisian religious and historical monuments, including the Eiffel Tower. Hitler’s words were: “The city must not fall into the enemy’s hand except if lying in complete rubble.”
General von Cholitz- the Saviour of Paris
Fortunately, General von Cholitz was conscious to understand that the German Army was no longer that strong and had later also asserted that he believed Hitler was already insane at that point. He was soon saluted as “the Saviour of Paris.”