Paris marks 75 years since liberation from Nazis

Paris marks 75 years since liberation from Nazis

Paris has been celebrating the American soldiers, French Resistance fighters and others who liberated the City of Light from Nazi occupation exactly 75 years ago.

Firefighters unfurled a huge French flag from the Eiffel Tower, recreating the moment when a French tricolor stitched together from sheets was hoisted atop the monument 75 years ago to replace the swastika flag that had flown for four years.

People dressed in Second World War-era military uniforms and dresses joined parades in southern Paris, retracing the entry of French and US tanks into the city on August 25 1944.

Long the jewel of European cities, Paris suffered relatively little damage in the Second World War, but its citizens were humiliated, hungry and mistrustful after 50 months under the Nazis.

US soldiers march along the Champs Elysees after the liberation of Paris (Peter J Carroll/AP)
US soldiers march along the Champs Elysees after the liberation of Paris (Peter J Carroll/AP)

The liberation of Paris was both joyous and chaotic.

It was faster and easier for the Allies than their protracted battle through Normandy and its gun-filled hedgerows. But the fight for the French capital killed nearly 5,000 people, including Parisian civilians, German troops and members of the French Resistance whose sabotage and attacks had prepared the city for the liberation.

The D-Day landings on June 6 1944 helped change the tide of the war, allowing the Allies to push through Normandy and beyond to other German-occupied lands around Western Europe.

The message went out to the French Resistance in Paris that the Allies were advancing.

On August 19 1944, Paris police officers rebelled and took over police headquarters. On the night of August 24, the first Allied troops entered southern Paris. The grand entrance of French General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque’s 2nd Armoured Division followed by Allied forces would come the following day.

The German military governor of Paris was arrested at his headquarters at the Meurice Hotel and signed the surrender.

Paris buildings still bear the bullet holes of fighting.

A group of US Second World War veterans are back in Paris for the events.

Steve Melnikoff, 99, of Cockeysville, Maryland, came ashore on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He calls war “nasty, smelly, terrible”. But he maintains that “it was important for someone to do this”, to stop Hitler from taking over more of the world.

Harold Radish, 95, arrived in France in 1944, fought his way to Germany — and then was captured. After he was freed, he visited Paris. He described the liberated city as “a new thing”. He said: Something good had changed, the world was gonna get a little better.”

- Press Association

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