August 25 – Liberation of Paris

Posted on August 25, 2015

U.S. soldiers during the Liberation of Paris

Wars are horrible, and World War II was certainly one of the most horrible of wars! One of the places Hitler and the Nazis conquered during World War II was France and its capital city, Paris.

Nazi Germany took over France in just six weeks of battles. It was a stunning turn of events – because the French army was considered one of the best in all of Europe.

After the Nazi takeover, almost two million French soldiers became prisoners of war who were sent to Germany to work to be imprisoned and assigned to dangerous or difficult work duty. Some French soldiers escaped to Britain and other places and were able to become the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle.

The Nazis had controlled France for
four long years!
The citizens of France had varied experiences while the Nazis occupied their nation. Some people joined the French Resistance, small groups of armed men and women who helped Allied soldiers and airmen escape the Nazis, who spied on the Nazis, who published underground newspapers to communicate with one another and with the Allied troops, and who took part in guerrilla warfare on Nazi troops.

And sometimes the members of the French Resistance attacked the last category of French people:

The Nazi collaborators!

The Nazi collaborators were French people who who went along with the Nazis in order to save their own skins. The Vichy government ruled the southern half of French, with fascist-like laws, and most French colonies, overseas, were also under Vichy control. Some of these collaborators did horrible things as they went along with the Nazis - the Vichy opened concentration camps in which they imprisoned and mistreated Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others; they sent Jews off to German death camps; they participated in Gestapo raids.

De Gaulle, from his exile in Britain, tried to rally his fellow French citizens to join in resisting the Nazis; later he invaded Northern Africa and took back Algiers, Algeria, where he moved the base of the Free French Forces. At that point, members of the Resistance became the French Forces of the Interior, and the two groups fighting the Nazis inside and outside of France's borders grew from 100,000 to 400,000 to 1,200,000 soldiers!

Finally, on this date in 1944, French General Jacques Leclerc reentered Paris and began to free French civilian prisoners. The Free French Forces started mopping up all the Germans who continued to fight, and some of the French people, when they saw Nazis, attacked them – even the Nazis who had given up and were trudging off to become prisoners of war!

French collaborators were often killed the minute they were captured. Other collaborators faced trials and death sentences or other, lesser, punishments. A few were found guilty of crimes against humanity.

Despite the high death count and the desire for revenge, the Liberation of Paris was a time of great joy!

The Free French Forces and the U.S. Army were both involved -
and both joyfully greeted and celebrated - during the Liberation of Paris.

Also on this date:

Constitution Day in Paraguay

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