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The Church at Chenebier

 You can still see the bullet holes on the side of the Lutheran church at Chenebier. Even today, you can see where they pitted the stone of the church wall. Bulletholes in the church wall at ChenebierA few up high, higher than a man’s head. But lower, where a man’s head would be if he were on his knees, the wall is pocked with them. When I first saw them, I didn’t know what I was looking at. Monsieur Widmer called me over to the tiny pavement at the side of the church. It was sunny. I was dazed. He said, “Did you know, Madame, they shot forty men here?  Just here. During the war. I remember hearing the planes go over at night, going to Germany. How happy it made me. We love Americans, Madame. It makes me angry to hear them criticized.” My eyes teared up. What was he talking about, forty men, just here? The 27th of September, 1944, 39 Glorious Martyrs Were Shot Here By The Germans. France Will Not Forget.The pavement by the church wall was maybe 12 feet long and 8 feet wide – the size of a small room. But the bullet holes were there.  

Just a few months before that Sunday in August 2004, I was dreaming of my new life as a French pastor. The grit and poverty of western Pennsylvania would be just a memory. An historic parsonage waited for me. Baguettes would be delivered fresh each morning. There would be French yarn for my knitting needles. What I didn’t expect was to find an atrocity at the center of my parish.

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Reader Comments (2)

Pastor Douglass, finding your blog about the martyrs of Chenebier was very interesting. My family immigrated to the US from Chenebier in the late 19th century, and genealogy has brought me back to researching about the town. I had always assumed the family was Hugenot because in America they were very anti-Catholic--and that made sense to those who didn't know who passed on the stories about the family. It doesn't surprise me that they were Lutheran--they were also very anti-German...which I assume is from other interactions than what you've posted. I believe I have cousins still in Chenebier (the Francais family) and hope they are part of the congregation there.

January 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChap James Day

My family immigrated from Chenebier in about 1910. I suspect this was this church. Their name was REBILLARD. I was thrilled to find your post. Thanks.

November 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmi Mead

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