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1944: Paris is liberated as Germans surrender

AUDIO : Joy as Germany surrenders occupation of Paris

After four years under German occupation, Paris is now free.

Last night, the French 2nd Armoured Division under General Philippe Leclerc was the first Allied force to enter the city, greeted by loud cheers from Parisians after many days of fighting between the Resistance and the German occupiers.

The new Free French wireless station reported the German commander of the Paris region, General Dietrich von Choltitz, signed a surrender at Montparnasse station in front of General Leclerc and Colonel Rol, commander of the Forces Francaises de l'Interieur (FFI ) in the Paris region.

Colonel Rol praised the Resistance forces that fought the occupying Germans and opened the way for the Allies to enter the capital.

"Once Paris had been liberated everyone tried to make up for lost time."

At 1900 local time, General Charles de Gaulle - leader of the Free French who has been living in exile in London since the Fall of France in 1940 - entered the city.

In a broadcast to the nation from the Hotel de Ville he said: "I wish simply from the bottom of my heart to say to you: Vive Paris!"

"We are here in Paris - Paris which stood erect and rose in order to free herself. Paris oppressed, downtrodden and martyred but still Paris - free now, freed by the hands of Frenchmen, the capital of Fighting France, France the great eternal."

He said the French could now stand up as a great world power and would not rest until the enemy had been defeated on its own territory.

This evening French, American and Senegalese troops marched triumphantly down the Champs Elysee to ecstatic cheers of Parisians, young and old.

But celebrations were brought to a swift halt by sniper fire from German troops and French Fascists.

The battle for Paris is not quite over and tonight, as the French 2nd Armoured Division reached the Porte d'Orleans district in the south of Paris, the FFI are still fighting German soldiers and taking prisoners.

Earlier today, Canadian and British forces joined up with American troops on the left bank of the River Seine south of Rouen.

And on the French coast, Honfleur has been captured by the Allies.

In the south of France, Americans have taken Cannes and Grasse, the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes.

In Context
Once the Allies, under General Dwight D Eisenhower, had landed in France in June, many groups of Parisian workers went on strike as they sensed the Allied approach.

An uprising began on 19 August and young Frenchmen built barricades and shot at German soldiers. Raoul Nordling, the Swedish Consul General to Paris arranged a ceasefire and also persuaded General Choltitz to disobey Hitler's orders to destroy the French capital.

General Eisenhower was reluctant to march on Paris and engage his forces in running street battles, but he finally relented and allowed General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division to enter the city first.

The day after liberation General de Gaulle led a parade down the Champs Elysees with General Leclerc all the way to Notre Dame. He braved sporadic sniper fire inside the cathedral itself from pockets of German resistance that remained.

Colonel Rol's real name was Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, a Communist leader of the Resistance in Paris. His signature appears alongside Leclerc's on the German surrender document to recognise the Resistance's efforts.

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