From D-Day beaches to the Champs-Elysees
Paris (AFP) –
It took less than three months of fighting from the Allied troop landings on France's Normandy beaches for Paris to be liberated from the Nazis, whose surrender in 1945 ended World War II in Europe.
Here is a timeline:
- June 6, 1944: About 156,000 US, British and Canadian troops invade Nazi-occupied northern France on D-Day, a turning point in the war that started nearly five years earlier.
- June 14: Leader of the free French forces, Charles de Gaulle, returns to France and makes his first speech on liberated territory.
- July 20: Nazi leader Adolf Hitler narrowly escapes an assassination attempt at Rastenburg, his headquarters in East Prussia.
- August 15: About 450,000 more Allied troops invade southern France, pushing the exhausted Nazi army back towards Germany.
- August 17: The last group of Jews is sent from the Drancy camp outside Paris to Nazi death camps.
- August 19: An uprising starts in Paris, with police joining Resistance fighters and striking city workers in opposing Nazi rule.
- August 20: The leader of France's collaborationist Vichy regime, Marshal Philippe Petain, leaves Vichy under German escort for eastern France.
The Germans pack up and leave, and the Gestapo secret police burns its files on a Paris street.
Journalists take over the Vichy information office, the former headquarters of the Havas agency. Agence France-Presse (AFP) publishes its first report. Underground newspapers backed by the Resistance appear on newsstands.
- August 22: Barricades go up across Paris. Fighting intensifies. The Resistance extends its control over whole neighbourhoods and takes the city hall.
Omar Bradley, the US army field commander who led the troops that landed in Normandy, gives French commander General Philippe Leclerc the green light to move on Paris.
- August 25: Leclerc makes a triumphant entry into the capital at the head of the 2nd Armoured Division, flanked by Resistance fighters on bicycles.
The German commander in Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, surrenders at 3:30 pm.
In a speech at the Paris city hall, De Gaulle says: "Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated!".
The 16,000 Nazi troops in the city, facing an overwhelmingly superior Allied force, surrender without razing the capital as Hitler had ordered.
- August 26: De Gaulle marches in victory along the Champs-Elysees and attends a mass at Notre-Dame cathedral to give thanks for the city's liberation.
After the Soviet army overruns Berlin and Hitler commits suicide, Germany surrenders on May 8, 1945, bringing an end to World War II in Europe.
© 2019 AFP