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"Papa, soon over!"

As the liberators grew closer, even the German troops realized the end was coming. Some bid farewell to the Etobonais, and some just disappeared.

Tuesday, November 14

Surprised by a storm of shells in the village, I went to a shelter, dug out of solid rock that Jules Mignerey had made.  There, we talked about a lot of things, especially the “doctoresse” Deville-Rauch, this Parisian woman, taking refuge in a house where three cousins have been shot.  What shame!  We’ll take care of her, and soon, too.

An order not to leave the village.  The shells are falling one after the other.  We stay warm in our own homes, at the mercy of these infernal things … This evening, a big commotion.  In the dark of night, in the rain and wet snow, trucks going every which way.  Guttural shouts, “Halt!  Stop!” … It’s sinister.  Is it the end?

Wednesday, November 15

Up before dawn, I spot a 2-wheeled caisson for a 52mm mortar in front of my house.  I went up to it and removed a piece, most likely the breech, and hid it under an old sack.  A little later the Germans load the caisson onto a truck along with the mortar, which will never fire again.

In the afternoon, while I was harvesting the last of the cabbage, at the Goutte Evotte, fifty soldiers, in several groups, came down from the front, ragged, haggard, drained, carrying the heaviest objects suspended from poles.  I’ve never seen anything more miserable.  To the last, to try to get them to talk, I offered some apples.  “Krieg nix gut.  Amerika is coming.”  One of them says, in French, “This damned war, the men too.  Ah!  Finished, finished.”

What a mess, everywhere!  Sacks of potatoes are sacks of mud!

Big George is loading his wagon with all his possessions.  The two calves, oats hay, one cow tethered behind, the other having been reclaimed by its owner.  “Goodbye!”  He hands us 400 francs and ships the horse. 

There aren’t many Germans left in the village, ten in all, including Imbey, who asks me to hide him so he can give himself up.  He claims that Montbéliard is in the hands of the Americans.  “Tomorrow, prisoner.  You tell Americans, give myself up volunteer …  If George not had his horse, he be American too.  Good beast, George.  Eat, sleep …”

Thursday, November 16

When he saw me, Jarko threw his arms around my neck.  “Papa, soon over!”

Fritz, the big marshal, asks me for a bill for the oil they’ve burned.  I write him one for 200 francs.  He tears it up.  “Another.  For 400.”  And he pays it.

When Willy Imbey comes to say, “Goodbye,” I’m astonished.  “So, why?”  “Me not leave comrades.  Impossible.  Come back tonight.”

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