A Certain June 18th
At this time of year the Paris district of Montparnasse, dominated by the huge 1970s tower which bestrides the railway station, has a special significance for the French. It evokes a national memory sixty years old this year. On the square in front of the old railway station, in the afternoon of August 25th, 1944, General de Gaulle was handed the document, signed by the German commander of Paris, agreeing to give up the German garrison. Paris was liberated. But the space in front of the new station is not called the Place du 25 août 1944 as one might expect. It is the Place du 18 juin 1940.
Why should June 18th, 1940, be remembered? Every French child learns that this was the day that General de Gaulle broadcast on the BBC from London his appeal to French officers, soldiers, engineers and munition workers to resist the Pétain government’s surrender to the Nazis, and to join him on British soil to fight on for France. ‘...For France is not alone. She is not alone! She is not alone! She has an immense Empire behind her. She can unite with the British Empire, which commands the sea and is carrying on with the struggle. Like England, she can make unlimited use of the vast industries of the United States. This war is not confined to the unhappy territory of our country. This war has not been decided by the Battle of France. This war is a world-wide war…. Whatever happens the flame of French resistance must not and shall not go out.'
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