Paris readies 60th anniversary of Nazi liberation
23 August 2004 , PARIS - Paris owes its miraculous survival in World War II not only to the rapid capitulation of the army protecting it, but also to the German general who ignored Hitler's order to put the French capital to the torch. General Dietrich von Choltitz ignored no fewer than nine direct orders from Hitler to reduce the French capital to ruin and ashes if it was about to be retaken by the French. However, von Choltitz was an art lover and, despite threatening to blow up every public building in
23 August 2004
PARIS - Paris owes its miraculous survival in World War II not only to the rapid capitulation of the army protecting it, but also to the German general who ignored Hitler's order to put the French capital to the torch.
General Dietrich von Choltitz ignored no fewer than nine direct orders from Hitler to reduce the French capital to ruin and ashes if it was about to be retaken by the French.
However, von Choltitz was an art lover and, despite threatening to blow up every public building in the city if the French army entered it, he never gave the order.
As a result, this week's commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Paris can celebrate a city that remained nearly untouched by the ravages of war.
The fete will have a bittersweet atmosphere, since it will no doubt be the last opportunity for many of the heroes of the liberation - whether resistance fighter, simple soldier or foreign anti-fascist combatant - to meet for the commemoration.
In addition, even though Paris itself was relatively untouched, its liberation exacted a substantial human toll.
In total, the so-called Battle of Paris took the lives of an estimated 1,000 French resistance fighters, 130 French soldiers, 600 civilians and more than 3,000 German soldiers.
The commemoration will include a host of exhibitions and memorials to the fallen throughout the city, but the climax will be a giant party on the evening of 25 August, the day on which 60 years ago von Choltitz signed the German surrender of Paris.
"(Paris Mayor Bertrand) Delanoe did not ask to to put on a commemoration, but a party," said theatrical impresario Jerome Savary, who created the spectacle.
Savary's party takes place immediately after a parade of 116 Sherman tanks, half-tracks and other military vehicles in front of the Paris City Hall, in the presence of numerous government officials, including President Jacques Chirac.
The fete will take place on the historically symbolic Place Bastille where two columns of trucks and tanks, one French and the other American, will meet after crossing the entire city.
Instead of soldiers and weapons, however, the French column will be transporting a popular dance orchestra while the American vehicles will carry a jazz band.
The spectacle at the Place Bastille, entitled Liberte-Liberty, will attempt to replicate the joy the liberated Parisians expressed in the streets of the city in welcoming their French and American liberators.
For the spectacle, Savary recruited some 1,000 Parisians who will be wearing the uniforms and clothes from the 1940s. More than 600 of them have been attending classes for weeks to learn to dance to the swing music of the period, to replicate the spontaneous dance parties that broke out in the streets after the liberation.
Finally, on a more sombre note, the liberation of Paris will be commemorated on Thursday by a Mass in the Notre Dame Cathedral that will be attended by Chirac and the archbishops of Washington, D.C., Berlin and London.
During the Mass, Bach's Manificat will be sung, just as it was on August 26, 1944, when General Charles de Gaulle and the heads of the French resistance entered the cathedral after a triumphant march down the Champs Elysees.
Subject: German news