On June 6th, 1944, over 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. The battle to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe had begun, but the liberation of Paris wasn’t part of the original plan. The Allies wanted to reach Berlin as quickly as possible, and therefore Paris was seen as an unnecessary detour. The people of Paris disagreed, however, and in August of 1944, the French Resistance led an uprising against the German troops in the city. Less than two weeks later, the French tricolours proudly flew over the city once more after four years of occupation. This week, the city of Paris will honour this occasion by commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Paris.
In the summer of 1944, word quickly spread about the Allies’ advances in Normandy. As a result, tensions heightened in Paris, and on August 15th, 1944, the local police and Metro workers went on strike. Over the next several days, thousands more joined them, culminating in a full general strike on August 18th. The next day, the armed forces of the French Resistance revolted. Barricades were hastily erected all over the city, and several days of bloody street fighting followed. By the time the French 2nd Armoured Division and the US 4th Infantry Division entered Paris on August 24th, nearly 2,000 Resistance fighters and civilians had been killed. Thousands more had been wounded. On August 25th, 1944, General von Choltitz, the last German Commander of Paris, signed over the surrender of the city. After four years of occupation, Paris was finally free.
This week, the city will mark this event with several events planned throughout Paris. A liberty parade of period vehicles will retrace the steps of Général Leclerc’s 2nd Armoured Division as they entered the city 75 years ago. The French flag will once again be run up the Eiffel Tower by the firefighters of Paris, and commemorative masses will be held throughout the city. Most significantly, on August 25th, the Museum of the Liberation of Paris will officially open to the public after four years of construction. This brand new space will tell the story of occupied Paris and its fight for freedom. Housed in the former command post of the French Resistance, this museum will surely be a must-see for anyone interested in the city’s World War II heritage.
Today, commemorative plaques throughout Paris mark the location where Resistance fighters and civilians died trying to liberate the city. There are still gunshot holes in the walls of the Prefecture du Police. 75 years may have passed, but Paris still remembers. On August 25th, Général Charles de Gaulle stood in front of the Hotel de Ville and declared, “Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated!” May it never have to be again.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.