Monday, August 25, 2014

Liberation of Paris, 25 August 1944

Exactly 70 years ago, on 25 August 1944, General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque arrived in Paris at the head of tanks of his celebrated armored division known as the 2nd DB. Dietrich von Choltitz, the German military governor of Paris, received a furious phone call from Hitler, who screamed out "Brennt Paris?" Is Paris burning? No, the city was not burning, thanks in part to the tergiversations of von Choltitz, who finally signed a capitulation document at the Hôtel Meurice.

Paris was liberated!

Before the end of the day, Charles de Gaulle had arrived at the Hôtel de Ville, where he delivered a short declaration that would go down in French history as one of the nation's greatest moments.




POST SCRIPTUM
The liberation of Paris in August 1944 was a considerably more complicated affair than what we might imagine today in viewing these videos. There was much bloodshed and injustice. Many self-proclaimed résistants were in fact recent Nazi collaborators. One detail needs to be clarified. The Nazi von Choltitz (who had annihilated many cities in a "scorched earth" style) must never be thought of as a hero whose deep respect for Paris saved the city from destruction. Bullshit! If von Choltitz refrained from destroying Paris, this was surely because he realized that the tide was turning, and that there was no sense in committing a crime that would have culminated inevitably and rapidly in his capture and execution. In other words, the ugly Nazi bugger "saved" Paris with a view to saving his own evil skin.

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