This year will see several important commemorative events in France and around Europe to mark the official end of World War II, as well as to celebrate its heroic figures. 2020 notably marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, when a terrible conflict that saw millions of people perish came to a happy end in May 1945. Today, May 8th is a public/bank holiday in France, and every year it is commemorated with special events. Keep reading to learn about the major events taking place this year, and why embarking on a unique private history tour in France can deeply enhance your appreciation and knowledge.
Victory in Europe Day in France & World War II Commemorations
..75th Anniversary Events & More in 2020
Celebrate Victory in Europe Day in Paris: 75th Anniversary Events
Paris will mark the 75th anniversary of Victory Day with moving events in 2020. This follows on the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris in August 1944, which saw the capital celebrate a series of spirited commemorative events in 2019. This year marks three quarters of a century since the churches of France rang bells on the morning of May 8th, 1945, signalling the victory of Allied troops and the end of the war.
On 8 May 2020 at 10:30 am, a special commemorative ceremony is scheduled to begin. The President of the Republic traditionally lays a wreath at the foot of the statue of General Charles de Gaulle at Place Clémenceau, paying solemn tribute to the leader of the French Resistance and future President. He is then scheduled to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, situated just beneath the Arc de Triomphe at the summit of the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, relighting the famous flame there.
2020 also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Charles de Gaulle and the 80th anniversary of his famed “Call of 18 June 1940“, in which he addressed French citizens from London via BBC radio, extolling them to resist Nazi Occupation and join the forces of “Free France”. His call is widely credited for initiating the French Resistance.
Paris will also be commemorating these important dates in history this year, and we can organise your private visit to the capital around key landmarks important to the history of De Gaulle and the French Resistance movement.
Take a Private Tour of Memorial Sites in Paris
Finally, one quieter and more in-depth way to commemorate those who fought bravely and lost their lives in World War III is to visit permanent historic memorial sites around the city. Your private guide will be an expert in history, sharing stories of heroism and human tragedy as you tour some of the sites below.
These bespoke explorations of World War II history in the French capital will enable you to touch the living memory of those who risked– and lost– their lives in the terrible conflict, and deepen your appreciation for a city that endured more than four years of Occupation under the Nazis, from 1940 to August 1944.
The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation is one of the city’s most important among these. Located in close reach of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the stirring monument and underground exhibit pays tribute to the some 200,000 French victims of Nazi barbarism, deported from France to German concentration camps around Europe. A funereal crypt houses the tomb of the unknown deportee, while the museum and its multimedia exhibit aims to educate visitors on the events of the French Occupation and the murder of innocent citizens.
Every year on the last Sunday in April, the site hosts a memorial ceremony to “never forget” the hundreds of thousands of French deportees, including more than 75,000 Jewish citizens of France. Some 11,000 among these were children.
The Mémorial de la France Combattante (Memorial of Fighting France) is the capital’s most significant memorial commemorating French soldiers killed during World War II. Located in the Western suburb of Suresnes, it lies just below Fort Mont Valérian, a site where members of the French Resistance movement were imprisoned prior to being executed. On November 11th, 1945, a crypt was created in memory of 15 men. Then in 1958, then-French President Charles de Gaulle moved to create a permanent memorial to French soldiers fallen during WWII.
Suresnes is also home to the American Cemetery, a little-visited site that serves as the place of rest for fallen soldiers from both World War I and World War II. More than 1,500 American soldiers who lost their lives in World War I have gravesites here, and the cemetery also houses graves for 14 unknown soldiers who perished during World War II.
Read related: Our Unique “Americans in France” Private Tours
Normandy: Special Commemorative Events at D-Day Beaches and Monuments
June 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and a turning point in the war that would ultimately lead to defeat of the Nazis and the “Axis” powers. For many visitors interested in the history of World War II, a pilgrimage to the D-Day beaches and World War II monuments in Normandy can be profoundly moving and informative.
In 2020 the region will commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Allied beach landings and the “Battle of Normandy” with the D-Day Festival, set to take place between Saturday, May 30th through Sunday, June 14th.
Ceremonies and special memorial events will be centred around Calvados, a part of Normandy most famous for its apple-based liqueur of the same name.
Read related: The Most Luxurious Ways to Explore Normandy, France
These include a special event at the bust of Major John Howard (where the Pegasus Bridge gliders landed) in Bénouville, Calvados on June 5th, which will be followed by fireworks. The next day, on June 6th, a ceremony of remembrance will take place at the British Commonwealth War Cemetery in Bayeux. On June 6th, Bayeux will also host a memorial service at Bayeux Cathedral, and the Calvados town of Arromanches will be the site of a festive fireworks display.
Additionally, in September 2020 the UK is set to unveil a new memorial overlooking Normandy’s Gold Beach in Ver-sur-Mer, listing the names of the soldiers and other military personnel under British command who died during the Battle of Normandy between June and August of 1944. A special ceremony is scheduled to take place in September– one that you may wish to attend as part of your private tour of Normandy.
Many other events commemorating D-Day and the Second World War will take place in the region this year, but the details have yet to be announced. Our private travel specialists will of course put together a historical sojourn through the region that is both unique and unforgettable.
Tour the D-Day Beaches on a Private Historic Tour
No matter when you plan to visit France, a private tour of the landing beaches in Normandy and memorial site studded around the region are always recommended.
For most travellers interested in World War II history, a few of the beaches are essential stops. Omaha— home of the American Cemetery, an important onsite museum and visitor’s center– is one. Juno, Utah houses a museum dedicated entirely to the history of the D-Day landings. In addition to these, many other beaches are inspiring and moving sites where you can remember the many soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the name of democracy.
In addition to these major landing beaches and memorial sites, there are a few others we highly recommend for your private historic tour. Pegasus Bridge, the Caen Memorial Center, the Sainte-Mere Eglise and the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Eglise are just a few of the most important among these. American troops liberated the first village in Normandy at the latter site.
Book a Private Tour to Commemorate WWII and Victory Day in France
Have we inspired you to come experience a highly personalised encounter with these historic places and themes? If so, get in touch with us. We’ll design an entirely bespoke and private history tour for you that is at once moving, authentic and engaging.