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Parisians mark liberation of city

Dance outside Hotel de Ville will relive celebrations of August 25, 1944, when 2nd Armoured Division entered capital

PARISIANS will tonight dance in the square outside the Hotel de Ville to mark the 70th anniversary of the capital’s liberation.

The partygoers, who will be reliving the spontaneous dancing that greeted troops of the French 2nd Armoured Division when they entered Paris on August 25, 1944, will be joined by President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, and a host of dignitaries.

The event at the Hotel de Ville will mark the end of a busy day of commemorations for Mr Hollande.

He was due to visit Île de Sein, off Pointe du Raz, Brittany, this morning to remember the heroism of the people there, who refused to recognise the Armistice of June 1940.

A total 128 men of military age instead answered General de Gaulle’s call to continue fighting the Nazis. Mr Hollande was due to attend a ceremony at the small island’s Resistance Monument, followed by lunch with veterans and elected officials.

At 8pm, he will unveil a plaque at police headquarters in Paris, where the popular uprising against occupying Nazi forces began 10 days earlier.

He will then attend the ceremony on a steps of City Hall, which will include archive images tracing major events in the Second World War in France up to the Liberation of Paris being projected onto the building’s walls, before the dancing begins.

It was on the steps of the Hotel de Ville that General Charles de Gaulle told a jubilant crowd that Paris had “stood up to liberate itself”.

In his speech, which famously made little mention of the role of Allied Forces, including the 4th US Infantry that marched into the capital alongside the French 2nd Armoured Division, General de Gaulle said: “Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the help of the armies of France, with the help and support of the whole of France, of the France that fights, of the only France, of the true France, of the eternal France!”

The ball is the conclusion of a week of events marking the 70th anniversary of liberation. They began on August 19, the day the Battle of Paris started, when Mr Valls honoured the “sacrifice” of the police at headquarters.

In 1944, their walkout on August 15 marked the start of the popular uprising in the capital in which 1,600 civilians were killed in the 10-day uprising before troops entered the city.

The commemorations have focused heavily on the bravery of French civilians during the uprising, though a joined parade by French and American forces on Saturday marked the entry into the capital of the French 2nd Armoured Division and the 4th US Infantry Division.

Yesterday, Ms Hidalgo and Secretary of State for Veterans Kader Arif also paid tribute to the Spanish fighters of “Nueve”, the vanguard of the 2nd Armoured Division who were among the first to reach City Hall, on August 24, 1944.

Tonight’s commemoration event outside the Hotel de Ville in Paris will be broadcast on France 3 from 8.45pm.

Photo: Ministry of Information - Imperial War Museum Collection / Wikimedia Commons

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