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The charming Hotel Lutetia, Paris, Immortalized in Lilac Girls, was once a hospital for returning WWII concentration camp deportees.

By June 23, 2014July 26th, 20238 Comments

Hotel Lutetia has been in the news a lot recently, since they are doing a complete renovation, auctioning most of the historic hotel’s original furnishings, including the lobby’s massive front desk and Art Deco furniture. It took me back to the week I stayed there last year, when I commuted out to Nanterre, in the Paris suburbs, to do Lilac Girls research in Caroline Ferriday’s archive there.

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Staying at the lovely old Art Nouveau hotel was part pleasure, since the location is one of the best in Paris, in Saint-Germain-des-Pres–close to Luxembourg Gardens and the Louvre, steps from some of the best shopping and restaurants. It was part work, since one of my novel’s most pivotal scenes takes place at the hotel. Hotel Lutetia was used as a Nazi headquarters during WWII and once Paris was liberated, the hotel was used as a clearing house/hospital for those returning from concentration camps (below).

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Returning French deportees enjoy bread and champagne in Hotel Lutetia dining room

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Returning French deportee and family

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Deportees from concentration camps check the Hotel Lutetia board of the missing

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French poster, “Return to France.”

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While I couldn’t swing one of the hotel’s King’s suites, my little chamber was comfy and it was wonderful to wake up in one of the rooms that was used to house returning refugees. Who knows, might have been the room James Joyce stayed in while he wrote part of Ulysses here…

I did my best to soak up every bit of atmosphere while I was there, including a visit to Jardin du Luxembourg.

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The best pistachio ice cream ever at the charming little kiosk above!

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Here is the Nanterre crew in front of the Statue of Liberty replica in Luxembourg Gardens. Our intrepid translator Joséphine Boulanger (she translated over 100 of Caroline’s letters for me!), my sister-in-law Mary Pat Kelly who was along to research the sequel to her own novel, Galway Bay and me.

Hope these few pictures give you a little taste of how wonderful the Hotel Lutetia was.

Looking forward to staying at there again in three years once the renovation is complete. It will no doubt be a splendid transformation, but the ghosts of her past will always be with the lovely Hotel Lutetia.

 

8 Comments

  • Jane Ogram says:

    Hi Martha
    I was very interested in your article and the photograph of people returning from concentration camps.
    I am working on a TV series about this subject and am looking for any photos taken at the Lutetia Hotel at that time.

    Can I ask you where you found the image and if you have any idea who might own the copyright?

    Many thanks
    Jane

    • Martha Kelly says:

      Dear Jane,

      How wonderful that you are working on a series about deportees returning from the camps. If you contact me through the contact page of this site I can tell you what I know about the photo!

      All the best,
      Martha

  • maya Lussier-Séguin says:

    Dear Martha,

    I am a french researcher working on a documentary about France in 1945 and the film director with who I’m working is very interested in the photo taken at the Lutecia Hotel.
    ( Deportees from concentration camps check the Hotel Lutetia board of the missing )

    Can I ask you where you found the image and if you have any idea who might own the copyright?

    Many Thanks in advance for your help,
    Maya Lussier-Séguin

    • Marthakelly10@gmail.com says:

      Dear Maya,

      I am not sure where I found the picture you reference…somewhere in my research online. But it way be from Pierre Assouline’s book Lutetia or Hôtel Lutetia Paris – L’esprit de la Rive Gauche » published in 2009. Sorry I can’t be more help and good luck with your research!

      All the best,

      Martha

  • Dear Martha,
    I loved this article and posted it on my page PAPER CHILDREN because I told my Polish family story in this novel.I had letters translated from my great-grandparents who were trapped in Warsaw during WWII. Thank you. The photos tell so much!
    I’ve also written another novel about France, PARIS LAMB.
    We’re on the same track!
    Warmly,
    Marcia

    • Marthakelly10@gmail.com says:

      Dear Marcia,

      Always wonderful to hear from a fellow writer, especially in the same genre! What a wonderful family history you have–such a gift for an historical fiction writer!
      xx

      Martha

  • Douglas L Thompson says:

    I stayed at the hotel in 2004 and though it had not been renovated thought that it had a feeling of great importance historically. It was a wonderful residence for my stay in the city.

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