France

Valls pays tribute to police on anniversary of Paris liberation

French prime minister Manuel Valls at today's commemoration
French prime minister Manuel Valls at today's commemoration AFP PHOTO/Patrick Kovarik

The French prime minister paid tribute on Tuesday to the "courage" and "sacrifice" of Paris police officers who recaptured their headquarters from the Nazis 70 years ago, kickstarting the liberation of the city.

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Manuel Valls laid a wreath in memory of the 167 officers killed during the liberation and hailed "those who stood up to barbarism."

"The police headquarters became the first public building to be liberated, the symbol of a republican order restored, the beginning of the fightback," Valls said.

"Here, 70 years ago, the Paris police force played its part in restoring our institutions and our democratic and republican ideals, which it should never have abandoned," Valls added.

This was a reference to a police force which largely co-operated with the Nazi occupiers, notably in rounding up around 13,000 of the city's Jews, including 4,000 children, for deportation to the death camps.

Valls said that was "a moment where France lost her honour."

Nevertheless, it was the police force which on August 19, 1944, rose up against the Nazis and hoisted the French flag on the police HQ.

Six days later, with the help of the French 2nd Armoured Division and the American 4th Armoured Division, the Nazi commandant of the city, Dietrich von Choltitz, signed his capitulation and Paris was liberated.

Later on Tuesday, the French flag was hoisted at the police headquarters, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and finally the Arc de Triomphe, to honour those who died liberating the city.

Paris marks the 70th anniversary of its liberation with a series of celebrations all week.

The events will culminate in a "public ball" outside City Hall on 25 August, replicating the spontaneous dancing that greeted Paris's liberation seven decades ago.
 

 

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