The liberation of Paris: last fights

The liberation of Paris: last fights

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Title: Shots of German snipers at Place de la Concorde.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : August 25, 1944

Date shown: August 25, 1944

Technique and other indications: photography

Storage location: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin) website

Contact copyright: © BPK, Berlin, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / BPK image

Picture reference: 09-510176 / 30032335

Shots of German snipers at Place de la Concorde.

© BPK, Berlin, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / BPK image

Publication date: May 2015

Historical context

Place de la Concorde, a "nest of German resistance"

Carried out from August 19 to 25, 1944, the liberation of Paris was the joint result of the advance of Allied troops from Normandy and the action of the Resistance in the heart of the capital. After several days of strikes, more or less sporadic popular uprisings and guerrilla actions carried out from within, the city was partially and weakly recaptured (one third) on 23 August. The decisive entry of military forces, led in particular by the 2e DB (armored division) of General Leclerc, intervened on August 24. In the disturbing context of the project of total destruction of Paris ordered by Hitler on August 23 but not carried out by Dietrich von Choltitz, military governor of Paris, the fighting is bitter and sustained.

On the morning of August 25, certain neighborhoods remained under the control of the Nazis, in particular the Place de la Concorde, considered to be a veritable "nest of German resistance". General Choltitz, for his part, set up his command post at the Meurice hotel, rue de Rivoli, and a large part of the troops still operational in the capital at that time (around ten thousand men) were based in the garden. of the Tuileries.

Led by the 2e DB and the FFI, the attack began at 1:15 p.m. on the rue de Rivoli. After several hours, the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens were finally taken over, precipitating the German capitulation.

Beside Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson or Willy Ronis, simple spectators take many pictures of the liberation of the capital. This image offers a precious document on the historical circumstances and the state of mind of Parisians.

Image Analysis

At the heart of the fighting

Taken on the afternoon of August 25, this photograph immerses us in this special day which combines the joy of Parisians with the latest clashes. The shooting at eye level, the proximity of some passers-by (a Parisian on a bicycle even appears in the frame, on the left, 1 or 2 meters from the photographer) and the rendering of the movement of the crowd testify to the urgency and the suddenness of a situation captured on the spot, in all its dramatic intensity.

The image is nonetheless organized around a perspective that follows a sort of central sidewalk on which the barricades installed in the square and two lampposts draw a transverse line, which itself leads to the more open space of the square.

Along this line, several inhabitants dressed in civilian clothes (one of them, in the foreground, wears an FFI armband) try to escape the shots of the German snipers stationed in some of the buildings that surround the scene. Some lie on the ground, others, like this woman in white who looks at the camera lens, hide behind the streetlights. Still others take shelter behind barricades of wood and barbed wire. Passers-by also run away, bent over and fearful, in the direction of the photographer.

In the background, in the center, we see a more compact and indistinct crowd as well as two Allied tanks at the end of the Rue Royale, which overlooks the square and towards which the guns are pointed.

Interpretation

War in town

Taken by an anonymous person in the heart of the crowd gathered on the Place de la Concorde, this photograph is part of a Parisian "landscape" that could not be more identifiable. The square and its Haussmannian buildings thus provide an exceptionally symbolic setting to the scene represented. The city of Lights and love, luxury and a certain universal image of France becomes the scene of bitter and violent battles. Relatively untouched until then during the Second World War, it in turn welcomes war (tanks), fear and bullets, perhaps finding here indirectly a fact of arms to put to its credit.

In the face of urgency and danger, the familiar elements of urban and Parisian life then take on another meaning, unprecedented and quite striking. The lamppost serves as cover, the windows open to death and gunfire, the crowd moves in a different way, offering an aesthetic and historical motif to the photographer.

Finally, the image shows the rather confused situation that still prevails on August 25, the last day of the fighting. If, the day before, the Allies had entered the city from the south (the 2e DB enters through the Porte d'Orléans), if the tanks are present, if the Parisians dare to come and celebrate the liberators, the enemy is not yet completely defeated and the surrender has not taken place. The joyous gathering, the highly symbolic possibility of reclaiming the urban space, still rub shoulders, for a few hours, with the very real threat and oppression of Nazi troops. Two thousand eight hundred civilians and several hundred soldiers were killed during the liberation of Paris, including a few dozen on August 25.

  • Liberation (war)
  • Paris
  • War of 39-45
  • Occupation
  • Resistance

Bibliography

AZÉMA Jean-Pierre, New history of contemporary France. XIV: From Munich to the Liberation (1938-1944), Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "Points: histoire" (no 114), 1979.CLÉMENT René, Is Paris Burning?, Franco-American film, 1966.KIM Jacques, The Liberation of Paris: the historic days of August 19 to 26, 1944 as seen by photographers, Paris, Artra, 1944.LAPIERRE Dominique, COLLINS Larry, Is Paris Burning? History of the liberation of Paris (August 25, 1944), Paris, Robert Laffont, coll. "That day", 1964.THOMAS Édith, The Liberation of Paris, Paris, Mellottée, 1945.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The liberation of Paris: last fights"


Video: Allied troops fight with German forces in streets of Paris during Liberation of P..HD Stock Footage