Birth of the museum
The museum was opened in the summer of 1994 for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Liberation of Paris. It was given the name Musée du général Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libération de Paris - Musée Jean Moulin. It was funded by a donation from the Fondation Maréchal Leclerc and the bequest of Antoinette Sasse – painter, resistance fighter and close friend of Jean Moulin – to the City of Paris.
The museum ties together the actions and careers of these two men: General Leclerc, emblematic figure of the Free French Forces, and Jean Moulin, symbol of the French Resistance. The two stories are told against a background of the history of France in the Second World War, the French Resistance from June 1942 to Liberation in 1944, Paris under the Germans, Resistance Paris, the Vichy Government and the occupying forces. The two museum spaces are joined symbolically in a room devoted to the Liberation of Paris, which was the successful outcome of both men’s actions – the shared aim of their respective combats. In this circular room, audio-visual archive images of the Liberation of Paris are projected onto the walls, evoking that key moment in the history of the French capital. This installation, the only one of its kind in Paris, is the highlight of the museum.
Montparnasse, a historic district
The museum is located above the Gare Montparnasse, overlooking the Jardin Atlantique. It is an area laden with history and was Jean Moulin’s favourite part of Paris. In the 1930s, he kept company with artists of the Paris School like Chaïm Soutine and Othon Friesz and bought some of their works. General Leclerc set up his command post in the old Gare Montparnasse. It was from there that he directed operations for the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944. And it was inside that same station that General von Choltitz, the German military governor of Paris, signed the ceasefire ordering the surrender of the German garrison in Paris.
Authentic objects and an important focus on audio-visuals
The museum trail avoids sensationalism by presenting authentic objects in context, but without reconstructions. A fourteen-screen projection room plunges the visitor into the heart of the insurrection and the Liberation of Paris. The vast reserve collections make it possible to link the objects and to create an active stance for the visitor. The objects on display are authentic: manuscripts, posters, flyers, photographs, newspapers, badges and insignia, uniforms and graphic works. Since they were started, the collections have grown thanks to donations such as the etchings illustrating poems by Tristan Corbière by Romanin (Jean Moulin’s pseudonym). These were donated by his family. The City of Paris acquired German occupation propaganda posters, personal objects belonging to general Leclerc, and has also entrusted the city of Paris’s own Cross (Companion of the Renaissance), to the museum.
The museum organises monographic exhibitions (e.g. De Gaulle; Jean Moulin artist and art lover; Leclerc and his men) as well as thematic exhibitions about the French resistance, Free France, and the colonial empire: Leclerc in Morocco; The Destruction of the Jews of Hungary; Insurgent Paris; Liberated Paris; Accessories and Objects; Accounts of Women’s Lives in Paris 1940-1944. There have been exhibitions, making use of the latest historical research, in partnership with the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand (Berlin): Germans against Nazism. Opposition and Resistance activities, 1933-1945 (in 1995-96); Plots and Assassination Attempts against Hitler (in 2004); and also in partnership with other Foundations and Associations: Association Française Buchenwald, Dora and Kommandos.