“That was the greatest and finest moment of my life,” one of the world’s most brutal tyrants reportedly said after touring the newly Nazi-occupied French capital.
The day after Germany signed an armistice with France, Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis toured the Dôme des Invalides, which holds Napoleon’s tomb; the Paris opera house; the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, and the Eiffel Tower on June 23, 1940.
In all, Hitler spent three hours in the “City of Light,” but Germany spent four years occupying northern France until Allied forces liberated Paris 73 years ago, on August 25, 1944.
“The Germans were driven from many strategic parts of the city by the combined onslaught of the French military and the fury of citizens fighting for their liberties,” the Associated Press reports.
During Hitler’s brief tour, he instructed the architect Albert Speer, a friend, to take note of the city’s design to create similar yet superior German buildings.
“Wasn’t Paris beautiful?” Hitler reportedly asked Speer.
“But Berlin must be far more beautiful. When we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow.”
While sightseeing, Hitler also ordered the destruction of two French World War I monuments that reminded him of Germany’s bitter defeat.
Amanda Macias contributed to an earlier version of this post.