The Liberation of Paris in World War II
It was in the middle of World War II in 1942 that General de Gaulle stated that there could not be a liberation of France without a national uprising, and by 1943 he had placed General Philippe Leclerc in charge of setting up and training the 2nd Armoured Division in the UK, and at the end of 1943, this division was chosen for the liberation of Paris.
Having been transferred to England in the April of 1944 so that this division could complete their training, then later when the Normandy landings commenced in the June of the same year, it only but strengthened the hopes for liberation, which was just before the Free France forces and the 2nd Armoured Division were mobilised and landed in France at the start of August 1944.
Also, strikes were organised by the Parisian Liberation Committee to immobilise the city of Paris and these commenced on the 10th August 1944, and by the 18th August under the orders of Colonel Rol-Tanguy who was a member of the French Resistance, the people of Paris had risen up in revolt with acts of sabotage against the occupying forces.
But despite some last ditch attempts by the German Commander, called General Von Cholitz, to maintain control of Paris, August was the defining point for the fall of occupying forces in Paris.
General Leclerc with the 2nd Armoured Division
And it was on the 25th August 1944 that General Leclerc with the 2nd Armoured Division advanced on the city from the north via Versailles and from the south where they entered Paris, along with the support of American forces of the 4th US Infantry Division. They were greeted by cheers from the Parisians and from the French Resistance who had been fighting the German army since mid August and this combined effort of the allies shattered the German forces.
General Leclerc then set up his headquarters in the Montparnasse area of Paris and upon taking back over the Hotel Meurice with his forces, they took General Dietrich Von Cholitz prisoner and being held captive at the Police Headquarters, General Leclerc managed to force the German Commander into signing a declaration of surrender and on this document you will also see the signature of Colonel Rol-Tanguy, which demonstrates the part that the French Resistance also played in the liberation of Paris.
But if General Dietrich Von Cholitz had carried out the orders of Hitler by destroying all the bridges in Paris and other major monuments, then maybe the outcome would have been very different, but he was subsequently taken to the headquarters of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque located in Montparnasse area. It was here that the German Commander was forced to sign around twenty different ceasefire orders, so that there would be a cessation of hostilities in the few remaining enemy strongholds.
And despite the desperate attempts from isolated snipers of the enemy army, the German army lost control of the capital and gradually all the enemy forces withdraw, yet it was the very same day that General de Gaulle arrived back in Paris, after having been in exile in London since 1940.
Conducted at the Paris City Hall, called the Hotel de Ville, General de Gaulle, who was the leader of the Free French movement, made his historical speech for the Liberation of Paris that was broadcast to the people by radio.
He also organised the military parade for the following day which would start from the Arc de Triomphe and go down the Avenue des Champs Elysees on towards the incredible Notre Dame Cathedral, and General de Gaulle was accompanied by General Koenig and General Leclerc, along with many other military personnel.
And in fact, there is a museum in Paris located in the Montmartre area that is dedicated to the history of World War II in Paris, where you can listen to and see archive material of this defining time of the Liberation of Paris.
Also, at the same location, there is also the Memorial Marachel Leclerc de Hauteclocque where you can discover more about this military general which is along side the Musee Jean Moulin, which is dedicated to the French Resistance fighter Jean Moulin.