The Hindu Business Line

When Paris was lib­er­ated from the Nazis

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE AFP Paris · Belarus · Charles de Gaulle · Adolf Hitler · Belgium · the French government · Austria · United States of America · Dwight D. Eisenhower · Saint Pierre and Miquelon · Eiffel Tower · Normandy, MO · Chartres · Omar Bradley · Hôtel Meurice

Sev­enty-five years ago, al­most to the date, or­di­nary Parisians — work­ers, women and even priests — led by Re­sis­tance fighters rose up to throw off the Nazi yoke af­ter four years of oc­cu­pa­tion.

Fol­low­ing six days of street clashes, ran­dom at­tacks and armed bar­ri­cades, they were joined by French and Amer­i­can sol­diers and the vic­tory was con­firmed.

“Paris out­raged! Paris bro­ken! Paris mar­tyred!” Gen­eral Charles de Gaulle de­clared out­side the city hall on Au­gust 25. “But Paris lib­er­ated! Lib­er­ated by it­self. Lib­er­ated by its peo­ple.”

The land­ing of tens of thou­sands of Amer­i­can, Bri­tish and Cana­dian troops on the beaches of Nor­mandy on June 6 launched the fi­nal push against Adolf Hitler’s forces.

Af­ter be­ing bogged down in Nor­mandy for weeks, the Al­lies were fi­nally able to ad­vance east­wards, tak­ing Or­leans and Chartres, south of Paris, on Au­gust 17.

They planned to head straight for the Ger­man border with­out a de­tour to the cap­i­tal where there was a risk of dif­fi­cult and dam­ag­ing ur­ban war­fare.

Amer­i­can Gen­eral Omar Bradley wrote in his mem­oirs that Paris was “noth­ing more than an ink spot on our maps to be by­passed as we headed to­ward the Rhine.”

Call to ac­tion

But Parisians were im­pa­tient. De­fy­ing calls from the French gov­ern­ment-in-ex­ile In this file photo taken on Au­gust 25, 1944, Parisians cel­e­brate the Lib­er­a­tion of Paris

headed by de Gaulle for them to hold on a bit longer, the Re­sis­tance sprang into ac­tion.

On Au­gust 18, French Forces of the In­te­rior (FFI) com­mu­nist chief Henri Rol-Tan­guy gave the or­der for a gen­eral upris­ing.

The fac­tion behind de Gaulle is­sued the same call the fol­low­ing day. It was the start of a week of anar­chy.

On Au­gust 19, trains and met­ros ground to a halt in a gen­eral strike.

Around 3,000 po­lice­men, al­ready on strike, oc­cu­pied their head­quar­ters, re-hoist­ing the French tri­colour. Fight­ing there over the fol­low­ing days claimed the lives of nearly 170 po­lice­men.

Men in small groups at­tacked Ger­man sol­diers and ve­hi­cles. There were bloody street clashes.

About 16,000 Ger­man sol­diers and 80 tanks were in the city un­der the com­mand of Gen Di­et­rich von Choltitz, who was holed up at the cen­tral Ho­tel Meurice.

The Swedish con­sul-gen­eral, Raoul Nordling, man­aged to con­vince von Choltitz to ac­cept a 45minute cease­fire on Au­gust 19 and again the fol­low­ing day.

This en­abled the Re­sis­tance to or­gan­ise.

From Au­gust 22 bar­ri­cades started go­ing up, made out of burnt out ve­hi­cles, man­hole cov­ers and even Paris' in­fa­mous street uri­nals.

Paris lib­er­ated

On Au­gust 22, the over­all Al­lied com­man­der, US Gen Dwight. D Eisen­hower, was per­suaded that French troops needed to go to

Paris. The fol­low­ing day French com­man­der Gen Philippe Le­clerc and his 2nd Ar­moured Di­vi­sion were en route, backed by the US Fourth In­fantry Di­vi­sion.

The first French ar­moured tanks pen­e­trated the city on the evening of Au­gust 24, reach­ing city hall around 9.00 pm.

“The French are ar­riv­ing! They are here!” Parisians ex­claimed, as re­lated in AFP re­ports of the his­toric events.

Three more col­umns ar­rived the next morn­ing, flanked by Re­sis­tance fighters on bi­cy­cles, with Le­clerc mak­ing his of­fi­cial en­trance at 9.45 am. By mid­day on Au­gust 25 the French flag had been raised over the Eiffel Tower, re­plac­ing the Swastika af­ter more than 1,500 days. Paris had been won back.

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