The Liberation of Paris: Liberation Day (August 25, 1944)

Figure 1.--Perhaps the most famous photograph of the fall of Paris was a middle age man crying while German soldiers marched down the Champs-Élysées. This wonderful Robert Capa photograph shows a boy and his grandfather in Chartres listening to a radio broadcast of DeGualle's speech. Grandfather surely must have fought in World War I. His son and the boy's father may have been in a German POW camp.

Allied forces entered the city (August 25). Noted America\n photo journalist wrote, "The sun was in a hurry to rise that morning, and we did not bother to bruish our teeth. The road to Pais was open, and every Parisian was out in the city to touch the first tank, to kiss the first manto sing and cry. Never were there so manywho were so happy so early in the morning." [Capa] The city was jubilent, but in chaos. The French 2nd Armoured Division (under the command of Major General Leclerc) and the 4th US Infantry Division entered the city in force. Capa who was with the Spanisg Republicans in Spain during the Civil War remonds us that a substabtial number of Spanish Republicans were a part of the Freen French. Much of the city ws already in the hands of the FFI, but the Germans still held strong points and many of the important buildings. The city was in chaos. Celebrations were occuring on one corner and a block away fighting was raging. De Gaulle entered the city. He moved into the War Ministry on the rue Saint-Dominique (August 25). He delivered a rousing speech to the people of Paris at the Hôtel de Ville. German snipers fired at him from a hotel, but missed. De Gaulle 's speech helped legitimize his claims as the liberator of France. His words were heard around the world, “Paris! Outraged Paris! Broken Paris! Martyred Paris! But liberated Paris! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people, with the help of the French armies, with the support and the help of all France, of the France that fights, of the only France, of the real France, of the eternal France!” The French listened to his voice broacast all over the country. Parisians until then only knew him from his emotional radio broadcasts. They recognized his voice. The liberation of Paris was arguably the most romantic event of the War. Just as the fall of Paris had shocked the world, the liberation of Paris symolized as no other event that Hitler had lost the War and it was now just a matter of time before the Allies would reach Berlin. For one bright shining day, the emotions of the Allies and especially the French bubbled over like an uncorked bottle of champaign. Thus the liberation of Paris surpassed all the other great milestones in the relentless Allied move toward the Rhine. Hitler sennsed this and it was why he wanted the city destroyed. DeGaule alone among the Allied leaders sensed the importance of liberating the city.


Capa, Ropbert.


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Created: 7:08 PM 3/30/20106
Last updated: 6:09 AM 4/30/2011