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October 31, 2011

More From the Rue de La Roquette

by soundlandscapes

FOLLOWING ON FROM the previous post, I went to the Rue de la Roquette again on Saturday and explored the street from its intersection with the Boulevard Voltaire to the cemetery Père Lachaise.

A wave of sadness overwhelmed me as I left a café and embarked on my journey. Just round the corner from the café, at 144 Rue de la Roquette, is an Ecole Maternelle, a nursery school. On the wall is a plaque which tells its own sorry story.

Plaques like this on are to be found on many schools in Paris. I’ve seen many of them and they always make for chilling reading.

Further along the Rue de la Roquette I came upon the Square de la Roquette, which is not without its own history. Originally the site of the Convent from which the Rue de la Roquette takes its name, a prison, La Petite Roquette, was opened here in 1830 and it was here that some four thousand members of the French resistance were held during the Nazi occupation in the early 1940’s.

All that remains of the prison today is the gateway beyond which is a delightful park with a fountain, a garden, basketball courts and a children’s playground.

And the history continues. Directly across the road from the Square de la Roquette where apartment buildings now stand, is the site of another prison, La Grande Roquette.

Opened in 1836, La Grande Roquette became home to Madame Guillotine in 1851. Although all signs of this prison have now gone, its grizzly history lives on in the shape of five granite stones embedded in the road at the junction of Rue de la Roquette and Rue de la Croix-Faubin.

These stones formed a firm foundation for the guillotine to ensure that the blade slid straight down to the lunette.

Sounds of this part of the Rue de la Roquette:

And yes, I did stand in between the stones on the very spot where the guillotine stood but my thoughts were less with the headless victims of this grizzly apparatus and more with the innocent children from the Ecole Maternelle further down the street whose fate lay in the Nazi death camps.


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