UNITED STATES—Paris suffered Nazi occupation, and after more than four years of it, and needless to say they were long years, the city of light, the city of life was liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. In March of 1944, Adolf Hitler issued the Nero Command and demanded that Paris be defended to the last man and be left a “field of ruins.”

“Blow up the monuments and burn the city to the ground,” thus spake the Fuhrer.

The last commander of Nazi occupied Paris. Dietrich von Choltitz, had not yet lost the reflex to fulfill the Fuhrer’s wishes, and had explosives set under the bridges of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, and they later had to be de-fused. In the end, the short rotund general disobeyed the order to begin destruction. And earned the soubriquet, “Savior of Paris.”

In the autumn of 1944, after the liberation, von Choltitz was quoted in the French press: We all share the guilt. We went along with everything, and we half-took the Nazis seriously, instead of saying “to Hell with you and your stupid nonsense”. I misled my soldiers into believing this rubbish.

The Germans were scattered and confused, but there were still enough bullets and weapons around to cause casualties. Seventy-one in the 2nd division alone. There were a few snipers still active and they shot from rooftops into the crowd during the victory parade. The city was starving. The Allied bombing had destroyed all the railways into Paris.

Soon the red wine flowed again and there were croissants and baguettes, and it was the sort of place where a young man as an attaché of the U.S. Embassy could feel life-joy running through the veins. New concerns filled the space occupied by the mission to save the Free World. The Red Scare stoked by Senator Carney. And another one bore his fingerprints.

The Lavender Scare extended far beyond Senator Carney’s brief, harsh reign. You were not safe even abroad. It did not spare gay servicemen or federal employees being taken aside to a hotel room and questioned about their sex habits. An attaché at the American Embassy in Paris, Timothy Ferrence, got a taste of this. These gentlemen looked a bit out of place in the gilt-trimmed, plush carpeted hallway of the embassy’s passport processing division. They were the security officers Timothy Ferrence passed every day on his way to the third floor. Outside the window was a smoky orange and gold autumn day, and these men towered over him.

“Good afternoon,” they said, glumly. They appeared a bit flushed and averted their gaze.

It had been a very good afternoon and, within moments, Timothy had his world turned upside-down.

“The Civil Service Commission has information that you are a homosexual. What comment to do care to make about this?”

They were State Department security officers who suspected him of being a sissy. Timothy Ferrence, the son of immigrants who spoke five languages, was detained and questioned for two days.

“Do you like girls?”


His pale face flushed red and Mr. Ferrence made a nervous grin.

“What’s your girlfriend’s name?”

Silence. Shy silence.

“Or do you go for guys.”

Timothy gazed wistily out the window and at the doorway.

It went on for two days. At one point he stood up and strode out. He caught his shoulder slumping, and then rose the occasion, standing tall, and militarily erect as any soldier passing review. Taps at reveille. This—despite the total erasure of any trace of anchor now; the operation instantaneously scooped out all the possessions. Chasm opened in the earth under the sea. It swallowed up ships and trawlers, buoys, trucks loaded with giant logs ready to be milled, half the piers planks, giant sequoias, babies, a pregnant woman, a scow full of lobsters, scales and machinery, Chevrolets falling vertically over the pilings that remained of the piers, stripped of its boards.

The Security Officers who towered over Timothy Ferris pushed him back down into the olive-green velvet empire couch. Not roughly, but the memory of the coarse fingers would remain. It occurred to Timothy that wanting to be someone else was a waste of the person he was. There was a way to circumnavigate this, a narrow passage through the ice floes and straits of the Bering Sea.

“There’ll be a letter sent out to your family, certifying that you were fired for having homosexual tendencies.” That had been established early in the sessions, as a giant boulder poising to roll down on top of him and squash Timothy like a cockroach. It lasted for two days, and at the end of it, Timothy bravely decided he would rather be hated for who he was, than loved for who he was not. After two days he was left free to walk away.

They left him with this acorn, spoken to his retreating back, “We know everything. We spoke to your roommate.”

It was the early fifties. He stood up straight. 33 years old, Ferrence was Americanized form of Hungarian Ferencz. It would be easy. He went home to his apartment, where he stayed. Turned on the gas and asphyxiated himself.

To be continued…