They say that old mansions and grand hotels are haunted by ghosts. If that’s true, then the Lutetia Hotel in the 6th arrondissement of Paris is the most haunted of them all.
If ghosts exist, then the corridors of this storied hotel must be filled with the spirits of cabaret singers, artists, writers, Josephine Baker and Nazis.
Built in 1910, during France’s Belle Époque, this architectural gem hosted James Joyce where he wrote parts of Ulysses. Josephine Baker and Picasso were regular guests, as was Ernest Hemingway.
A young Charles De Gaulle stayed there for his honeymoon. And it was this fortuitous visit that would change the course of the hotel’s history.
During the occupation of Paris, the Nazis requisitioned the hotel to house and feed their officers and French collaborators.
After the war was over, hundreds of thousands of former prisoners and Holocaust survivors began to make the trek home to France. The now General Charles de Gaulle remembered his luxurious stay at the Lutetia and demanded that the hotel house the survivors of the Holocaust because he wanted them to be housed in comfort after the horrors they suffered.
And this is how it came to be that the grandest hotel in Paris opened its doors to displaced persons and Holocaust survivors. The first survivors arrived at the hotel in April 1945. They received food, shelter, money and clothing.
The hotel also became the Paris headquarters for those searching for loved ones or waiting on Red Cross updates of family members sent to camps. An entire wall of the hotel was filled with photographs of missing persons. Relatives desperate for reunification with loved ones regularly stopped by to see whether missing family and friends had arrived from the camps.
The last displaced person left the hotel in September 1945. Soon thereafter the hotel reopened its doors for business as usual and celebrities once again flocked to the grandest hotel in Paris.
The Lutetia closed in 2014 for renovations and reopened in 2018. The old-fashioned decor was replaced by chic, contemporary pieces. The dark paneling was removed to make room for a marbled lobby that boasts an airy, light-filled space. Once again, celebrities and the well-to-do made the Lutetia Hotel their home away from home.
As for the ghosts, they probably still roam the halls.
Note: If you want to learn more about the Holocaust survivors who stayed at the Lutetia Hotel, please search for “Lutetia Hotel” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.