Nicolas Sarkozy: From the liberation of Paris rose the spirit of modern France

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The Independent Online

It was here, 65 years ago, that General de Gaulle arrived at the Gare Montparnasse and then went to the Hotel de Ville, the stage chosen to deliver his first speech in Paris, a Paris finally free of the humiliating yoke of the occupier. The liberation of Paris was a victory for an entire people, the victory of France overcoming its divisions to find the values that she never had to give up, values which had begun to be forged here in Paris during the French Revolution.

It is these principles and values, proclaiming the equal dignity of men, that in an outburst of murderous madness the Nazis tried to break. And it was thanks to the unspeakable trauma of defeat in May 1940 that the Vichy regime had loosely followed suit, pledging on the path of shame and disgrace, before finally sinking into the darkness of collaboration.

Paris liberated, it was France who won a victory not only against the occupying army, but also on itself. A moral victory, which under the visionary leadership of De Gaulle, would decide the place and the future of our country in the world today. The liberation of Paris was so much the victory of the national will, guided by the conviction that politically collected, determined, France has within it the resources to force the course of destiny. The liberation of Paris was the refusal of fatality.

The liberation of Paris was an example of a country which at a time of great challenges rejects sectarianism and seeks to mobilise all his talents. The liberation of Paris is the dawn of a new era in which nations decide that nothing will be as before, that the world must prevent the repetition of errors and horrors of the past, that the progress of multilateralism and democratic principles are the best guarantees for peace and prosperity.

From there a new era in the world comes, the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions. A new era of Franco-German reconciliation and the building of Europe. And a new era in France, the implementation of economic and social programmes of the National Council of Resistance, equality between men and women, the Preamble to the Constitution of 1946 and the creation of social security.

This is an edited extract from a speech given by the President of France in Paris yesterday, marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the French capital