Paris turned back the clock Wednesday for a grand fete to remember the tears and the euphoria that heralded the liberation of the French capital 60 years ago as it threw off the shackles of Nazi occupation.
Ceremonies that drews thousands into the streets began with six firefighters hoisting the French tricolor up the Eiffel Tower in an emotional re-enactment of the raising of the national flag exactly six decades ago.
The recreation was part of a ceremony intended to honor the six firefighters who carried out the dramatic gesture on liberation day, Aug. 25, 1944, officials said.
When the Nazis first marched into town four years earlier on June 14, 1944, they ordered the French flag removed from the Eiffel Tower. The man who took it down was Capt. Lucien Sarniguet and he vowed to raise it again one day, informs ABC News.
According to Channel News Asia, president Jacques Chirac decorated three French veterans who were in the armoured division that triumphantly entered the city six decades ago.
Later, he was to be at another ceremony in front of the imposing City Hall building for a troop review, the release of doves and to hear a re-broadcast of General Charles de Gaulle's speech after the German surrender that went: "Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated!"
The images mirroring liberation day were especially poignant because they showed how little the buildings, streets and avenues of Paris have changed, a testament to the fact that the German officer in charge of occupying the city, General Dietrich von Choltitz, had defied Hitler's order to raze it to the ground.
The day's flag-waving fervor was clouded by the firebombing of a Jewish soup kitchen last Sunday and Chirac called on his compatriots, and especially all younger French, to work toward a just and peaceful world.
"I call on them to be vigilant, to have the spirit of the resistance, to stand in the way of contempt, this hatred of others that is still at work and that is the darkest side of the human soul," he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom had similar thoughts as he visited the burned-out shell of the soup kitchen.
"It can't be that 60 years after the liberation of Paris, Jews will live under threat here or in any other country in the world," he said, adding France was doing all it could to fight a rising wave of anti-Semitism, reports Reuters.
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