by Fiona McMurrey
Courtesy of the Archives of the American Army

June 6th, known as D-Day, marks the anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944 during World War II. This pivotal event is not just a day to remember in Normandy; Paris, too, offers numerous opportunities to honor the sacrifices and reflect on the historical significance of D-Day. Celebrating D-Day in Paris provides a hybrid of commemoration and education, ensuring that the memories of those who fought and fell are kept alive.

Visiting Memorials and Monuments

1. The Mémorial de la France Combattante

Courtesy of tthe Ministère des Armes

Located at Mont Valérien, this monument is dedicated to all those who fought for France during World War II. It is one of the primary sites for commemorating D-Day in Paris. Each year, ceremonies are held here to honor the memory of the fallen. Attending a ceremony at this poignant site is a powerful way to connect with the history and sacrifice of the soldiers.

2. Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Arc de Triomphe stands as a testament to French military history. Beneath it lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which serves as a symbolic grave for all unidentified soldiers who died during both World Wars. On D-Day, a special ceremony involving the rekindling of the eternal flame is conducted. Witnessing this ceremony can be a moving experience, providing a moment of reflection on the immense loss and bravery of the soldiers.

3. Musée de l'Armée

The Musée de l'Armée, located in the Hôtel des Invalides, houses an extensive collection of military artifacts and exhibits related to World War II. Visiting this museum on D-Day allows you to delve deeply into the historical context of the invasion and the broader conflict. The museum often organizes special exhibits and events to mark the occasion, providing an educational yet solemn way to honor the day.

Participating in Commemorative Events

1. D-Day Memorial March

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Join locals and visitors alike in a commemorative march through the streets of Paris. These marches often retrace the steps of significant historical events, providing participants with a tangible connection to the not-too-distant past. It is a respectful and active way to honor the sacrifices of the soldiers and reflect on the events of D-Day.

2. Public Lectures and Film Screenings

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Various institutions and cultural centers in Paris host public lectures and film screenings related to D-Day. These events feature historians, veterans, and filmmakers who provide insights into the invasion, and its repercussions. Attending these sessions can enhance your understanding of the historical and emotional weight of D-Day.

Reflecting on the Complicated History of the French Occupation

1. Visiting the Memorial de la Shoah

The Memorial de la Shoah is a significant site for reflecting on the broader implications of World War II, including the Holocaust. The museum and memorial offer a somber reminder of the atrocities committed during the war. On D-Day, visiting this site can help contextualize the sacrifices made and the importance of remembering all aspects of this painful history.

2. Strolling Along the Seine

Taking a quiet stroll along the Seine, especially near sites like the Pont de l’Alma, provides a space for personal reflection. The serene environment contrasts with the heavy history, offering a moment to contemplate the bravery and losses experienced during D-Day and the war.

3. Writing Letters of Gratitude

Participate in initiatives that involve writing letters to veterans or families of fallen soldiers. This personal gesture of gratitude can be a profound way to connect with history and show appreciation for the sacrifices made.

Celebrating D-Day in Paris is a multifaceted experience that combines solemn remembrance with educational opportunities. By visiting memorials, participating in events, and reflecting on the complicated history of France during the second world war, you can pay tribute to the fallen soldiers, the French resistance, deported French citizens, and ensure their legacy endures. As you walk through the city, let each step be a reminder of the courage and innumerable sacrifices that have shaped our world.