August 25

This Day in History

World War II

Aug 25, 1944:

Liberation of Paris

On this day in 1944, French General Jacques Leclerc enters the free French capital triumphantly. Pockets of German intransigence remained, but Paris was free from German control.

Two days earlier, a French armored division had begun advancing on the capital. Members of the Resistance, now called the French Forces of the Interior, proceeded to free all French civilian prisoners in Paris. The Germans were still counterattacking, setting fire to the Grand Palais, which had been taken over by the Resistance, and killing small groups of Resistance fighters as they encountered them in the city. On August 24, another French armored division entered Paris from the south, receiving an effusion of gratitude from French civilians who poured into the streets to greet their heroes—but still, the Germans continued to fire on French fighters from behind barricades, often catching civilians in the crossfire.

But on August 25, after Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was assured by Gen. Charles de Gaulle, leader of the French Resistant forces, that Allied troops could now virtually sweep into Paris unopposed, Ike ordered Gen. Jacques Philippe Leclerc (a pseudonym he assumed to protect his family while under German occupation; his given name was Philippe-Marie, Vicomte De Hauteclocque) to enter the capital with his 2nd Armored Division. The remnants of German snipers were rendered impotent, and many German soldiers were led off as captives. In fact, the animus toward the Germans was so great that even those who had surrendered were attacked, some even machine-gunned, as they were being led off to captivity.

More than 500 Resistance fighters died in the struggle for Paris, as well as 127 civilians. Once the city was free from German rule, French collaborators were often killed upon capture, without trial.

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