Paris is celebrating the American soldiers, French Resistance fighters and others who liberated the City of Light from Nazi occupation exactly 75 years ago.
Firefighters unfurled a huge French flag on Sunday from the Eiffel Tower, recreating the moment when a French tricolor stitched together from sheets was hoisted atop the monument 75 years ago to replace the swastika flag that had flown for four years.
People dressed in World War II-era military uniforms and dresses are parading in southern Paris, retracing the entry of French and US tanks into the city on August 25, 1944.
Long the jewel of European cities, Paris suffered relatively little damage in World War II, but its citizens were humiliated, hungry and mistrustful after 50 months under the Nazis.
The liberation of Paris was both joyous and chaotic. It was faster and easier for the Allies than their protracted battle through Normandy and its gun-filled hedgerows.
But the fight for the French capital killed nearly 5000 people, including Parisian civilians, German troops and members of the French Resistance whose sabotage and attacks prepared the city for the liberation.
After invading in 1940, the Nazi hierarchy ensconced themselves in Paris' luxury hotels, and hobnobbed at theatres and fine restaurants.
Collaborationist militias kept order, and French police were complicit in the most dastardly act of the Occupation: the 1942 roundup of around 13,000 Jews at the Vel d'Hiv bicycle stadium before their eventual deportation to the Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland.
Parisians used ration tickets to eat, wooden soles on shoes to replace scarce leather and sometimes curtains for clothes. The black market thrived.
The D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 changed the tide of the war.
The message went out to the French Resistance in Paris that the Allies were advancing. Resistance member Madeleine Riffaud, now 95, described to The Associated Press killing a Nazi soldier on July 23, 1944, on a Sunday afternoon on the Solferino bridge.
Riffaud was spotted as she escaped on her bicycle, then arrested, tortured and jailed before being freed in a prisoner exchange days before the liberation of the city.
Seventy-five years later, she doesn't take the killing lightly.
"To carry out an action like that isn't playing with dolls," she said.
On August 19, 1944, Paris police officers rebelled and took over police headquarters. On the night of August 24, the first Allied troops entered southern Paris.
The German military governor of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, was arrested at his headquarters at the Meurice Hotel and signed the surrender.
A group of US World War II veterans is back in Paris for Sunday's events.
Steve Melnikoff, 99, of Cockeysville, Maryland, came ashore on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He calls war "nasty, smelly, terrible." But he maintains that "it was important for someone to do this," to stop Hitler from taking over more of the world.
AP reporter Don Whitehead, who was in Paris on August 25, 1944, described the exaltation that punctuated the day.
"Men and women cried with joy. They grabbed the arms and hands of soldiers and cheered until their voices were hoarse. When the column stopped I was smothered, but pleasantly, with soft arms and lips giving not one kiss but the usual French double one," he continued.
"One old man came up, saluted, and said with tears in his eyes: 'God bless America. You have saved France."'
Australian Associated Press