Paris celebrates WWII liberation

Donning war-era fashions and jiving to 1940s swing music, the French capital relived the jubilation of August 25, 1944, when four years of Nazi occupation was brought to an end after a week-long uprising.

About 2,000 French civilians and 500 resistance fighters were killed in the battle to free Paris and remove the shameful stain of the Vichy regime that collaborated with Hitler’s fascist dictatorship.

President Jacques Chirac honoured France’s famed Second Armoured Division, dubbed affectionately the “2nd DB”, and decorated three veterans.

However, the euphoria of celebrations marking the end of Nazi rule in Paris was underscored by a dark reminder that Nazism has not remained in France’s past.

Neo-Nazism is on the rise, and the country’s Jews have suffered increasing levels of violence.

President Chirac called for France to “be vigilant, to have the spirit of the resistance, to stand in the way of contempt, this hatred of others that is still at work and that is the darkest side of the human soul”, following a recent anti-Semitic attack in eastern Paris.

Arsonists broke into a Jewish community centre which provides kosher food to needy Jews on August 22, scrawling swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on the walls before torching the facility.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom surveyed the burnt out remains of the soup kitchen yesterday and expressed his regret at the incident.

“It can’t be that 60 years after the liberation of Paris, Jews will live under threat here or in any other country in the world,” Mr Shalom said.

France is home to 600,000 Jews, the largest such population in Europe.

French Interior Ministry statistics have reportedly documented 135 acts of physical violence against Jews this year, more than the 95 attacks against the nation’s Arabs who have a population ten times bigger than the Jewish community.

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