Anniversary of Battle of Paris

Seventy years ago today, the first shots were fired in the battle that would lead to the liberation of the French capital

18 August 2014

SEVENTY years ago today, the Battle of Paris, which would lead to the capital’s liberation on August 25, 1944, began.

The battle for the capital broke out at the end of a general strike, which had started four days earlier when 2,600 political prisoners were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

Metro workers, the police and gendarmerie were the first to walk out. Postal workers joined the strike the following day.

By August 18, most of the city’s workforce was on strike. With Allied forces advancing across France, the French Forces of the Interior (FFI), an army of Resistance fighters, called for residents to mobilise.

A day later, columns of Nazi tanks, half-tracks, trucks towing trailers, and cars loaded with troops and material moved down the Champs Élysées, as rumours of an Allied march on Paris grew.

In reality, General Eisenhower believed that an attack on the French capital would be premature. It was not until Free French Army General Leclerc disobeyed a direct order on August 24 that Allied troops started entering the city with the promise that more would arrive the following day.

But the rumours were enough. On August 19, the first skirmishes between French freedom fighters and Nazi soldiers began near police headquarters; citizens took to the streets, and FFI members pasted propaganda posters calling again for citizens to mobilise.

Today is also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Toulouse, though fighting in the city continued into August 20.

As the Nazi occupiers withdrew, they torched key buildings, including the German Consulate and Gestapo headquarters, general stores, several telephone exchanges and the main post office.

See also: Archive film of the Liberation of Paris, made by Le Comite de Liberation du Cinema Francais

Photo: Le Comite de Liberation du Cinema Francais / Wikipedia Commons

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