Etobon Project Blog - Journal posts are listed below
The Etobon Project

The Etobon blog

This blog is written as a chronological narrative.The most recent posts are found at the end of the journal.

The graves of some of those who died September 27, 1944

The Etobon blog contains portions of my translation of Ceux d'Etobon, by Jules Perret and Benjamin Valloton. Perret was an witness to a Nazi atrocity committed in the closing months of World War II in the village of Etobon, France. Perret's son, brother-in-law and son-in-law to be were victims of the massacre. has posted an article in which I've given the basic facts of the story of Etobon. Please visit the site and see other stories related to World War II prisoners of war.

You can find post links, most recent first, on the right side of each page.



Entries in 1944 (4)


The Battles Begin

The maquis of Etobon had successfully hidden the escaped POWs for three months. They had established semi-permanent camps and had welcomed several gendarmes or national police who had left their posts in Héricourt, Champagney and Ronchamp. They had been on the fringes of battles between German patrols and other maquis groups from the other villages of the woods. According to Jeanne, who had been a young woman in nearby Couthenans at the time, the maquis of Etobon were becoming too self-assured, too complacent. Even Jules Perret writes that them Etobon maquis are not being careful enough, and are becoming too well-known.

In late August, after Paris had been liberated and General DeGaulle returned to the capitol, the maquis were arming themselves for a real fight. There was a constant stream of German troops and French refugees along the roads leading east. The Franc-Comtois expected their liberators to arrive any day. A battle took place on September 4 near Clairegoutte, and the Etobonais took their few guns and sparse ammuntion to join in, but saw no fighting that day.

September 6, the men of Etobon were called to arms at 4:30 a.m. They were been ordered to attack a German convoy near the Ban de Champagney. In the fighting, a German officer and several German soldiers were killed. Jules Perret reports that someone brought the German officer's cap back to Etobon, and that the children played with it until Perret took it away and burned it.

The next day, September 7, the Etobonais attacked another convoy, capturing supplies and killing German soldiers. They took a German soldier prisoner and sent him off to be fed and have his wounded hand tended to. In retaliation for the attacks, the Germans fired on Isaac's Mill, one of the maquis camps. Five French were killed and two were wounded.


The Threat in the Woods

Monday, September 18


Jules Perret writes:

"What a night!  All night long, trucks rolled by, coming from Chenebier, going towards Belverne.  Are they bringing troops from Alsace?  All day, they keep coming.  Several trucks are pulling big cannons.  And horse-drawn wagons, too.  They stable their horses everywhere.  We have four, Jacques three.  The men are polite enough and don’t take anything without asking.  We don’t recognize ourselves in this confusion.  Are we French?  Collaborators?  A soldier from Wurtemburg told us he had come up from Perpignan, that they were on the march for four weeks, fighting Americans and “terrorists.”

The stone that marks the death of two maquis on September 18, 1944, located in the woods between Etobon and Clairegoutte

"I went up to the Goutte Evotte to check on the shelters under the big rock.  What should we do with our prisoners?  Our Hindus?  The resistants of Horse’s Head, regrouped at Arthur’s Well, near Magny d’Anigon, have suffered a lot.  What a mess!"

It was a mess. German soldiers were now searching the woods. Two members of the resistance, Fabbro Libero and Jean-Paul St. Maurice, were killed in a gun battle this day on the road near La Tête de Cheval, one of the main rendez-vous points for the Etobon maquis and those they were hiding.

Tuesday, September 19


Our maquis, gone to the Valettes [a group of hamlets a few kilometers south of Etobon], play hide and seek with the Germans.  Sometimes we have an attic full while the Germans are in the kitchen asking for eggs.  To get his orders, Jacques sometimes has to go out among the Germans with a scythe and a rake.

M.P., who has his own reasons to move around had to pass near a German battery, and told an officer that he was a teacher and had a field nearby, which he wanted to get to without being questioned.  “Wait for me for two minutes.  I have to go to Belverne.  You can go with me.”  And off they went together, talking like old buddies, the German lieutenant and the lieutenant of the maquis! 

Captain Aubert, back in the woods at last, said to Jacques, “wait for orders.”

Some Germans are patrolling the forest where I’ve set up a supply tent with lots of interesting things in it.  Jacques said to me, “Are you sure there aren’t labels with our names on them on those sacks?”  Apparently, there are!  The sacks are marked.  I get chills thinking about it.  Carrying a scythe, I climb up there, pull off the labels, hide the fire buckets marked “Etobon,” all my tools, hatchet, billhook, pick, saw, Jacques and Lamboley’s FFI backpacks.  Ouf!  Now I’m back home.

Just when I was closing the doors to go to bed for the night, a boche came up to me and, in a whisper, asked “Where can I find a girl to sleep with?”  “You’ll have to look for yourself, buddy!”


It's Not a Good Sign

Saturday, September 25, continued ...

The bombardment of Etobon continues, as does the rain. Mme. Picard, from Clairegoutte, told me how it poured rain nonstop during these last days of September, 1944. As the Etobonais are forced to provide shelter for German/Cossack soldiers and their horses, Jules Perret and his family can only watch and wait. He writes:

"Whoever might read these lines one day might wonder how I can take such precise notes.  Here’s how I do it:  I write a summary, often in patois, of what happens to us, on little squares of paper, well numbered, which I put in my wallet.  Then, when I have a moment, I bring out the notes and slip them into little bottles that I bury under the feeding trough in the stable. 

"We have five of the Cossacks’ horses.  To one of the cavalrymen, who is from Kouban, I said, “No go back Kouban.  Stalin hate Cossacks, kaput Cossacks.  Why Russky deutsch soldier?”  He says to me, “Cossacks not bolsheviks, not communists.”  That’s how we talk to each other!

"These Cossacks, even though many of them speak German, are really Russians.  Excessively polite.  They wear big red astrakhan hats.  The two that are staying here are 42 and 44 years old.  They are big, handsome men.  One has a son who’s an officer in the Russian army.  And he’s a boche soldier!  Philippe is always in his arms.  He kisses him and puts him astride their little horses - lively, but gentle as lambs.  When you do a favor for Siriés, the older of the two, he takes both your hands and weeps.  But these Cossacks are demons when they’re drunk!

"A hail of shells in the woods.  The boches set fire to Isaac’s Mill to drive out the “terrorists.”  Machine gun fire can be heard all around.  I’m writing these lines at the skylight in Jacques’ attic, where I can see without being seen. 

"Going back to the Cossacks, there is one very small one, a real runt, Sicilian, with a dark face.  How did he get in with this nice troop?   (We didn’t imagine, seeing this runty kid in front of the house, that two days later he would kill my son and thirty-eight of his comrades!)

"At my sister’s place, four Cossacks sleep in the room that’s over the basement.  One has his bed over the trap door over our pig in a barrel.

"Near evening, the cannon shuts up.  A missed offensive.  What bad luck!

"Eleven o’clock.  The cannon fire starts up again, very near, maybe a tank advancing from Lyoffans against la Pissotte?  Oh, I wish they’d come quickly!

"Without having to ask, our Cossacks brought their doctor to look at Suzette’s arm, swollen from an abscess.  He changed the bandage.  And polite!  We’ve never seen anyone so amiable.  It’s not a good sign.

"We go to bed partially dressed, the window open so that we can follow what’s going on.  It’s still raining.  “Pow, pow” everywhere!  We get stuck in the mud up to our ankles every time we go out to see what’s happening. 

"Four o’clock in the morning.  Jeanne, my wife, scolds me for sleeping like a log while the cannons are so loud.  The house is shaking from them."


A Guard at the Mayor's House

Tuesday, September 26

Etobon was under siege, by bombardments and the occupation of the village by mercenary Cossack troops. The fear in Jules’ writings comes through clearly:

"The bombardment continues non-stop.  It’s raining non-stop, too.  The other Cossacks are not as reasonable as our two.  René, relapsed in his illness and at his parents’ home again, tells us that, last evening, their Cossacks called the four brothers 'terrorists.'  Elsewhere, they shot at Gilbert Nardin and hit him with a rifle butt.  It’s a good thing it’s forbidden to give them schnapps.  There’s plenty for them to buy.  Drunks and thieves.  They’ll steal anything!  (Note of July, 1945:  Fredy, back from Germany, tells me that the Cossacks who had sold out to the Germans were all massacred by the Russians.  Where he was, they shot hundreds and tanks were driven over those who were still moaning.  I worry for my old Siriès.)

"What are they doing?  This evening, all the Cossack horses were saddled and there’s a guard in front of the mayor’s house.

"It’s raining and raining and raining.  Shells, too.  Never, during the other war, was I at such a party.

"At the forge, Jacques is shoeing as much as me, and more, especially horses.  I taught him how to sabotage them honestly.  The nails hold, but not for long.

"Some Cossacks asked Kuntz for schnapps.  He refused: 'Deutsch comrades drank it all.' 'Deutsch soldiers not correct.  Cossacks correct.'  They said it.  And yesterday, that same Kunst killed the yellow dog that had been prowling around Etobon for several days, killing chickens.  Good riddance.  A little before nightfall, a drunken Cossack fired several rounds at Gilbert Nardin and Jean Goux, without hitting them."