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On this day in 1944 Paris was liberated intact after German general Dietrich von Cholitz disobeyed Hitler’s order to destroy it. Following the success of the D day landings, it was not long before Paris was liberated.
The truly miraculous thing was the way that this happened without the destruction of the city that many had feared. In fact neither the Allies nor the Germans saw Paris as being of particular strategic importance but to the French, its liberation was a huge emotional boost. Although there was fighting in the city between the outgoing Germans and the Free French Resistance fighters, this was relatively small scale, partly because the French had virtually no heavy weapons at their disposal.
By the end of the summer the fighting had moved Eastwards as the Allies raced towards Berlin and France was free again. A day later, General Charles De Gaulle, leader of the Free French Army, walked down the Champs-Élysées to be greeted by rapturous crowds singing the Marseillaise. It was one of the great moments in the liberation of Europe.
Here is part of that amazing anthem, written by army officer Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle at the height of the French Revolution in 1792:
Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’etendard sanglant est levé! (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes,
Refrain: Aux armes, citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!
Today I give thanks for France and the French people.