Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014 01:28 | By Agence France-Presse

French PM kicks off Paris liberation anniversary

France's prime minister Tuesday paid tribute to the "courage" and "sacrifice" of the Paris police officers who, 70 years ago, retook their headquarters from the Nazis, kickstarting the liberation of the city.


French PM kicks off Paris liberation anniversary

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls reviews veterans during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the uprising of Paris policemen at the headquarters of the Prefecture of Police of Paris, on August 19, 2014 - by Patrick Kovarik

While the Marseillaise national anthem resounded around the police headquarters, Manuel Valls laid a wreath to the 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 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, would sign his capitulation and Paris would be liberated.

The city is set to mark the 70th anniversary of this joyous event with a series of celebrations all week.

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

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

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