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Parisians Relive 1944 Liberation

August 26, 2004|From Reuters

PARIS — World War II tanks rumbled through Paris and thousands of Parisians danced in the streets Wednesday to reenact the arrival 60 years ago of French and U.S. forces who liberated the city from four years of Nazi occupation.

Women in war-era fashions kissed men in faded uniforms as two columns of olive-drab vehicles snaked into the city from the south, just as the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division did on Aug. 25, 1944.

President Jacques Chirac decorated three veterans of the "2nd DB," as the French division is known.

"The liberation of Paris is the victory of the Resistance and the people of Paris, together with French and Allied armies," Chirac told flag-waving crowds at City Hall, which the Resistance seized five days before the liberation.

He singled out Col. Henri Rol-Tanguy, the Communist rival of Gen. Charles de Gaulle, as the "soul of the insurrection" for leading the street fighting that led to the liberation.

About 2,000 French civilians and 500 Resistance members died in the weeklong uprising and liberation day fighting. Plaques around the city still mark where many of them fell.

Thousands of Parisians had combed their attics for 1940s-style platform heels, ankle socks, berets and suspenders to wear for dancing -- despite rain -- at a giant street party with swing music at the Place de la Bastille later in the evening.

Jerome Savary, famed for his musicals celebrating French culture, is directing a free show by 1,500 actors.

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