When I toured Paris some years ago, I visited all the famous tourist attractions, but it was a minor, out-of-the-way site that I remember most today. Of course, there were the well-known sites. I saw the Eiffel Tower, the Arch of Triumph, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and I even travelled out to Versailles, the immense palace where the unfortunate King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette resided. I also saw gendarmes in front of the Ministry of Justice, and I ate French onion soup in Montmartre just around the corner from Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. I even saw the original Moulin Rouge and Maxim's and the immensely famous Paris Opera with its metallic dome shimmering like gold just down the street from the almost as famous American Express Office where writers like Ernest Hemingway used to get money from America when they lived in Paris during the 1920's. Still, it was an off-the-beaten-track site in Paris that haunts me today. Near Gare-du-Nord, the train station on the north side of the city, I saw in the pavement of the street the marks of tank treads that had been made by German Panzer tanks that were being unloaded at Gare-du-Nord in 1942 and then driven into the streets of Paris to support the German conquerors. Almost fifty years had passed, but the street repair people had filled the marks in with asphalt of a slightly different color than the rest of the street and thus the marks were still plainly visible. Also, on a nearby wall was a brass plaque which I was eventually able to translate into English: "On this spot on April 25, 1942, twenty-eight brave and patriotic French partisans were executed after being captured by the Germans while attempting to prevent the unloading of Panzer tanks at Gare-du-Nord." On the wall of the building where the plaque was mounted were numerous concrete patches where the executioners' bullets had scarred the wall on that brutal day in 1942. This was History with a capital H. Despite all the famous landmarks I saw in Paris, it was that seldom-visited site in the northern end of Paris which I will always remember most clearly.
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