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We often think of history as inevitable outcomes, but sometimes we
forget that many things we hold dear were held in the balance in
history. In late summer, 1944, the L'Arc de Triomphe, la Place de la
Concorde, the Louvre, and the many ancient and modern streets of Paris
could have been blown into oblivion in less than one day. Towards the
end of August, 1944, the allies had retaken many of the Reich's former
strongholds such as Rome and Tropoli. And now the allies were on the
borders of German-occupied Paris about to storm and retake the most
famous French city.
When the Reich realized they had no chance of resisting the allies from
liberating the city from German occupation, Adolph Hitler made a final
ultimatum: make Paris a "scorched-earth". In other words, destroy the
city and lay it waste. It would be destruction on a massive scale which
would not only destroy one of the most beautiful cities in the world
but also murder potentially millions of lives. And yet there was
neither strategic nor tactical advantage to razing Paris, only killing
and mayhem. And the many monuments and art would be lost forever.
Whether Hitler's order was out of pure insanity continues to be
debated, although one thing is certain. The order was made most likely
out of malice towards the allies and the rest Europe when it became
obvious Hitler and Germany would be defeated and not as a puzzle piece
towards any larger strategy to win the war.
For 3 to 4 days, General Von Choltitz, then German general in charge of
Paris, orchestrated his young soldiers and engineers to plant hidden
explosives under the many bridges over the Seine, the main waterway
which runs through Paris. Explosive U-boat torpedoes were also deployed
in tunnels under the city that, if ignited, would destroy Paris from
the ground-up. At the same time, Resistance fighters had tried,
unsuccessfully, to stop the deployment. At the beginning of the film,
General Choltitz meets with his top commanders to begin the process of
laying waste to Paris.
Then, the General receives an expected visitor, Raoul Nordling of the
Swedish Consul in Paris. (In fact, the man who visited the general was
Pierre Charles Tattinger, the mayor of Paris. For dramatic purposes,
the characters of Tattinger and Nordling may have been combined into a
single person.) The film becomes a dialogue between Nordling and
Choltitz in which Nordling has to find a way to persuade the general
that destroying Paris is not only a heinous criminal act even by
wartime standards but also not in his best interests. After each of
Nordling's arguments, Choltitz counters with other arguments, such as
he cannot disobey orders from the Reich, particularly those of Hitler,
no matter how monstrous they may be. Eventually, Choltitz offers
Nordling a trump card which the diplomat can't seem to counter, unless
he has something else up his sleeve to persuade the general.
A brilliantly written and acted film based on the play of the same name
by Cyril Gely who also adapted the screenplay. André Dussollier as
Nordling and Niels Arestrup as General Choltitz offer tour-de-force
performances about a meeting which determined the fate of an historic
city. Although we know the ending, we don't always know how we arrived
there. "Diplomatie" ("Diplomacy") shows us how we got there.
Tags for Diplomacy Full Movie
, Burghart Klaußner
, Niels Arestrup
, Robert Stadlober
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