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France

Paris commemorates World War II liberation from Nazis

A one-week commemoration of the liberation of Paris from the Nazis 70 years ago has begun. Officials honored police who took up arms against the Germans in 1944, shortly before the arrival of French and Allied troops.

On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls paid tribute to the "courage" and "sacrifice" of the Paris police officers who, on August 19, 1944, retook their headquarters from the Nazis, helping begin the liberation of the capital. As France's national anthem, "La Marseillaise," resounded around the police headquarters, Valls laid a wreath for the 167 officers killed during the liberation - in addition to hundreds of French Resistance members and civilians - and hailed "those who stood up to barbarism" 70 years ago.

"The police headquarters became the first public building to be liberated, the symbol of a republican order restored, the beginning of the fight back," Valls said on Tuesday. "Here, in this spot, the Paris police played a full part in the restoration of our institutions and of our democratic ideal. Here, police officers wrote a glorious chapter."

The taking of the building marked the beginning of a weeklong battle that ended when Allied forces, led by the French 2nd Armored Division, entered the capital. The role of the police in liberating the city marked the first step in a process to restore the reputation of the force, which, for four years, had acted on Nazi orders to round up about 13,000 of the city's Jews - among them 4,000 children - and several dissidents for deportation to death camps.

General Charles de Gaulle, later France's president, announced the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. This year on that date, Paris will host an all-night ball to celebrate the spontaneous singing and dancing with which the city greeted its liberation.

There are a host of events this summer to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany in the latter phases of World War II.

mkg/msh (AFP, dpa)

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