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Celebrating Liberation In The City Of Light

Wednesday, August 25th celebrates the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Paris from the Nazis. The signs are everywhere and I’m planning on taking part.

After more than four years of Nazi occupation, Paris was liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division on the night of August 24-25, 1944. The Allied troops were welcomed by ecstatic Parisians, who besieged them with flowers, kisses, and wine. General Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison, dutifully laid explosives under Paris’ bridges and many of its landmarks in the days before the liberation but disobeyed an order by Adolph Hitler to start the destruction. On the afternoon of August 25, Choltitz signed a document formally surrendering the French capital French General Charles de Gaulle. The next day, de Gaulle led a joyous liberation march down the Champs-Elysées.

At the Hôtel de Ville, the bleachers are now in place and the stage is being set for the commemorative ceremony with President Jacques Chirac and illustrious members of the government from 8 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Wednesday evening.

The stage is also being set at Place de la Bastille for the Grand Fête Populaire beginning at 9 p.m. and will be carried on France 2 TV until midnight. To get into the spirit of the occasion, the city is asking everyone to dress in the style of the ’40s — come dance the swing at Place de la Bastille in the name of Liberté!

Today at 5 p.m. at Place de la République, Square André Tollet will be inaugurated at the center park of the place with a commemorative plaque. André Tollet was one of the most overlooked, yet instrumental participants in the liberation.

Tomorrow at 10:45 a.m. at avenue de la Porte d’Aubervilliers and rue Jean Oberlé in the 19th arrondissement, a commemorative plaque will be installed to inaugurate Place Charles Tillon. Once a member of the Resistance, he worked his whole life for the freedom of man. And later in the day at 3:15 p.m. at 38 quai Henri IV in the 4th, La Colonne Dronne will be inaugurated — a plaque honoring the volunteer soldiers from Madrid, Guadalajara, Brunete and Guernica.

Thursday Jacques Chaban-Delmas will be honored at 4:45 p.m. on the grassy plane at avenue de Breteuil in the 7th with a plaque inaugurating Esplanade Jacques Chaban-Delmas. He used his credentials in finance to aid the Resistance.

This is only just a few of the events taking place all over the city. For all the details (in French) of everything there is to take part in, visit the city site at: http://www.paris.fr/fr/actualites/anniversaire_liberation/default.asp

And if you haven’t already seen it, head to the Jardin du Luxembourg before the exhibition is over August 31st — “La France Libérée,
La République Restaurée” — posted on the outside grill of the garden from the RER Luxembourg entrance at rue Gay Lussac and boulevard Saint-Michel to the Palais du Luxembourg along rue de Médicis, is a large collection of memorable photos with descriptions written in three languages.

This is worth a slow stroll around to take in the images and what it must have been like in Paris and France at that time. And isn’t it ironic that it was a German officer who didn’t want to go down in history as the man who had destroyed the “City of Light?”

He must have fallen in love with the capital just as much as I have. I’m not surprised.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Be sure to consult Wednesday’s Parler Paris Previews for more of what’s happening in the City of Light, just in case there isn’t enough going on to keep you busy!

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