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Inglourious Basterds - LIBERATION of PARIS

LIBERATION of PARIS (Illustration) Famous Historical Events Famous People Geography History Law and Politics Social Studies World History World War II Film

Announcing that Hitler’s forces were ousted from Paris, De Gaulle said: “Paris violated … Paris martyred … but Paris liberated.”  This photo depicts jubilant residents of the city, celebrating its return to the French people.  The Bibliothèque nationale de France, which maintains this picture, gives it this description: “26 August 1944 - Paris, France.  Thousands turn out in the Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris to cheer General Charles de Gaulle, the day after the French capital was liberated from the Nazi occupation.”

 

After D-Day, and the Allied landings on the northern French coast, General Eisenhower did not plan a trip to Paris ... at least, not immediately.  His objective was Germany.  But something happened, along the way, to change his mind.

As Allied soldiers advanced through France, people in Paris learned about another Allied landing on the French coast ... this time in the south.  While the French rejoiced, the occupying Germans worried.  Perhaps they should leave the city?

As German troops began to evacuate, Parisians went on strike.  Metro workers, police officers, postal workers and others refused to work.  In four days, their collective actions caused a spontaneous uprising.

Led by the FFI (the underground French Resistance), Parisians attacked their German oppressors.  Barricading streets, and shooting back, they created disruption everywhere.   It was time to contact Eisenhower for assistance.

General de Gaulle, still in charge of the Free French Forces, told the Supreme Allied Commander he would attack Paris himself - without Eisenhower's approval - if Allied troops weren't dispatched.  They were needed to help de Gaulle free Paris from Nazi control. 

Agreeing things had changed, Eisenhower granted de Gaulle's request.  Not only would the French general have a chance to help liberate his capital, he would have American forces fighting at his side.

Hitler, meanwhile, heard the news.  If he couldn't have Paris, he wanted it destroyed, so he ordered his military commander in the occupied city - General Dietrich von Choltitz - to demolish whatever he could. 

Despite misgivings, von Choltitz ordered his troops to mine Parisian bridges and prepare to implement Hitler's directive.  But ... on the 20th of August ... he agreed to a cease-fire with the Resistance.  Sporadic fighting continued, however, until a momentous event happened on the 24th.

General Jacques Leclerc, leading some of de Gaulle's forces, reached the city.  By the next day, more Free French soldiers had arrived.  Despite areas of intense German fighting, the liberators of Paris reached von Choltitz's headquarters.  Without resisting, the erstwhile commander of Paris signed a surrender document. 

Although some German troops refused to give up, leading to pockets of continued fighting, General de Gaulle entered the city on the 26th of August.  After four years, Paris was free.

The war, in Europe, would continue for another eight months - until Hitler (by then an ill man) killed himself on the 30th of April, 1945.  Like Goebbels, he’d order his body to be completely burned so no one could desecrate it. 

But ... also like Goebbels ... there wasn’t enough fuel in the bunker to carry out the Fuhrer’s wishes.  His partially burned body was discovered and, what was left, was removed by the Soviet Army.

Years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, an extraordinary item was produced by the Russian Archives.  Although Hitler’s scalp had long since deteriorated, his skull reportedly remained for all the world to see.

Immediately after the war was over, films were made about Nazis on the loose.  One of the most famous was "The Stranger," starring Orson Welles.  As a former Nazi killer, prepared to kill again - to protect his new identity - the lead character presaged the actions of real-life escaped Nazis.  

Efforts to bring such killers to justice continued throughout the rest of the 20th century.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2009

Updated Last Revision: Apr 23, 2015


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