Fort Mont-Valérien was built in 1841 as part of the city's ring of modern fortifications. It overlooks the Bois de Boulogne.
The fortress defended Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, and remained the strongest fortress protecting the city, withstanding artillery bombardments that lasted several months. The surrender of the fortress was one of the main clauses of the armistice signed by the Government of National Defense with Otto von Bismarck on 17 January 1871, allowing the Germans to occupy the strongest part of Paris' defences in exchange for shipments of food into the starving city.
Colonel Henry of army intelligence, a key player in the Dreyfus Affair, was confined at the prison of Mont-Valérien in 1898. The day after being confined, 31 August 1898, he cut his throat with a razor that had been left in his possession, taking to the grave his secret and that of a great part of the affaire Dreyfus.
During the Second World War, the fortress was used, from 1940 to 1944, as a prison and place of executions by the Nazi occupiers of Paris. The Germans brought prisoners here in trucks from other locations. The prisoners were temporarily confined in a disused chapel, and later taken to be shot in a clearing 100 metres away. The bodies were then buried in various cemeteries in the Paris area. More than 1,000 hostages and resistants were executed. The immense majority were members of the French Resistance.
The site now serves as a national memorial. On 18 June 1945, Charles de Gaulle consecrated the site in a public ceremony.
Today, the area in front of the memorial, a reminder of the French Resistance against the German occupation forces, has been named Square Abbé Franz Stock. During the German occupation, Stock took care of condemned prisoners here, and he mentioned 863 executions at Mont-Valérien in his diary.
There is also an American military cemetery on the site, the resting place of 1,541 American soldiers who died in France during the First World War.References:
The city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls.
The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already used in earlier constructions, have an average thickness of 3 m. Access to the city is afforded by nine gates of different periods; twin 20 m high towers, linked by a semi-circular arch, flank the oldest ones, Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcázar.