Avenue Wilson

Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States from 1913 to 1921 and is well known for his pacifism and his defence of the right of peoples to self-determination.

The name of President Woodrow Wilson was given to a part of the Avenue of Trocadéro in July 1918. The City of Paris aimed to honour the man who committed the United States to the First World War alongside France and who prepared peace as well. Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) had been President of the United States since March 2013. During his first term, he kept his country away from the European conflict and even tried to set a mediation between the warring parties, without success. Reelected in November 1916, he decided to commit his country to the war against Germany in the Spring of 1917, considering that their submarine campaign was seriously threatening Great-Britain and American boats. He made the American Congress vote for a declaration of war to Germany on April 2nd, 1917, much to the discontent of American pacifists. He justified this going to war with his desire to defend values of peace and to “make war to war”.

The fact that the American troops entered the war was crucial for the Allies’ victory. President Wilson did not care much about the conduct of military activities and devoted himself to prepare peace. In January 1918, he presented his 14 points, including the creation of a League of Nations and the reorganisation of Europe according to the principle of the right of people’s to self-determination. As soon as the armistice was signed, he went to the Old Continent as the first American President to go there, in order to participate in the Peace Conference. He stayed six months there.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, as well as other peace treaties were strongly influenced by Wilson’s ideas. The League of Nations came to life and Wilson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919, convinced that America had brought peace to the world.

However, the overall picture of his actions is a mixed one: the Treaty of Versailles was perceived as mostly unfair to Germany and became a source of conflict. The American Congress refused to validate it; therefore the United States never got to be a member state of the League of Nations, which Wilson had meant to find peaceful solutions to conflicts between countries. Having failed, he left the United States Presidency in March 1921.

Public transport
Underground 9 Iéna
Vélib Station n° 16007, 4 rue de Longchamp
Bus 32, 63 Albert de Mun ou Iéna
Bus 82 Iéna
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5 minutes

Guernica

During the 1937 International Exhibition, more than twenty pavilions representing various countries were built in the Trocadéro gardens. Among them, the Spanish pavilion, where Guernica was showed for the first time.

More than forty countries had their own pavilion during the 1937 International Exhibition, which was mentioned earlier when we spoke about the Peace Pavilion on the Trocadéro Square. The Spanish pavilion was located at the end of the Trocadéro gardens, left when facing the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro esplanade. In 1937, Spain was in the middle of a civil war between the Republicans and the Francoist forces, the latter being supported by the Nazi Germany and the Fascist Italy, whose pavilions were only some meters away. In order to decorate the pavilion, the Republican government called for help from Spanish artists living in Paris.

The pavilion opened shortly after the beginning of the Exhibition, on July 12th. Inside, visitors were able to admire The Mercury Fountain by Alexander Calder, as well as a large mural painting by Miró, The Reaper or Catalan Peasant in Revolt, showing a figure with a red beret, contemplating a starry sky. This work was in sharp contrast with the second monumental painting showed in the pavilion: Guernica, by Picasso. This huge painting on canvas was made in reaction to the bombing of the small town of Guernica, in the Basque Country, by the German and Italian air forces, on April 26th, 1937. Described by Nazis who visited the pavilion as “the dream of a mad man […] a mix of incomprehensible symbols and pieces of human beings, the whole thing looking like drawn by a four-year-old child”, this painting reveals violence, suffering, death and helplessness, in black and white, just like war photographs at the time. This emblematic work, surely Picasso’s most famous painting, is above all an outcry against war and its destructions, but can also be seen as a poignant call for peace.

Some years later, during the war, Picasso was visited by Nazi Ambassador Otto Abetz in his Parisian studio. The latter came upon a picture of Guernica, which had been sent to New York by the painter as soon as the Exhibition was over. He asked: “Did you make this?” to which Picasso answered: “No, you did”.

In accordance with Picasso’s will, Guernica was not sent back to Spain before democracy was restored in this country after Franco’s death.

Public transport
Underground 6, 9 Trocadéro
Vélib station n° 16014, 4 avenue d'Eylau
Bus 22, 30, 32, 63 Trocadéro
Bus 72 Pont d'Iéna
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7 minutes

Le Parvis (2)

Two more slabs can be found on the Human Rights Esplanade, the first one dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and the other one to missing journalists and freedom of the press.

On October 17th, 1987, a second slab was sealed at the end of the Esplanade of Freedoms and Human Rights at the initiative of Father Joseph Wresinski (1917-1988), founder of the international movement ATD-Quart Monde. 100 000 Human Rights activists attended this event. The slab pays tribute to victims of hunger, ignorance and violence, and to those who fight all over the world to put an end to destitution and to ensure that Human Rights are respected. The slab is engraved with these words by Wresinski: “Anywhere people are condemned to live in extreme poverty, Human Rights are violated. To unite in order to ensure that they are respected is a sacred duty”. Joseph Wresinski, the son of immigrants, experienced extreme poverty in his childhood. He founded his movement in the slum of Noisy-le-Grand, in the Parisian suburbs, where he arrived in 1956.

In March 1993, referring to the inauguration of this slab, the UN General Assembly declared that October 17th the International Day to eliminate poverty. In 2012, the theme of this day was: “Put an end to the violence of poverty by favouring autonomy and building peace”. The ATD-Quart Monde logo, which is on the slab, shows a dove, a symbol of peace, flying off. ATD-Quart Monde keeps working in many countries.

In July 2004, the Minister of Culture inaugurated the third slab of the Human Rights Esplanade, dedicated to missing journalists or those who were killed while carrying out their work. A passage from article XI of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is written on the slab: “The free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man”.

The international NGO Reporters without Borders, created in Montpellier in 1985 and now located in Paris, is committed to defend journalists’ rights and the right of information all over the world. In particular, the organisation stands for imprisonned or threatened journalists in various countries. They remind that the freedom of information is the foundation for democracy, and yet, nearly half of the world population does not have access to free information.

Public transport
Underground 6, 9 Trocadéro
Vélib station n° 16014 4 avenue d'Eylau
Bus 22, 30, 32, 63 Trocadéro
Way to the next peace trail station
5 minutes

Le Parvis (1)

This esplanade, facing the Trocadéro square, between the two wings of the Palais de Chaillot, has been dedicated to Human Rights since 1985.

French President François Mitterrand decided to pay tribute to the signature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which occured on December 10th, 1948 in the Palais de Chaillot. This is where the headquarters of the United Nations were located at the time. The French President chose to name “Esplanade of Freedoms and Human Rights” this part of the esplanade, overshadowed by the Palais de Chaillot. While a plaque commemorates the signature inside the Chaillot Theatre, Mitterrand asked for a slab to be put on the esplanade, at the entrance, on which the first article of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was engraved: “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights”. It was a way to draw attention to the influence of the first Declaration on the 1948 UDHR, as it was the bicentenary of the French Revolution. The latter was supported by Eleanor Roosevelt from the US and René Cassin from France, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968.

In that same year 1948, a young American bomber pilot during the Second World War, Garry Davis, declared to the US Embassy in Paris that he was giving up his American citizenship. He then pitched his tent in the Trocadéro gardens. In November, supported by Albert Camus, he interrupted a session of the UN General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot to demand the creation of a world government and of a world citizen status, in order to put an end to war. There are today more than a million members in his register of world citizens, and all of them hold a world citizen passport. The Esplanade has become a popular spot for people to gather up and defend Human Rights and peace in Paris. For instance, this is where Handicap International created its first 5-meter high shoe pyramid to demand the ban of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. This non-violent action was organised again all around the world and was so successful that it enabled the adoption of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty to ban anti-personnel mines.

Many other protests and demonstrations for international solidarity took place these past years on the Esplanade.

“We, the people, want the peace which only a world government can give.”
– Garry Davis

Public transport
Underground 6, 9 Trocadéro
Vélib station n° 16014 4 avenue d'Eylau
Bus 22, 30, 32, 63 Trocadéro
Way to the next peace trail station
0 minutes

Trocadero

The Trocadéro square was created in 1869 on the Chaillot Hill. Its name comes from an 1823 French military victory in Spain. It became a peace symbol thanks to the 1937 International Exhibition, which took place in Paris.

In the dark 1930s period, known for its unprecedented economic crisis and the rise of totalitarian regimes, an International Exhibition on “Arts and Techniques in modern life” was organised in Paris in 1937. The Trocadéro site and the Champ de Mars were chosen to host it. The exhibition aimed to be a place where technical, economic and intellectual exchanges could take place, in order to favour peace. Nevertheless, the rise of perils was even visible in the Trocadéro gardens, where the striking pavilions of the Nazi Germany and the Stalinist USSR were built face to face.

The Peace pavilion stood on the Trocadéro square. Its design had been chosen by the International Peace Campaign (RUP), an organisation gathering pacifists from various countries and of various perspectives. Its co-chair was Pierre Cot, the Air Minister of the Blum government. This pavilion showed educational exhibitions about the cost of wars, the League of Nations and its work for peace, and the then ongoing Spanish Civil War. In the centre of the pavilion, a peace column made by Albert Laprade and Léon Bazin rose. It was 50 meters high and covered with sculpted olive branches, a symbol of peace. The organisers of the exhibition wanted the column to become “a permanent and significant monument of better times”, but it did not outlive the exhibition.

In its place, an equestrian statue of Marshall Foch († 1929), one of the French military leaders of the First World War, was inaugurated on November 11th, 1951 by President Vincent Auriol. In 1956, a Monument dedicated to the French army of 1914-1918, made by sculptor Paul Landowski, was set up on one of the edges of the square, against a wall of the Passy graveyard. Eventually, in 1978,  “and of November 11th” was added to the name of the square: it is the anniversary date of the First World War armistice.

Thus, this square, where the 1930s pacifists wanted to counter war threats and celebrate peace, was turned into a place of memory for the First World War in the 4th and 5th Republics, while the memory of the pavilion and the peace column has been forgotten. It was gone with the pacifism of this period, which was criticised after the Second World War.

Public transport
Underground 6, 9 Trocadéro
Vélib station n° 16014 4 avenue d'Eylau
Bus 22, 30, 32, 63 Trocadéro
Way to the next peace trail station
7 minutes