Seventy-First Anniversary of the Liberation of Paris
One of the amazing people I’ve met along this journey is Louise Dillery. Readers of the book will get to know how amazing she is, too. She translated some of Marcel’s letters, and has turned into a dear friend. Louise is nearly 90 years old, but you would never know it — she’s sharp as a tack, and loves to talk about thoroughly modern things like eyebrow tattoos, Beyoncé and the allure of ‘bad boys.’
But, she also talks about the war. It is important for the younger generation to know what happened, she says. It’s one of the reasons she tells her story to high school and college kids across Minnesota. Louise was born and raised in Paris, and her family didn’t have the financial means or the connections to escape from the city during the war. She is an “Occupation Survivor.” I’ve seen Louise cry as she talks about those years. Suffice it to say she experienced more loss than anyone should know. I’ve also seen her belly laugh as she recounts specific moments. One of those moments was seventy-one years ago today: the day Paris was liberated. On August 25, 1944, Louise danced with smiling American soldiers on the Hôtel du Ville plaza. Music played, flags waved, and people celebrated the liberation of their beloved city after more than four years of Nazi rule. She said the enormity of joy — the magic — experienced that day is beyond description.
Photo: August 26, 1944 by Jack Downey, Public Domain, U.S. Library of Congress. The photo shows Free French tanks and half tracks along with General Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division along Champs Elysees.