With solemn commemorations, a ceremonial flag-raising at the Eiffel Tower and columns of 1940s-era tanks and army jeeps, Parisians on Wednesday marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the city from Nazi occupation, the day France regained its military honor and wiped away the shame of occupation and collaboration.
Thousands of women wearing '40s-style dresses and men dressed in military uniforms danced in the streets to jazz and swing music. Earlier in the day, six firefighters, in a reenactment of an event six decades ago, raised the French flag on the balcony of the Eiffel Tower.
During a ceremony at city hall, President Jacques Chirac paid tribute to veterans and Resistance fighters.
"The liberation of Paris is the victory of the Resistance and the people of Paris, together with French and Allied armies," Chirac told cheering and flag-waving crowds.
But more recent events -- specifically, an increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks -- served as a painful reminder for many that France still has not fully come to terms with one of the darker chapters of its wartime history, the persecution and deportation of French Jews to Nazi death camps.
In his address, Chirac called for vigilance in confronting "this hate of the other, still at work, the most somber face of the human soul."
No official ceremonies marked the liberation of the Drancy, a U-shaped former police barracks outside Paris that served as the principal way station for Jews being deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. From 1941 to August 1944, 77,000 Jews were deported through Drancy with the participation of French police and other collaborators with the wartime Vichy government. Most of those Jews perished.
Shimon Samuels, director of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the persecution of France's Jewish population "is a dimension that has not been focused on" during the celebrations marking the liberation of Paris. The events Wednesday "would have been a very good opportunity to take Drancy as an icon of the liberation."
Valerie Hoffenberg, the Paris representative for the American Jewish Committee, drew a parallel between what happened to French Jews 60 years ago and the new rise in anti-Semitic incidents, saying, "if we are not protected by laws, we can be in a lot of trouble."
"The last prime minister before the war was Jewish," she said. "We had a lot of Jews in the government. And a couple of years later, we know what happened. Things can change very, very quickly."
Israel's foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, also made the link between past and present during an official visit to Paris. "It can't be that 60 years after the liberation of Paris, Jews will live under threat here, or in any other country of the world," he said.
Shalom spoke at the scene of the latest anti-Semitic attack, the ruins of a Jewish community center in the center of Paris that was set on fire last weekend. On the walls of the building, the arsonists scrawled swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans such as "Death to Jews" and "The world will be more pure when there are no more Jews."
French politicians, from Chirac down, condemned the attack and pledged to find those responsible. But Samuels and others said it was just the latest in a growing number of incidents that appeared to have been planned to coincide with anniversaries. Evidence increasingly seemed to point to neo-Nazis and Hitler sympathizers, they said, rather than disaffected Muslim youths reacting to events in the Middle East.
Between January and July, 160 anti-Semitic incidents have been officially reported, according to the Interior Ministry, more than double the number during the same period in 2003.
In one of the most brazen recent incidents, on Aug. 14, a swastika and "Death to Jews" were scrawled on a wall at the Notre Dame cathedral in the heart of Paris. Elsewhere in France this year, Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated with swastikas, and memorials to Jews have been damaged.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon caused an uproar here last month when he accused France of being home to "the wildest anti-Semitism" and urged French Jews to emigrate to Israel immediately. A visit by Sharon to Paris was put on hold as Chirac's office and the foreign minister demanded he explain his remarks.
The flap seemed to be eased by Shalom's visit here, during which he repeatedly praised French efforts to contain the problem.
But some French Jews appear to be following Sharon's advice, with statistics showing a sharp increase in the numbers leaving. According to Israeli figures, during the first six months of this year, 1,212 French Jews moved to Israel, compared with 1,056 for the same period last year. In all of 2001, 1,160 French Jews moved to Israel. France's Jewish population is about 600,000.
"Jews aren't threatened, but there are problems, that's for sure," said Dov Kila, who was born in France to Tunisian immigrants but left with his wife and four children about a month ago and now lives in Ashkelon, Israel. "There are big problems," he said in a telephone interview.
Samuels said that when Paris was liberated in 1944, about 60,000 Jews were left in the city, about half of whom were in hiding. He said many of them, or their descendants, are not speaking out forcefully against the return of anti-Semitism.
The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, also said Parisians needed to show the same courage as those who fought Nazi racism 60 years ago. "They were heroes," he said in a radio interview. "We need that today, at the start of the 21st century."
Sixty years ago, Paris was not a major objective for Allied troops rolling across France toward Germany. But with the U.S. 4th Infantry Division just to the west, Parisians began a popular uprising and defeated the German garrison.
The uprising allowed Resistance leader Gen. Charles de Gaulle to declare that Parisians had liberated themselves, and the event has been mythologized in history. About 2,000 civilians died in the uprising, many killed by snipers firing from rooftops.
"Every time people went outside, instead of looking down to be careful of dog poo, like they do nowadays, people at that time looked up to see if there was anyone in the rooftops or shadows," said Therese Henri, who witnessed the liberation when she was 14.
Special correspondents Stina Lunden and Kimiko de Freytas contributed to this report.