Liberation of Paris
The Liberation of Paris (also known as the Battle for Paris) took place during World War II and lasted from August 19, 1944, until the occupying German garrison surrendered on August 25, 1944. The Liberation of Paris started with an uprising by the French Resistance against the German garrison. On August 24, the French Forces of the Interior (Forces françaises de l'intérieur, FFI) received reinforcements from the Free French Army of Liberation and from the U.S. Third Army under General Patton.
Paris, the capital city of France, had been governed by Nazi Germany since the signing of the Second Compiègne Armistice on June 22, 1940, when the German Army occupied northern and western France and the puppet regime of Vichy France was established in the town of Vichy in central France. This was called the Military Administration in France.
This battle marked the liberation of Paris and the exile of the Vichy government to Sigmaringen in Germany. However there was still much heavy fighting before France was liberated, including the campaign in southern France during August–September (in Provence and extending into the southwestern region of the Vosges Mountains), along the German-held seaports of western France (such as at Brest and Dunkirk), in Alsace and Lorraine in eastern France, and in northeastern France, such as along the Rhine and Moder Rivers. The German Army and SS fought doggedly in these areas for the remainder of 1944 and into 1945.
- 1 Background
- 2 Events timeline
- 3 Aftermath
- 4 La Libération de Paris
- 5 Filmography
- 6 Liberation of Paris notables
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Template:Further Allied strategy emphasized destroying German forces retreating towards the Rhine, when the French Resistance(French Forces of the Interior), lead by Henri Rol-Tanguy, staged an uprising in the French capital.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Western Europe, did not consider Paris to be a primary objective. Instead the U.S. Army and the British Army hoped to make it all the way to Berlin before the Soviet Army and put an end to World War II in Europe. This would have allowed the allies to concentrate all their efforts on the Pacific.
General Eisenhower maintained that it was too early for an assault on Paris. Eisenhower was aware that Adolf Hitler had given the order to completely destroyed Paris should the allies attack. General Eisenhower was keen to avoid a drawn out battle of attrition like the Battle of Stalingrad or the Battle of Leningrad. Paris was considered to have too great a value, culturally and historically, to risk its destruction. In the event of a siege, it was estimated that Template:Convert of food per day would be required to supply the population of Paris. Significant amounts of building materials, manpower, and engineers would also be required after the liberation of Paris (to restore basic utilities and transportation systems), all of which where desperately needed for the war effort.
General Charles de Gaulle of the partially resurrected French Army threatened to order the French 2nd Armored Division (2ème DB) into Paris.
Paris was the prize in a contest for power within the French Resistance. The city was the hub of national administration and politics, the center of the railroad system and the highway system of Central France. The main aim of the Resistance was to expel the Germans from France and to bring men of conflicting philosophies, interests, and political persuasions together. De Gaulle had organized the Free French Army outside of France to support his provisional government, but inside France, a large and vociferous contingent of the left wing (politically) challenged de Gaulle's leadership.
On 24 August, delayed by poor decision-making,Template:Citation needed combat and poor roads, the Free French General Leclerc, commander of the 2nd Armored Division disobeyed his directly superior American field commander Major General Leonard T. Gerow, and sent a vanguard (the colonne Dronne) to Paris with the message that the entire division would be there on the following day. The 9th Armored Company, composed mainly of veterans of the Spanish Civil War, equipped with American M4 Sherman tanks, M2 half-tracks, and General Motors Company trucks from the United States was commanded by Captain Raymond Dronne. He became one of the first uniformed Allied officers to enter Paris in 1944.
As late as August 11, nine French Jews were arrested by the French police in Paris. On August 16, collaboration newspapers were still published and, although food was in short supply, sidewalk cafés were crowded.
In contrast, by August 18, more than half the railroad workers were on strike and the city was at a standstill. Virtually all the policemen had disappeared from the streets. Several anti-German demonstrations took place and armed Resistance members appeared openly. The German reaction was less than forthright prompting small local Resistance groups, without central direction or discipline to take possession of police stations, town halls, national ministries, newspaper buildings, and the Hôtel de Ville on August 19.Template:Citation needed
There were about 20,000 Resistance members in Paris, but few were armed. Nevertheless, they destroyed road signs, punctured the tires of German vehicles, cut communication lines, bombed gasoline depots, and attacked isolated pockets of German soldiers. But being inadequately armed, members of the Resistance feared open warfare. To avoid it Resistance leaders persuaded Raoul Nordling, the Swedish consul-general in Paris, to negotiate with the German military governor of Groß-Paris and the commander of the Paris garrison, General Dietrich von Choltitz. On the evening of August 19, the two men arranged a truce, at first for a few hours; it was then extended indefinitely.Template:Citation needed
The arrangement was somewhat nebulous. Choltitz agreed to recognize certain parts of Paris as belonging to the Resistance. The Resistance, meanwhile, consented to leave particular areas of Paris free to German troops. But no boundaries were drawn, and neither the Germans nor the French were clear about their respective areas. The armistice expired on the 24th.
General strike (August 15-19, 1944)
On August 15, in Pantin (the northeastern suburb of Paris from which the Germans had entered the capital in June 1940), 2,200 men and 400 women – all political prisoners – were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp on the last convoy to Germany.<ref name="pantin1"> (PDF format; requires Adobe Reader). Pantin official website.</ref><ref name="pantin2"> (PDF format; requires Adobe Reader). Pantin official website.</ref>
That same day, the employees of the Paris Métro, the Gendarmerie and police went on strike, followed by postal workers on August 16. They were joined by workers across the city causing a general strike to break out on 18 August, the day on which all Parisians were ordered to mobilize by the French Forces of the Interior.Template:Citation needed
On August 16, 35 young FFI members were betrayed by an agent of the Gestapo. They went to a rendezvous in the Bois de Boulogne, near the waterfall, and there they were executed by the Germans. They were machine gunned down and then finished off with hand grenades.
On 17 August, concerned that explosives were being placed at strategic points around the city by the Germans, Pierre Taittinger, the chairman of the municipal council, met Choltitz. On being told that Choltitz intended to slow the Allied advance as much as possible, Taittinger and Nordling attempted to persuade Choltitz not to destroy Paris.<ref name="arte1">Wird Paris vernichtet? (Will Paris Be Destroyed?) (in German). A documentary by Michael Busse and Maria-Rosa Bobbi. Arte/WDR/France 3/TSR. August 2004.</ref>
FFI uprising (19–23 August 1944)
On August 19, columns of German tanks, half-tracks and trucks towing trailers and cars loaded with troops and material, moved down the Champs Élysées. The rumor of the Allies' advance toward Paris was growing.Template:Citation needed
The streets were deserted following the German retreat; suddenly the first skirmishes between French irregulars and the German occupiers commenced. Spontaneously, other people went out into the streets, some FFI members posted propaganda posters on walls. These posters focused on a general mobilization order, arguing that "the war continues", and calling on the Parisian police, the Republican Guard, the Gendarmerie, the Gardes Mobiles, the G.M.R. (Groupe Mobile de Réserve, the police units replacing the army), the gaolkeepers, the patriotic French, "all men from 18 to 50 able to carry a weapon" to join "the struggle against the invader". Other posters were assuring "victory is near" and a "chastisement for the traitors", i.e., the Vichy loyalists. The posters were signed by the "Parisian Committee of the Liberation" in agreement with the Provisional Government of the French Republic and under the orders of "Regional Chief Colonel Rol", Henri Rol-Tanguy, commander of the French Forces of the Interior in the Île de France region.
As the battle raged, some small mobile units of the Red Cross moved in the city to assist French and German wounded. Later that day, three French résistants were executed by the Germans.Template:Citation needed
That same day in Pantin, a barge filled with mines exploded and destroyed the Great Windmills.<ref name="pantin2"/>
On August 20, barricades began to appear and Resistance organized themselves to sustain a siege. Trucks were positioned, trees cut down and trenches dug in the pavement to free paving stones for consolidating the barricades. These materials were transported by men, women, children and old people using wooden carts. Fuel trucks were attacked and captured, other civilian vehicles like the Citroën Traction Avant sedan captured, painted with camouflage and marked with the FFI emblem. The Resistance would use them to transport ammunition and orders from one barricade to another.Template:Citation needed
Fort de Romainville, a Nazi prison in the outskirts of Paris, was liberated. From October 1940, the Fort held only female prisoners (resistants and hostages), who were jailed, executed or redirected to the camps. At liberation in August 1944, many abandoned corpses were found in the Fort's yard.Template:Citation needed
A temporary ceasefire between von Choltitz and a part of the French Resistance was brokered by Raoul Nordling, the Swedish consul-general in Paris. Both sides needed time; the Germans wanted to strengthen their weak garrison with front-line troops, Resistance leaders wanted to strengthen their positions in anticipation of a battle (the resistance lacked ammunition for any prolonged fight).Template:Citation needed
The German garrison held most of the main monuments and some strongpoints, the Resistance most of the city. The Germans lacked numbers to go on the offensive, the Resistance lacked heavy weapons to attack these strongpoints.Template:Citation needed
Skirmishes reached their height of intensity on the 22nd when some German units tried to leave their strongpoints. At 09:00 on August 23, under von Choltitz' orders, the Germans set fire to the Grand Palais, an FFI stronghold, and tanks fired at the barricades in the streets. Hitler gave the order to inflict maximum damage on the city.
It is estimated that between 800 and 1,000 resistance fighters were killed during the battle for Paris, another 1,500 were wounded.
Entrance of the 2nd Armored Division and 4th US Infantry division (24–25 August)
Template:Further On the following morning, an enormous crowd of joyous Parisians welcomed the arrival of the 2nd French Armored Division, which swept the western part of Paris, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées, while the Americans cleared the eastern part.
By this time resistance groups were bringing long hidden Allied airmen and other allied troops out of semi-hiding (in suburban towns such as Montlhéry) and into central Paris where they witnessed the ragged end of the capital's occupation, de Gaulle's triumphal, if late, arrival and claim of "One France" liberated by the Free French and resistance.
In the meantime German resistance had evaporated during the previous night. Two thousand men remained in the Bois de Boulogne, 700 more were in the Jardin du Luxembourg. But most had fled or simply awaited capture.
The battle had cost the Free French 2nd Armored Division 71 killed, 225 wounded, 35 tanks, six self-propelled guns, and 111 vehicles, "a rather high ratio of losses for an armoured division" according to historian Jacques Mordal.<ref name="historylearningsite1">Mordal, Jacques (1964). La Bataille de France 1944–1945. Arthaud.</ref>
Due to American and British pressure for a white-only liberation force, black French troops were excluded from the triumphal return to Paris on the 25th.
German surrender (25 August)
Despite repeated orders from Adolf Hitler that the French capital "must not fall into the enemy's hand except lying in complete debris" to be accomplished by bombing it and blowing up its bridges, von Choltitz, as commander of the German garrison and military governor of Paris, surrendered on 25 August at the Hôtel Meurice, the newly established headquarters of General Leclerc. Von Choltitz was kept prisoner until April 1947. In his memoir ... Brennt Paris? ("Is Paris Burning?"), first published in 1950, von Choltitz describes himself as the saviour of Paris.
There is controversy about von Choltitz's actual role during the battle, since he is regarded in very different ways in France and Germany. In Germany, he is regarded as a humanist and a hero who saved Paris from urban warfare and destruction. In 1964, Dietrich von Choltitz explained in an interview taped in his Baden Baden home, why he had refused to obey Hitler: "If for the first time I had disobeyed, it was because I knew that Hitler was insane" ("Si pour la première fois j'ai désobéi, c'est parce que je savais qu'Hitler était fou"). According to a 2004 interview which his son Timo gave to the French public channel France 2, von Choltitz disobeyed Hitler and personally allowed the Allies to take the city safely and rapidly, preventing the French Resistance from engaging in urban warfare that would have destroyed parts of the city. He knew the war was lost and decided alone to save the capital.<ref name="ref1">Template:Cite web</ref>
However, in France this version is seen as a "falsification of history" since von Choltitz is regarded as a Nazi officer faithful to Hitler. He was involved in many controversial actions:
- In 1940 and 1941, he gave the orders to burn Rotterdam and destroy Sevastopol.<ref name="ref1"/>
During the battle for Paris, he:
- ordered the execution of thirty-five members of the Résistance at the Bois de Boulogne waterfall on 16 August.<ref name="ref1"/>
- ordered the destruction of the Pantin great windmills on 19 August (in order to starve the population).<ref name="ref1"/>
- ordered the burning of the Grand Palais on 23 August, occupied by the FFI.<ref name="ref1"/>
In a 2004 interview, Resistance veteran Maurice Kriegel-Valrimont described von Choltitz as a man who "for as long as he could, killed French people and, when he ceased to kill them, it was because he was not able to do so any longer". Kriegel-Valrimont argues "not only do we owe him nothing, but this a shameless falsification of History, to award him any merit."<ref name="ref1"/> The Libération de Paris documentary film secretly shot during the battle by the Résistance brings evidence of bitter urban warfare that contradicts the von Choltitz father and son version. Despite this, the Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre novel Is Paris Burning? and its film adaptation of the same name (1966) emphasize von Choltitz as the saviour of the city.
A third source, the transcripts of telephone conversations between von Choltitz and his superiors, found later in the Fribourg archives and their analysis by German historians, support Kriegel-Valrimont's theory.<ref name="arte1"/>
Also, Pierre Taittinger and Raoul Nordling both claim it was they who convinced von Choltitz not to destroy Paris as ordered by Hitler.<ref name="arte1"/> The first published a book in 1984 describing this episode, ...et Paris ne fut pas détruit (... and Paris Was Not Destroyed), which earned him a prize from the Académie Française.Template:Citation needed
German losses are estimated at about 3,200 killed and 12,800 prisoners of war.Template:Citation needed
De Gaulle's speech (25 August)
On the same day, Charles de Gaulle, president of the Provisional Government of the French Republic moved back into the War Ministry on the Rue Saint-Dominique. He then made a rousing speech to the crowd from the Hôtel de Ville.
Victory parades (26 and 29 August)
The speech was followed a day later by a victory parade down the Champs-Élysées when some German snipers were still active. According to a famous anecdote, while de Gaulle was marching down the Champs Élysées and entered the Place de la Concorde, snipers in the Hôtel de Crillon area shot at the crowd.
A combined Franco-American military parade was organised on the 29th after the arrival of the U.S. Army's 28th Infantry Division. Joyous crowds greeted the Armée de la Libération and the Americans as liberators, as their vehicles drove down the city streets.
French historiography, followed by most historians had always avoided addressing the issue of participation of exiled Spanish republican refugees from the Spanish Civil War, until in 2004 the City of Paris paid public homage to such participation, including the placement of a plaque in their memory. The board is on a wall along the river Seine at the Quai Henri IV, and was inaugurated on August 24, 2004 by Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of Paris, in the presence of Javier Rojo, President of the Senate of Spain and a delegation Spanish politicians who later paid tribute to the Spanish survivors of the Liberation of Paris. Also named a path of liberation with the path followed by the Nine.
He was also featured the presence of Spanish Republicans in the Resistance in Paris. Charles Tillon, tough Parisian who was later a prominent politician and Minister of France, the Spanish estimated at around 4,000.
From the French point of view, the liberation of Paris by the French themselves rather than by the Allies saved France from a new constitution being imposed by the Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories (AMGOT) like those established in Germany and Japan in 1945.<ref name="charles1">Template:Dead link 1944–1946 : La Libération (in French). Charles de Gaulle foundation official website.</ref>
The AMGOT administration for France was planned by the American Chief of Staff, but de Gaulle's opposition to Eisenhower's strategy, namely moving to the east as soon as possible, passing Paris by in order to reach Berlin before Joseph Stalin's Red Army, led to the 2nd Armored Division's breakout toward Paris and the liberation of the French capital.<ref name="charles1"/> An indication of the French AMGOT's high status was the new French currency, called "Flag Money" (monnaie drapeau), for it featured the French flag on its back. The notes had been printed in the United States and were distributed as a replacement for Vichy currency which had been used until June 1944, up to and including the successful Operation Overlord in Normandy. However, after the liberation of Paris, this short-lived currency was forbidden by GPRF President Charles de Gaulle, who claimed the US dollar standard notes were fakes.
Template:Further Another important factor was the popular uprising in Paris, which allowed the Parisians to liberate themselves from the Germans and gave the newly established Free French government and its president Charles de Gaulle enough prestige and authority to establish the Provisional Government of the French Republic. This replaced the fallen Vichy State (1940–1944) and united the politically divided French Resistance, drawing Gaullists, nationalists, communists and anarchists, into a new "national unanimity" government established on 9 September 1944.<ref name="charles1"/>
In his speech, de Gaulle insisted on the role played by the French and on the necessity for the French people to do their "duty of war" in the Allies' last campaigns to complete the liberation of France and to advance into the Benelux countries and Germany. De Gaulle wanted France to be among "the victors" in order to evade the AMGOT threat. Two days later, on 28 August, the FFI, called "the combatants without uniform", were incorporated in the New French Army (nouvelle armée française) which was fully equipped with U.S. equipment (such as uniforms, helmets, weapons and vehicles), and still used until after the Algerian War in the 1960s.
World War II victor
A point of strong disagreement between de Gaulle and the Big Three (Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill), was that the President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF), established on 3 June 1944, was not recognized as the legitimate representative of France. Even though de Gaulle had been recognized as the leader of Free France by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill back in 28 June 1940, his GPRF presidency had not resulted from democratic elections. However, two months after the liberation of Paris and one month after the new "unanimity government", the Big Three recognized the GPRF on 23 October 1944.
In his liberation of Paris speech, de Gaulle argued "It will not be enough that, with the help of our dear and admirable Allies, we have got rid of him [the Germans] from our home for us to be satisfied after what happened. We want to enter his territory as it should be, as victors", clearly showing his ambition that France be considered one of the World War II victors just like the Big Three. This perspective was not shared by the western Allies, as was demonstrated in the German Instrument of Surrender's First Act. The French occupation zones in Germany and in West Berlin cemented this ambition, leading to some frustration on the part of other European nations, which became part of the deeper Western betrayal sentiment.Template:Citation needed This sentiment was felt by other European Allies, especially Poland, whose proposition that they be part of the occupation of Germany was rejected by the Soviets; the latter taking the view that they had liberated the Poles from the Nazis which thus put them under the influence of the USSR.
Template:Further Several alleged Vichy loyalists involved in the Milice (a paramilitary militia) — which was established by Sturmbannführer Joseph Darnand who hunted the Resistance with the Gestapo — were made prisoners in a post-liberation purge known as the Épuration légale (Legal purge). Some were executed without trial. Women accused of "horizontal collaboration" because of alleged sexual relationships with Germans during the occupation were arrested and had their heads shaved, were publicly exhibited and some were allowed to be mauled by mobs.
On 17 August, Pierre Laval was taken to Belfort by the Germans. On 20 August, under German military escort, Marshal Philippe Pétain was forcibly moved to Belfort, and on 7 September to Sigmaringen, a French enclave in Germany, where 1,000 of his followers (including Louis-Ferdinand Céline) joined him. There they established the government of Sigmaringen, challenging the legitimacy of de Gaulle's Provisional Government of the French Republic. As a sign of protest over his forced move, Pétain refused to take office, and was eventually replaced by Fernand de Brinon. The Vichy government in exile ended in April 1945.
"Yesterday Strasbourg, tomorrow Saigon..."
Leclerc, whose 2nd Armored Division was held in high regard by the French people, led the Far East Expeditionary Forces (FEFEO) that sailed to French Indochina then occupied by the Japanese in 1945.
FEFEO recruiting posters depicted a Sherman tank painted with the cross of Lorraine with the caption "Yesterday Strasbourg, tomorrow Saigon, join in!" as a reference to the liberation of Paris by Leclerc's armored division and the role this formation subsequently played in the liberation of Strasbourg. The war effort for the liberation of French Indochina through the FEFEO was presented as propaganda by the continuation of the liberation of France and part of the same "duty of war".
While Vichy France collaborated with Japan in French Indochina after the 1940 invasion and later established a Japanese embassy in Sigmaringen,<ref name="arte2">Template:Dead link Die Finsternis (The Darkness). Thomas Tielsch. Filmtank Hamburg/ZDF. 2005.</ref> de Gaulle had declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor and created local anti-Japanese resistance units called Corps Léger d'Intervention (CLI) in 1943. On 2 September 1945, General Leclerc signed the armistice with Japan on behalf of the Provisional Government of the French Republic on board the U.S. battleship Template:USS.
The 60th anniversary in 2004 was notable for two military parades reminiscent of the 26 and 29 August 1944 parades and featuring armoured vehicles from the era. One parade represented the French, one the Americans, while people danced in the streets to live music outside the Hôtel de Ville.
Homage to the liberation martyrs
On 16 May 2007, following his election as President of the Fifth French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy organized an homage to the 35 French Resistance martyrs executed by the Germans on 16 August 1944 during the liberation. French historian Max Gallo narrated the events that occurred in the Bois de Boulogne woods, and a Parisian schoolgirl read young French resistant Guy Môquet's (17) final letter. During his speech, Sarkozy announced this letter would now be read in all French schools to remember the resistance spirit. Following the speech, the chorale of the French Republican Guard closed the homage ceremony by singing the French Resistance's anthem Le Chant des Partisans ("the partisans' song"). Following this occasion, the new President traveled to Berlin to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel as a symbol of the Franco-German reconciliation.
La Libération de Paris
La Libération de Paris ("the liberation of Paris"), whose original title was l'insurrection Nationale inséparable de la Libération Nationale ("the national insurrection inseparable from the national liberation"), was a short documentary film secretly shot over 16–27 August by the French Resistance. It was released in French theatres on 1 September.
- La Libération de Paris (1944)
- Is Paris Burning? (1966)
Liberation of Paris notables
- Georges Bidault — CNR
- Jacques Chaban-Delmas
- Marguerite Duras
- Léo Hamon — CPL
- Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux — CPL
- Alexandre Parodi — CNR
- Edgar Pisani — CNR
- Henri Rol-Tanguy — FFI (FTP)
- Pierre Villon — FFI (COMAC)
2nd Armored Division
- Pierre Billotte
- Claude Dauphin
- Louis Dio
- Raymond Dronne
- Jean Gabin
- Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque
- Jean Marais
- Jean Nohain
- Charles de Gaulle
- Pierre-Marie Koenig
- Dietrich von Choltitz — governor of Paris
- Josephine Baker — Red Cross
- Ernest Hemingway — American war correspondent
- Raoul Nordling — French–German mediator
- Pierre Taittinger — French–German mediator
- Anthony Faramus
- Camp Gurs
- Camp de Rivesaltes
- Concentration camps in France
- Drancy internment camp
- Fort de Romainville
- Mémorial du maréchal Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libération de Paris
- Military history of France during World War II
- Warsaw Uprising
- Liberation of Paris - Official French website (in English)
- Battle for Paris: August 16–26, Documentary shot by the French Resistance, 1 September 1944
- De Gaulle's speech from the Hôtel de Ville – Charles de Gaulle foundation
- De Gaulle's speech in retrospect – BBC News
- Paris Liberated: Rare, Unpublished – slideshow by Life
- Primout, Gilles. "19–25 août 1944... La Libération de Paris " (in French) – provides archival documents and a detailed timeline