The Bloody Week
Only a few weeks after the Paris Commune had begun on March 18th, 1871, France broke into the city of Paris. The punishments soon began.
The moment that France entered Paris was theatrical. Paris was holding a massive open-air benefit concert for war widows. It concluded with an officer taking the stage and proclaiming that Paris’ enemies would never enter the city. At that very moment, French soldiers were flooding into the city within gunshot of the concert.
Much like the life of the Commune, Parisian defenses failed as a result of disorganization. Leaders retreated to defend their own neighbourhoods, and thus they abandoned any hope of a unified defense.
After capturing Montmartre, France immediately began its massacres. Soldiers shot 50 Parisians against the same wall where Parisians had killed French generals Lecomte and Clément-Thomas on March 18th.
The revolution died in the same way it was born: quickly, in the space of one morning, and on the hills of Montmartre.
Parisians died for wearing watches, overalls, or having bruised shoulders: all potential evidence of supporting the Commune. Bodies quickly filled the streets of Paris, as firing squads struggled to keep pace with the demand for justice. Executioners’ arms were so tired from firing that they often leaned their guns on the Parisians next in line to die. The firing squad often stood ankle deep in pools of blood.
Tens of thousands of Parisians died as a result of the Commune. Causes of death included execution, death in combat, starvation, or sickness in makeshift prison camps. The brunt of those killed were not the leaders of the revolution, but instead the poor working class supporters.
Vladimir Lenin and a small band of Russian revolutionaries would use the Paris Commune as a rallying cry when they conquered Russia in 1917 and remodeled it as the Communist Soviet Union. Millions upon millions died as a result of the Communist experiment, but many today forget that the first bodies were the courageous and ground-breaking Parisians.