AP

Paris celebrates its liberation from Nazis, 75 years ago

Aug 25, 2019, 12:16 PM | Updated: 12:18 pm
FILE - In this Aug. 29, 1944 file photo, U.S. soldiers of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division mar...
FILE - In this Aug. 29, 1944 file photo, U.S. soldiers of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division march along the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe in the background, four days after the liberation of Paris, France. The fighting for the liberation of Paris took place from August 19 to August 25, 1944. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll, File)
(AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll, File)

PARIS (AP) — Paris celebrated the American soldiers, French Resistance fighters and others who liberated the City of Light from Nazi occupation exactly 75 years ago on Sunday, unleashing an eruption of kissing, dancing, tears and gratitude.

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.

Dozens of World War II-era jeeps, armored vehicles, motorcycles and trucks and people dressed in wartime uniforms and dresses paraded through southern Paris, retracing the entry of French and U.S. tanks into the city on Aug. 25, 1944 .

Among those watching the parade was Roger Acher, 96, one of the few surviving veterans, who entered Paris with Gen. Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque’s 2nd armored division around dawn that day. Fighting was fierce as they moved toward the city, he recalled. “I almost got killed.”

A Dixieland band standing on an army truck played at the end of the parade, which wrapped up at the site of a new museum about the liberation and the French Resistance .

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

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.

After invading in 1940, the Nazi hierarchy ensconced themselves in Paris’ luxury hotels, and hobnobbed at theaters and fine restaurants. Collaborationist militias kept order, and French police were complicit in the most dastardly act of the Occupation: the 1942 roundup of around 13,000 Jews at the Vel d’Hiv bicycle stadium before their eventual deportation to the Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland.

The Parisians who weren’t deported or didn’t flee used ration tickets to eat, wooden soles on shoes to replace scarce leather and sometimes curtains for clothes. The black market thrived.

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. Resistance member Madeleine Riffaud, now 95, described to The Associated Press killing a Nazi soldier on July 23, 1944, on a Paris bridge. Riffaud was spotted as she escaped on her bicycle, then arrested, tortured and jailed before being freed in a prisoner exchange days before the liberation of the city.

Seventy-five years later, she doesn’t take the killing lightly.

“To carry out an action like that isn’t playing with dolls,” she said.

On Aug. 19, 1944, Paris police officers rebelled and took over police headquarters. On the night of Aug. 24, the first Allied troops entered southern Paris. The grand entrance of Gen. Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division followed by Allied forces would come the following day.

The German military governor of Paris, Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, 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 U.S. World War II veterans is back in Paris for Sunday’s events. They described to the AP their memories, some brought to tears by the horrors of the Nazi regime.

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. Something good had changed, the world was gonna get a little better.”

Images of Parisian women kissing American soldiers on liberation day have imprinted themselves on later generations.

AP reporter Don Whitehead, who was in Paris on Aug. 25, 1944, described both the exaltation and the violence that punctuated the day.

“When the last enemy resistance crumbled at the gate to Paris, then this heart of France went mad … Men and women cried with joy. They grabbed the arms and hands of soldiers and cheered until their voices were hoarse. When the column stopped I was smothered, but pleasantly, with soft arms and lips giving not one kiss but the usual French double one,” he continued.

“One old man came up, saluted, and said with tears in his eyes: ‘God bless America. You have saved France.'”
___
Deborah Gouffran contributed to this report.
___
For more AP coverage of World War II: https://www.apnews.com/WorldWarII

Today’s Top Stories

AP

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
17 hours ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
3 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
4 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
5 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
5 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Paris celebrates its liberation from Nazis, 75 years ago