- Historic Sites
The Liberation Of Paris
September 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 5
My moment of glory was to be short-lived. The parade had just started when sniper fire from Frenchmen sympathetic to the Nazis rained down from several rooftops. I grabbed Jacqueline by her good arm and raced for the safety of the nearest building, there to huddle with dozens of frightened French men and women. They kept staring at me, wondering why I didn’t grab my pistol and go after the snipers, ô la Beau Geste. My French wasn’t good enough to explain that correspondents are forbidden to carry firearms.
I would learn a lot about the German occupation over the next few days. One day Jacqueline was late for lunch. She explained that she had been at the trial of a collaborator. A trial? I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “and convicted him and shot him.”
I was horrified. “Isn’t that just what the Nazis would have done?” I demanded.
She shrugged and blew a puff of air through puckered lips—the classic French sneer. “You Americans! For a while I hid a young Jew. They caught him eventually. He could have told you what it was like—if he had lived. If we don’t take care of the collaborators ourselves, by the time you Americans get around to trying them, they’ll have gotten off. You have no idea how to deal with the Nazis and their friends.”
Perhaps, I have thought over the years, the Parisians did. I remember the night of August 25 as a kaleidoscope of joy, with wine and flowers and the most beautiful girls I had ever seen—or so it seemed at that moment—flinging their arms around me and kissing me passionately. Paris sang and danced and cried in the streets. I have a sense that lights were turned on, but that may be because it would have been poetic for it to have happened.
By the time this incredible day ended, Paris was once again the City of Light.