Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hemingway Liberates the Ritz Bar in Paris

Commander K. and Jeep, Bastogne, Belgium

Friday August 25 1944, a little over 68 years ago, marked the liberation of Paris by the Allies during World War II and one of the greatest parties of all time.  Ernie "Pyle was stunned by the 'pandemonium of surely the greatest mass joy that has ever happened.'  The matter-of-fact reporter, lyricist of the ordinary, found this extraordinary event hard to write about; he felt 'incapable,' 'inadequate' to describe the tide of emotion as they were 'kissed and hauled literally red in the face'. There seemed to be flowers everywhere: the women were all 'brightly dressed in white or red blouses and colorful peasant skirts, with flowers in their hair and big flashy earrings.  Everybody was throwing flowers.  And yet above the happy din he could still hear sporadic explosions, sniper sots and the rattle of machine-guns.  Celebration and killing danced together in an ecstatic fete folle."

"Making a nuisance of himself trying to supply what he called 'gen' was the heavily bearded and heavy-drinking American novelist Ernest Hemingway of Collier's, carrying an automatic pistol (quite against the Geneva convention) on the belt he had taken from a dead German with its old Prussian slogan GOTT MIT UNS ('God is on our side'), happily playing the guerrilla leader to a dozen FFI (Free French, Commander Kelly) youngsters, and eager to enter Paris, 'the city I love best in all the world'."

Hemingway, 1899 - 1961
The world famous Ritz hotel in the Place Vendomme "had actually been 'liberated' earlier that afternoon by the armed civilian Ernest Hemingway.  The author of The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls arrived in a convoy of jeeps carrying French FFI partisans, American officers, and numerous bottles.  They crossed the Pont de Sevres, went through the sixteenth arrondissement -dodging the odd sniper - to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees to the Travellers Club for champagne, on to the Cafe de la Paix in the boulevard des Capucines for more of it, and eventually pulled up at the back entrance of the Hotel Ritz in Rue Cambon.  When Hemingway declared he had come to liberate the place, the manager Claude Auzello said, 'Leave your gun by the door and come in.'  Hemingway walked up to the bar and asked for yet more champagne.  Nobody really knows which bar it was, but the Ritz has subsequently renamed the little one by the Cambon entrance the Hemingway Bar.  The manager was soon assuring Hemingway and the others that the Ritz had done its bit for Resistance by keeping the very best wine, the premiers grands crus classe A, safe from the Germans.  We saved the Chateau Cheval Blanc!' he said happily.  'Well, go get it' said Hemingway, and the heavy sweating writer slugged down the great Bordeaux like fruit juice.

Friday 25 August was a warm, lovely night in the gardens and streets of liberated Paris.  Wine flowed like water, and grateful parisienne women were generous to the liberating troops."

Source all quotes: Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in World War II, Nicholas Rankin, 2011.

Commander Kelly says, "War has moments of pure horror such as the Massacre at Malmedy (see earlier post, Massacre at Malmedy, 10/12/12), but also moments of ecstatic joy such as the liberation of Paris and the Ritz Hotel bar.  What a night that must have been!"

Commander Kelly notes sadly that the Ritz Hotel in Paris is now closed for a two year remodelling project.

Hemingway Bar Secrets

Noel Coward narrates Liberation of Paris

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1 comment:

Commander Kelly said...

I made the cocktail listed in the Hemingway Ritz bar video. Substituted Prosecco for Champagne. It was refreshing and delicious! Great choice for spring/summer.