May 8th: Here's what's planned to mark VE day in France

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May 8th: Here's what's planned to mark VE day in France
French Foreign Legion soldiers at VE Day commemorations in May 2018. Photo AFP

In towns and villages across the country, the French will turn out on Wednesday, May 8th to celebrate the end of World War II and to honour those who died in the conflict that left much of Europe in ruins.


France is one of a handful of western European countries which have made a public holiday of the date that marks the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces.

The biggest event in France this year will, as always, be in Paris, where President Emmanuel Macron will lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.

The arch, which stands at the top of the Avenue des Champs Elysées, has been entirely restored for the Victory in Europe celebrations after being vandalised in December during an anti-government “yellow vest” demonstration.

Culture Minister Franck Riester said €1.2 million was spent restoring damaged statues and equipment inside the landmark at the top of the Champs-Elysées.

As well as spraying its walls with graffiti and breaking equipment, rioters smashed artworks, including a 1930s copy of a famous sculpture of "The Marseillaise" by Francois Rude representing Victory, which was moulded from the 19th-century original.


Graffiti was daubed on the Arc de Triomphe in December. Photo: AFP

Macron will on Wednesday lay a wreath at the statue on Place Clémenceau of France’s wartime leader General Charles de Gaulle before driving up the Champs Elysées with a Republican Guard escort to the Arc de Triomphe ceremony to mark the 74th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.

Other smaller commemorative events will take across France on Wednesday, when schools and most businesses will be closed for the holiday.

Many will consist of the local mayor leading a ceremony laying wreaths for the fallen at the monuments or statues that stand in most French towns to honour those killed during the 1939-45 conflict during which France was occupied by German forces.

The majority of French people will not be at work as the day is a public holiday in France.
It had been feared that the day could have been scrapped as a public holiday as part of Emmanuel Macron's moves to bring more money into the public coffers to fund his promised tax cuts.
A leaked version of his speech in response to months of 'yellow vest' protests sparked speculation that the May 8th bank holiday was to be axed.
However when he delivered the speech the week after the Notre-Dame fire, there was no mention of May 8th.
France is one of only a few European countries - along with Poland the the Czech Republic - to have the day as a public holiday, although Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands all have bank holidays commemorating liberation days earlier in the year.


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