The people of Paris had been waiting with great expectation after the Allies broke out of the Normandy bridgehead and headed north. The Paris Resistance was organized by the French Forces of the Interior (FFI). The Germans were pulling out of the city, but still had heavy weapons. The FFI was only lightly armed. The strong Communist faction wanted to shoot it out with the Germans. Here their thinking was not only revenge after 4 years of brutal occupation and an underestimation of the strength of the German forces, but the future of France. If the FFI with its strong Communist component suceeded in liberating Paris before the Allies and DeGualle arrived, it would significantly increase their prestige. Skirmishes began as the barricades began to appear (August 18). Men, women, and children helped build the barricades, a Paris tradition. Allied armour divisions were racing to cross the Seine. Fighting with the Germans begame more serious (August 19). The FFI attacked Germans attempting to retreat through the city. Choltitz's hesitated to supress the rising by force. He agreed to truce with the FFI (August 20). he more extreme FFI leaders, primarily the Communists, were opposed to the truce. M Raoul Nordling, the Swedish consul-general in Paris, attempted to maintain the truce. He also managed to save resistance members held by the Germans. Intense Serious fighting occurred (August 22). When the truce broke down, Choltitz attacked with the tanks at his disposal. Hitler ordered ordered him "Paris is not to fall in the hands of the enemy, except as a heap of ruins." (August 23). Choltitz was considered loyal and Hitler expected him to follow orders. But he saw nohing to be gained by destroying Paris. Hitler asked his staff, “Is Paris burning?” They had no heavy weapons and amunition for their light weapons was rapidly being exhausted. About 1,500-2,000 civilians were killed, mostly the result of snipers.
General DeGualle and the Free French commanders had on thought in mind, the liberation of Paris. They also were very aware at what the Germans did in Warsaw when the Polish Home Army rose up (August 1). The Germans set about detroying Warsaw and its people. In only days, thousands of people had been killed and yhe Germans had begin to methodically detroy Warsaw. Thus De Gualle did not want the FFI to rise up until Allied forces were nearing the city. [Zaloga and Gerrard] A premature rising could bing untold destruction on Oaris and its people. Unknown to eceryone at the time, Hitler had just this in mind even if the Parisians did not rise up.
The first action in Paris was the Police and Métro (subway) workers went on strike (August 15). Without the Police the Germans would have to maintain order on their own.
The Communist PCF met and agreed to stage a rising against the Germans before the Allies reached Paris. They decided to firce the hands of the rest of the FFI knowing that if they rose, the Guallist resistnce would have to join in the fighting. The PCF knew that Gen. De Gualle had issue ordrs against a rising until Allies forces were near the capital. The PCF set August 19 as the date of the rising. They wanted to gain the coopertion of the Paris police wgich they did not control. They wanted to fight Germans not the French police, so they called for a meeting of the FFI on August 18. [Zaloga and Gerrard]
The Post, Telephone and Telegraph (PTT) workers struck (August 16).
German controlled Radio Paris terminates transmissions (August 17). Thev BBC announced that the Allies liberated Chartres, Dreux, and Orléans. FFI resistance units (CNR, CPL, and COMAC discuss the practicality of rising in Paris against the Germans. Raoul Nordling, Swedish Consul General signs an agreement with the Germans at the Hôtel Majestic and took custody of political detainees.
For the first time since the occupation, the collaborationist press did not appear in the morning. Col. Rol and the former elected Communist municipal officials call a general strike. Posters appear in the afternoon around the city. The people of Paris had been waiting with great expectation after the Allies broke out of the Normandy bridgehead and headed north. Men, women, and children began putting up barricades, a Paris tradition. Allied armour divisions at the time were racing to cross the Seine east and west of the city, but there were not yet any Allied fiorce moving toward Paris.
The Paris Resistance was organized by the French Forces of the Interior (FFI). The Germans were pulling out of the city, but still had heavy weapons. The FFI was only lightly armed. The strong Communist faction wanted to shoot it out with the Germans. Here their thinking was not only revenge after 4 years of brutal occupation and an underestimation of the strength of the German forces, but the future of France. If the FFI with its strong Communist component suceeded in liberating Paris before the Allies and DeGualle arrived, it would significantly increase their prestige. Skirmishes began as the barricades began to appear (August 18). The FFI had many enthusiastic young peopke, including women and teenagers. Few had any real military training. They were lightly armed and had only limited supplies of ammunition. There was a strong desire, however, to have it out with the Germans.
The PCF leaders met with the FFI Gaullist leaders. DCF leader André Tollet demanded an immediate uprising. The Gallists including Alexandre Parodi at first hung to instrucrions to delay until the Allies were near the city. It soon becane obvious that the PCF ws going to go forwrd with ir without them. And the worst of all options was an uncontrolled dusorgnized risung that the Germans might be able to supress. They decided that a unified rising tht they could help direct ws the best option. The unified FFI this decided to move aginst the Germans the next day August 19. [Zaloga and Gerrard]
The people of Paris rose up against the Germans in force. Serious fighting broke out in several sections of the city (August 19). The FFI moves to take control of the city. They occupy the municipal buildings, government ministries, and newspaper offices. The FCP had set the revolt in motion, but once the fighting began, they were no linger in control. The Gualists understood very welk that the Paris Police were the largest and best organized French force in the capital. They did not have heavy weapoons, but they had small armns and amunition. Thus a provisional government would need the Police, This made gaining control of Prefecture of Police and the support of the Police the most important step in the rising, The Prefecture was located in the center of the city on the Île de la Cité near Notre Dame. The FFI managed to muster about 2,000 police officrs who seized control of the Prefecture. After this except for a few Vichy loyalists like Commander Amédée Bussière, the Police were with them. This placed an organized, but lightly armed force under FFI control. The main effort was initially to seize the 20 or so town halls (mairies) in the major Paris districts (arrondissements) The FFI also attacked Germans attempting to retreat through the city. The FFI did not have firepower to take on the major German garrisons so they began hitting trucks and depots where they could get their hands on guns and amunition. Fighting broke out all over the city. General von Choltitz was at first hesitated to supress the rising by force. Thus he held back his heavy units. The Germans did not recognize the FFI as an legitimate fighting force. This they were subject to execution when captured. The FFI threatened to shoot German prisoners if their people were executed.
At the same time Maréchal Pétain learming of the rising, left Vichy for the the Reich under a German military escort. The CNR and CPL issued an appeal for an insurrection. FFI official Luizet assumes the office of Préfet de Police. Parodi gives Col Rol command of the FFI forces. By the afternoon, Choltitz had decided on a countrrattack. He ordered Sicherugs Regiment 5 to retake the Police Prefecture. The attack was supported by Panzer Kompanie Paris. The tanks batterd the Orefecture, but there was not enough infantry to take the buikding. Chottitz put his mind on a full-scale assault with the Luftwaffe dropping a few bombs to soften up resistance. As it was now getting dark, he decided to wait until morning. [Zaloga and Gerrard] In the meantime, a force of tanks and 150 led by an Oberst Jay soldiers had retaken the Neuilly town hall. The FFI had gained many of its objectives, but had used up much of its amunition and no way to get much more. The FFI was designed and armed for quick small-scale, ambush assaults, not for a prolonged shoot-out with the well-supplied Germans. While able to make a stand against the Germans that first day, the FFI had shown itself unable to assault the German garrisons. The Germans on the other hand, despite using tanks had only won back one town hall. Choltitz began to realize that retaking the town halls all over the city was beyond his means and would expose his men to small arms fire, meaning serious casualties. Nordling a real hero in the effoirt to avoid bloodshed managed to convince Choltitz to negotiate with the FFI. This was a major step as the FFI was the resistance which Choltitz and the Germans saw as illegal combatants. They had been shooting captured FFI fighters and Choltitz did not expect much mercy if they captured him. Parodi ordered the police to evacuate the battered Préfecture de police. That night a cease fire was agreed to. The FFI begins to plan an attack on the Hôtel de Ville, the Paris town hall, the most important municipal building in the city.
The Allies continue to drive north. The Americans enter Fontainbleau and diunally cross the Seine at Mantes. Général de Gaulle, flew from Cherbourg to General Eisenhower's headquaters at Mans to discuss the situation in Paris. Barricades o appeared throughout the city. FFI fighters unable to dislodge the Germans prepared for a seige. organized themselves to sustain a siege. Trucks were positioned to block the streets and restrict German tank movements. The FFI men cut down trees cut began digging trenches in the pavement to provide paving stones to strengrhen the the barricades. The general population joined in the effort, men, women, and children brought out wooden carts to move the building material.
The FFI targeted fuel trucks. Tanks were a tough target, fuel tricks were not. And without fuel the tnks could not move. Some of the fuel trucks were captured. The FFI commndered civilian vehicles were commandeered, painted with camouflage or French colors and marked with the FFI emblem. The FFI used them to transport precious ammunition to the barricades and for communications. General Choltitz agreed to extend the truce with the FFI (August 20). It is unclear just what his thinking was at this point. Some sources say he was hoping to bring more troops into the city toquel the rebellion, but given the deteriorating military situation this does not make a lot of sense. Choltitz throughout had an extensive military record. He had proven himself to be a competent, brutal commander. But he was not aie-hard NAZI and he was a prefessionl militry commandde who could both read a map and was in command of his senses. Aftr fighting the Allies in Normandy, he ws well awre of heir military capavility. And German troops in the area were at this stage of the War was more intrested in getting back to the Reich than fighting to save maintain control of Paris for a few days. The more extreme FFI leaders, primarily the Communists, however, opposed to the truce--ignoring the ammunition situation. M. Raoul Nordling, the Swedish consul-general in Paris, incontact with both the FFI and Germans worked hard to maintain the truce. He also managed to save FFI fighters held by the Germans. The FFI occupied the Hôtel de Ville in the early morning. The CNR agreed to the cease-fire extension. The FFI is, however split. Colonel Lizé condemed all discussions with the Germans as an `act of treason'. Parodi is arrested. Loudspeaker trucks from the Préfecture de police in the afternoon announce the cease-fire. Flouret assumed his functions at the battered Préfecture de la Seine. Parodi was released during the night. COMAC issues a a memorandum against the cease-fire.
Even after Paris rose against the Germans, General Eisenhower was still intent on bypassing Paris as the they persued the Germans north and northeast. General De Gaulle met with General Eisenhower and urged him to order General Leclerc 2nd Armored Division to drive on Paris (August 21). He seems to have thought that a drive on Paris would involve infantry in a Stalingrad-like urban battle, slowing the advance and increasing casualties. That same day, Rolf Nordling, the brother of the Swedish Consul General who was attempting to maintain the truce got through the German lines to General Patton and described the situation in Paris. General Leclerec appears to have made up his mind about Paris (August 21). This seems to have been a decesion he made on his own without direct orders from General De Gualle. His first step was to form a flying column under Lieutenant-Colonel de Guillebon with 10 tanks, 10 armored cars, and 150 men and ordered them to drive on Paris. It was a relatively small force, but for the first time, help was headed directly fir Paris.
The ceasefire remained in force, but there is some continued stree fighting. The FFI was desperate for ammunition. This was the main restraining force after the heavy fighting on August 19. The FFI did not have tight military control over all of its units. And some Parisians go hold of guns without any military control. The CPL announces it wants to end the the cease-fire. FFI published newspapers appear on the city streets in the afternoon. The CNR voyes to end the casefire. Colonel Lizé ordered FFI forces to strengthen the barricades.
Some of the heaviest fighting after August 19 occurred on August 22. Intense fighting occurred as the truce broke down (August 22). Paris was in chaos. Some areas were peaceful. Others wee the scene of heavy fighting. Too many FFI units wanted to have at the Germans. The only limiting factor was that the FFI lacked heacy weapons and was short of ammunition. This did not prevent them from shooting at the Germans, it did precluded sustained attacks on German strongpoints. And the Germans fired back when fired on. French and German communications with isolated and wiudely dispersed units was poor. Barricades cover the city and finally go up in the city center. Those not already on strike go out in a general strike. The General Secretaries meet at the Hôtel Matignon chaired by Parodi. Colonel Rol issues a proclamation. Choltitz for the first time attacked in force with tanks A Nordling mission to the Allies leaves Paris. At the same time Allied commanders are discussing the situation in Paris. FFI Commandant Gallois reaches General Bradley's headquaters. General Eisenhower meets with Generals Bradley and Koenig. General Bradley orders Général Leclerc to drive on Paris in force.
Leclerec's small move that began moving on Paris August 21 was not powerful enough to liberate the city on its own. It did get the attention of American commanders. V Corps commander General Gerow ordered Leclerc to recall Col de Guillebon. Leclerc responded by going to the overall commander--1st Army commander General Hodges. While at Hodge's headquarters, Leclerc learned that Eisenhower had ordered the entire French 2nd Armored Division to immedistely drive toward Paris. It is unclear what changed Eisenhower's mind, but it is likely that he realized that there was no way he could restrain the Free French units and any attempt to do so would disrupt the drive north more than liberating Paris. As a result, Leclerec began a major drive on Paris (August 23) Eisenhower decided that the Allies as an entity should move on to Paris without delay. The Allies started their move on to the city (August 23). And American and British units hnear the city were ordered to join the push. The British for political reasons asked Eisenhower not to include them in the drive on Paris.
Hitler ordered Gen. Choltitz ehen chosing him for military governor "Paris is not to fall in the hands of the enemy, except as a heap of ruins." He considered Choltitz completely loyal which is why Hitler selected him. Choltitz described the encounter with Hitler in detail to his fellow Whermacht commanders. (Secret British recordings at Trent Park.) Choltitz had an impresive record as an aggressive commander. Hitler expected him to follow orders just as the commanders in Warsaw. But Choltitz saw nothing to be gained by destroying Paris. If there was amnilitary advantage ti be gaiuned, he orobably woulld have done it. He had a reputation on the Eastern Front for the scorched earth tactics that accompanied the German retreat west after stalingrad. And he admitted to his fellow officers that he was complicit in killing Jews in the East. (Secret recorings made of POWs by the British at Trent Park.) But at this stage of the War he saw nothing to be gained except possibly his trial as a war criminal after the War. He had come to the conclusion that Hitler was insane. He also seems to have had a love for Paris. Hitler appears to have asked Jodl, “Is Paris burning?” Choltitz has not only decided not to destroy the city, but to surrender to the Allies. He had no choice if hge did nit destroy Paris. If he had returned to Germany after defying Hitler's orders, there is no doubt that he would have been shot.
Figting subsides somewhat. The FFI had virtually no amunitionreserves. The Grand Palais is burned down. French radio in London prematurely announces the liberation of Paris. General von Choltitz in the afternoon threatens to attack the public buildings seized by the FFI with heavy arms. He had decided to surrender, but he was not gong to surrender to the FFI. He would only surrender to the Allies.
The FFI had no heavy weapons and amunition for their light weapons was rapidly being exhausted. About 1,500-2,000 civilians were killed, mostly the result of snipers. The French 2nd Armored Division leaves the area around Rambouillent and d'Arpajon and makes progress fightoing toward Paris. Billotte reaches the Croix-de-Berny crossing. French radio announces that the 2nd Division entered the Paris suburbs. Captain Dronne arrives at the Hôtel de Ville with a few tanks at night.
Langlande arrives at the Pont de Sèvres. Late at night, German batteries on the Longchamp fire on the 15th arrondissement.
Col. Billotte's group enters Paris in force. He issues an ultimatum to General von Choltitz. Langlade's group reaches the Place de l'Etoile. Discussions at the Majestic Hotel. Discussions are held with General von Choltitz on surrebdering the German forces in Paris. General von Choltitz signs the act of surrender at the Préfecture de police. The only important reservation is that he will surrender to the regular French Army and not the FFI. Général de Gaulle arrives at the Gare Montparnasse. Discussion were held concerning the German strongholds in the city. Général de Gaulle moved to the Hôtel de Ville and delivered a speech.
Zaloga, Steven J. and Howard Gerrard. Liberation of Paris 1944: Patton's Race for the Seine.
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