If you've dabbled in some historical reading then you've probably come across the phrase, "Is Paris Burning?"
The famous phrase was uttered by Adolf Hitler to General Dietrich Von Choltitz, Nazi governor of Paris in 1944, after he had issued orders to destroy Paris. Considering Paris is still standing, we all know what the answer to that question is, but not many know the real story behind it.
Von Choltitz was appointed to the position of governor on August 7, 1944. A position that at first seemed to be a natural fit due to his prior experience as a war commander. He had already built a reputation for the destruction of Sevastopol and Rotterdam and he didn't seem to take any issues with the execution of the French Resistance Fighters or the burning down of the Grand Palais.
However, on August 25, 1944, in an unexpected twist of events, Von Choltitz refused to follow through with Hitler's orders to level Paris to the ground. He surrendered his forces to the Allies, a pivotal decision that single-handedly saved the City of Lights.
There are multiple accounts on what could have caused Von Choltitz's change of heart. Some historians think it may have had to do with his love for the French city's architecture, history and culture. Others chalk it up to the German general coming to the realization that Hitler was mentally unstable.
He may have been a traitor in the eyes of the Fuhrer and the Nazi army but to the Parisians and the rest of the world, Von Choltitz is credited as the "savior of Paris."
Until 1947, he was imprisoned at Trent Park in London for his war crimes and then at Camp Clinton in Mississippi. Von Choltitz died in November 1966 and his funeral was attended by top high ranking French officials.
His evil turned good story doesn't mean that he's forgiven for the innocent lives he had taken, but we can thank him for the fact that Paris is still standing and millions of people get to experience the magnificent Eiffel Tower everyday.
[Source: War History Online]