Notre Dame & the Liberation of Paris in 1944


A moment from Matthew Cobb’s Eleven Days in August, on the liberation of Paris in 1944:

[the voice of Henri Tanguy was heard on the radio proclaiming:] “Open the road to Paris for the Allied armies, hunt down and destroy the remnants of the German divisions, link up with the Leclerc Division in a common victory—that is the mission that is being accomplished by the FFI of the Ile-de-France and of Paris, simmering with sacred hatred and patriotism.”

      As they were broadcasting, the great bell of Notre Dame, which had been silent throughout the occupation, began to toll in celebration—Charles Luizet had ordered a dozen policemen to the cathedral to ring it. From the radio studio, Pierre Schaeffer called on all the churches of the city to join in and ring their bells, too. And all over Paris, the noise of bells rang out. 

And that same moment from Jean Guéhenno’s diary of living in Occupied Paris:

Yesterday evening around 9:00 they were still building barricades on Boulevard Sérurier. They were chopping down the plane trees at the street corners. I came back home around ten. Friends call me, saying they can see huge fireworks all over the Hôtel de Ville, with red and blue rockets answering them in the south and west. It was the signal. The first tanks of Leclerc’s army had just rolled up to Notre-Dame. And then all the bells of all the churches rang in the night, drowning out the rumbling of the big guns.

            Freedom—France is beginning again.