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Thousands turn out to mark 75th Paris liberation anniversary

media Crowds admire ethusiasts dressed up as 1940s Parisians and a US GI. RFI/Rosie Collyer

Thousands of people, including US war veterans, turned out in Paris on Sunday to mark 75 years since the city was liberated from German Nazi occupation, nine months before the end of World War Two.

"Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred!"

"But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself. Liberated by its people."

These were the defiant words of General Charles de Gaulle spoken at his address given outside the city hall on 25 August 1944, a day engraved forever in France's collective memory.

The Liberation began a week earlier, on 18 August, when the communist chief of the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) Henri Rol-Tanguy, gave the order for a general uprising.

The faction behind de Gaulle issued the same call the following day.

A week of street clashes, followed by victory

Six days of street clashes ensued, with random attacks and armed barricades.

Resistance fighters, supported by workers, women and even priests were later joined by French and US soldiers.

Parisians and soldiers alike were bouyed by the victorious liberation campaigns in Normandy two months before.

A column of military vehicles led by Major-General Philippe Leclerc, commander of the 2nd French Armored Division supported by the US 4th Infantry Division of Major-General Barton, began arriving in Paris on the evening of the 24 August.

Germany's commander in Paris, Lieutenant-General Dietrich von Choltitz, who was holed up in the Hotel Meurice, had been ordered to flatten the city as the Nazi's had done in Warsaw.

But the diplomatic intervention of the then Swedish ambassador Raoul Nordling caused Choltitz to ignore Hitler's orders.

This gave precious extra time to the Resistance to organise their defence.

On the French side, the death toll came to 1,000 Resistance fighters, 600 civilians and 156 French soldiers.

The Germans counted 3,200 dead.

It was another nine months before Germany finally surrendered, ending World War II in Europe in May 1945.

Liberty Parade and re-enactment

A World War Two memorabilia aficionado bought this vehicle in the west of France. RFI/Rosie Collyer

Each year for the last 75 years, it is the bravery and sacrifice of ordinary citizens as well as the military might which is celebrated in a range of events.

The Paris Fire Service lead proceedings by hoisting France's flag on the Champs Elysées just as they did on the 25 August 1944 declaring the city free of Nazi occupation.

A re-enactment of the liberation of Paris complete with armoured cars and Parisians dressed in clothes from the 1940s took the form of a 'Liberty March' from Porte d'Orleans to Denfert-Rochereau in the afternoon.

A woman dresses up as a 1940s Parisian celebrating the liberation of Paris. RFI/Rosie Collyer

Two official tributes were planned to mark the anniversary: a military ceremony to pay homage to the 2nd Armoured Division, on Place du 25 Août 1944 in the 14th arrondissement and a ceremony to commemorate the surrender of German troops, on Place du 18 Juin 1940 in the 15th arrondissement.

New Liberation Museum opens to the public

In the evening, the Paris City Hall hosted writers and musicians to read and perform works from or about the war years. Both music and literature played important roles in the lives of Parisians during the occupation.

The new Museum of the Liberation site was inaugurated in the evening as a grand finale to the day of commemorations.

The museum is home to over 7000 original documents, photographs and videos. A new feature of the museum is an underground bunker used by resistance fighters.


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