Out now!

Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944 is out now, published by Simon & Schuster.

This site carries images, sounds, film and information that relate to the book. You can either browse through the posts chronologically, or, more usefully, click on the “subjects” that interest you on the right hand side and you will see all the posts that are under each of those subjects.

Here’s a short video we made to publicise the book:

The diarists

One of the thrilling parts of writing the book was uncovering so many forgotten voices who wrote about the events I was describing. Some of these were in previously unpublished diaries (Boisdon, Veau, Hamon), others were in diaries that had been published long ago (Lainville), others had been published in the 70s (Bood, Cazaux), or more recently (Albert Grunberg). I have been unable to find any photos of Georges Benoît-Guyod, Edmond Dubois, Albert Grunberg (1898-1976) or Camille Vilain.

AuroyBERTHE AUROY (1880 – 1968). Retired schoolteacher at the time of the Liberation. Her diary was published in 2008.

BoegnerMARC BOEGNER (1881 – 1970). Continued his role as a leading Protestant. His diary was published in 1992.

BoisdonDANIEL BOISDON (1884 – 1959). Briefly became a parliamentary deputy after the war. I found his unpublished diary in the Archives Nationales.

BoodMICHELINE BOOD (1926 – 1980). Became a journalist after the war. Her diary was published in 1973.

BruceCOLONEL DAVID BRUCE (1898 – 1977). Went on to become US Ambassador to France, Britain and West Germany. His diary was published in 1991.

CazauxYVES CAZAUX (1909 – 1999). Continued as a leading civil servant, then became an historian after retiring. He published his diary in 1975.


ROGER COCTEAU (‘GALLOIS’). Became a career soldier. His unpublished account is in the Archives Nationales.

CourtinRENE COURTIN (1900 – 1964). Became a Professor of Economics and helped found Le Monde. His diary was published in 1994.

Gaston_Eve_Egypt_1943GASTON EVE

G-BJEAN GALTIER-BOISSIERE (1891 – 1966). Continued his writing and journalistic career.


FLORA GROULT (1924 – 2001). Became a journalist and novelist, writing with her sister. Their diaries were first published in 1962 and have since been turned into a play.


BENOITE GROULT (1920 – ). Became a leading journalist and wrote novels with her sister. Their diaries were first published in 1962 and have since been turned into a play.

GuehennoJEAN GUEHENNO (1890 – 1978). Continued as a teacher and literary critic. His diary of  Occupied Paris was first published in 1947.

HamonLEO HAMON (1908 – 1993). Became a left of centre politician; he was first a Gaullist before supporting the socialist Mitterrand in the 1981 election. I found his unpublished diary in the Archives Nationales.

LainvilleODETTE LAINVILLE (1888 – 1974). Published her diary under a pseudonym in 1945. Subsequently published some volumes of minor poetry, before retiring to the south of France.

Mesnil-AmarJACQUELINE MESNIL-AMAR (1909 – 1987). Wrote articles on French literature. Her diary was first published, unnoticed, in 1957. It was reprinted in 2009 to great acclaim, and is being turned into a feature film.


BERNARD PIERQUIN (1920 – 2011). Became a leading radiotherapist after the war. Self-published his diary in 1983.

PIERRE PATIN (1918 – 2011). Became a leading railway engineer, working on the doomed ‘aerotrain’ project. Self-published his memoirs in 1994.


MADELEINE RIFFAUD (1924 – ). Became a journalist working for L’Humanité, and a minor poet. Still visits schools to explain her resistance work.

RoyCLAUDE ROY (1915 – 1977). Leading journalist and poet. He published his diary in 1944.

MassuSUZANNE TORRES (1907 – 1977). Married General Massu, lived in Algeria while her husband was on duty there during the war for Independence, adopted two Algerian children. Her memoir was published in 1969

ToucheJEAN-CLAUDE TOUCHE (1926 – 1944). Talented musician and composer. His diary was published in 1946.

TuffrauPROFESSOR PAUL TUFFRAU (1887 – 1973). Continued to work at the Ecole Polytechnique until his retirement. His diary was published in 2002.

VeauPROFESSOR VICTOR VEAU (1871 – 1949). Veau pioneered the operative procedure to cure cleft palate. I discovered his unpublished diary in the Bibliothèque de l’Académie de Médicine.

Events and people

Because of lack of space, it was not possible to show photos of some of the key events and people. Here are some of them.

The cease-fire being announced, 20 August. Note the French gendarme riding on the front of the camouflaged car, which is full of German soldiers:


Eugène Brahms, the one-legged marksman, photgraphed in the courtyard of the Préfecture de Police, next to the gun that the Resistance captured on 21 August:

Pic 9a

German troops surround a car that had carried FFI fighters near the Gare du Nord, 21 August; the bodies of the Frenchmen can be seen on the ground:


The fire at the Grand Palais on 23 August:


Gaston Eve meets his future wife, Odette, next to his tank Montmirail, on the place de la Sorbonne, 25 August (taken from here):


Von Choltitz’s orders, from Hitler (taken from the von Choltitz family site):

Telegramm1 Telegramm2 Telegramm3The German surrender order:


Captured German officers at the Gare Montparnasse:


Film: La Libération de Paris


This 30 minute newsreel was filmed and edited during the insurrection itself, and was shown around the world in the weeks following the liberation of Paris.

For more details about the making of the film, see Chapter 12; for a discussion of how the film helped shape views of the liberation, see the Epilogue. The commentary is in French, but even if you can’t understand what is being said, it is a stupendous account of events. Note that there Allies are barely mentioned, there is no explicit naming of any Resistance force, and the shootings on 26 August are not shown.

Some highlights:

• German evacuation at 2:00

• Some of the many posters at 3:00

• Luizet takes control of the Préfecture at 5:15

• The scene inside the Préfecture de Police at 7:00

• Panzers on the prowl around the Hotel de Ville at 14:00

• Fighting at Batignolles (inlcuding Georges Dukson) at 15:00

• De Gaulle’s speech at the Hotel de Ville (24 August) at 24:00

• The 26 August parade, which is particularly atmospheric, begins at 26:45

Georges Dukson

Georges Dukson was a French soldier from what is now Gabon who escaped from a German prisoner-of-war camp after being captured in 1940, and who lived in secret in Paris. He joined in the fighting in the 17th arrondissement, around Batignolles, during which he was involved in capturing a German armoured car and a tank.

This rather dramatic image was published in 1947:

dukson6Reality was rather different. Two tanks were seized by the FFI fighters in the 17th. This SOMUA tank was simply taken from the factory and driven away, with Dukson leading the way (with his back to the camera):

Dukson60001It was later repainted in FFI colours:

4332227This tank destroyer armoured car was overwhelmed by the population, although Dukson was clearly playing a key role:

Pic 8bsmall Pic 8bcirclesmallFootage of Dukson appears in the film  Libération de Paris . This first clip shows Dukson with his comrades and a captured German soldier.

The second, also taken from  Libération de Paris, shows Dukson being evacuated after being shot in the arm:

On 26 August, Dukson was one of the FFI fighters who was invited to form the guard of honour on either side of de Gaulle’s victory parade. This picture shows that he was just behind de Gaulle when the Free French leader laid a wreath of gladioli on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, underneath the Arc de Triomphe. It is hard to imagine that his presence was not officially approved:


A few minutes later, Dukson was near de Gaulle at the head of the parade:


thumb_24253655ceShortly after the parade began to move, a member of the 2e DB apparently tried to get Dukson out of the way, with de Gaulle apparently looking on:


This American film, taken, towards the bottom of the Champs-Elysées, clearly shows Dukson still on the parade, playing his role.

After the liberation, Dukson got involved in the black market, was arrested and then shot while trying to escape; he died on the operating table.

Other black fighters

Georges Dukson is the most renowned black Resistance fighter in Paris, but there were others, although their names are not known.

These two photos from the 26 August parade show FFI fighters marching alongside a 2e DB half-track, along the rue de Rivoli. There are two black men – one at the front, holding a placard, the other at the back of the group in the first picture:

PAR29699PAR78750As the parade was taking place, to the north-east of Paris a massacre of over 100 FFI fighters was taking place at Oissery (see Chapter 17). One of the young men who was captured by the Germans was 16 year-old Yves Goussard:

YG23Yves was deported and eventually died in Bergen-Belsen of typhus, at the same time, in the same place and of the same cause as another, more renowned teenage victim of Nazism: Anne Frank.

Resistance radio broadcasts

These five sound clips inlcude extracts from the Resistance radio (‘Radiodiffusion de la nation française) in Paris, which were assembled into a programme that was broadcast on 19 September 1944. A sound file of this programme was recently uploaded onto YouTube in five consecutive clips. There is no video to accompany the clips.

Much of this first extract was recorded in September, after the fighting. However, Albert Camus reads his first editorial from Combat at 5:00 and the archive material begings at 6:50 with the first call to insurrection.

This second extract consists of material from 23 and 24 August. At around 3:00 you can hear Parodi (‘Cérat’) reading a declaration, with the sound of German tankfire behind. This is followed by the a description of the situation around place de la République – complete with more gunfire – and an interview with a FFI fighter who explains the situation. At 7:40 you can hear Georges Bidault making a statement, with the sound of gunfire behind him.

This third extract contains material from the evening of 24 August, as the Dronne column arrived at the Hôtel de Ville. Pierre Schaeffer’s call for all the bells of Paris to ring their bells can be heard at 1:00. At 3:40 a rare woman’s voice reads a report of the situation in one of the Paris districts. At 4:20 a gendarme from Antony describes the advance of the Leclerc Division. At 6:05 a journalist reads from an underground book, with the sound of the bells of Notre Dame in the background. At 8:40 a journalist reads a poem by Victor Hugo, ‘A ceux qui dorment’.

This fourth extract begins with the Marseillaise, and at 1:40 Pierre Crénesse gives his on-the-spot account of the arrival of the Dronne column, which he gave over the telephone. At 6:50 there is an English-language broadcast by Bertrand d’Astorg that was made late in the evening. This is suddenly interrupted at 8:00 and d’Astorg reads a warning from Colonel Rol to the German commander of Colombes. D’Astorg then continues in English.

This final extract begins with the Star Spangled Banner. At 1:15 it loses with the final comments on the evening of 24 August, as the journalist recalls those who are yet to be liberated.

Communication with London and Algiers

One of the surprising discoveries in the book is the time it took for messages to get from Paris to Free French headquarters in Algiers. They were sent first to London, where they were apparently decoded at 19 Hill Street, the Free French intelligence HQ. They were then re-coded and sent to Algiers. The whole process could take up to two weeks, and for 10 days in mid-August, this complex web broke down, leaving Alexandre Parodi – de Gaulle’s right-hand man in Paris – without orders or advice.

The French National Archives contain images of all the coded telegrams from London to Algiers. Here is an example, from July 1944. Amateur code-breakers might want to have a crack at it (click image to enlarge):


The Liberation in the 11th arrondissement

This video shows amateur film of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine in the 11th arrondissement – probably on 26 August – which recently came to light. It begins with scenes of the Liberation, with images of marching Resistance fighters and of barricades being dismantled, followed by scenes of lorries laden with Resistance fighters. Click on the link to watch it:


Accessing the Archives Nationales

Even before the war was over, the French began to collect documents and eye-witness accounts of the Occupation and the Resistance. This work was eventually presided over by the Comité pour l’Histoire de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale. After its work was complete, all its documents  were placed in the Archives Nationales in Paris, and they have since been digitised. These cover all the documentation relating to the liberation of Paris, but also many thousands of documents from the Resistance and the Free French – original documents, eye-witness accounts, and so on.

However, getting into the documents is complex. I have written a document that explains how to do it; you can download a PDF of the document here:AN.

It may be that your computer system can directly access the images. Click here then on one of the ‘dossiers’ and then click on one of the greyed-out boxes that reads CONSULTER LES IMAGES ASSOCIEES. If you get an error message and not an image, you need to follow the instructions in this document: AN.