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 France World War II (5)


It's Begun ...

Monday, September 25

The bombardment of Etobon has begun. Allied artillery have been firing from a distance, but now shells have begun falling in and around the village. Jules Perret anticipates that the village will be drawn into the fighting. He can't anticipate what will happen in three days.

"At two in the morning, American shells, meowing, started in the direction of Belverne.  And the boches cannons barked.  You’d think you were in Verdun in 1916.

"Announcement.  All the men from 18 to 50 years old must go to dig trenches in Belverne in the rain and the cannon fire.  Following the advice of M.P., the guerillas absent themselves.

"So, we’ll be in the middle of the coming battle.  We have to prepare ourselves, too.

"I buried a crock of lard in grandmother’s basement, our money and five jars of roasted meat in ours, and Suzette’s trousseau, put in crates, in grandmother’s storeroom; and here and there a demijohn of schnapps, 50 liters of Tunisian wine, my writings …

"Eleven o’clock.  It’s begun!  One shell above the village, another in it.  Some boches take refuge in our house and ask, very politely, for coffee and a little glass of schnapps.  They want us to “trink” with them.  A big non-com with glasses looked at my picture in uniform that hangs on the wall:  “You, sir, you are also a non-com,” and he asks for an ashtray, “not to make dirty.”  Too polite!

"The shells continue to rain down on the outskirts of the village.  Meanwhile, Mama is salting and cutting the pork, which we’ll put in barrels and bury in the cellar."


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."


Etobon, September 28

The day after the men were marched out of the village, those who remained in Etobon knew nothing of their fate. Were they in Héricourt digging trenches? In Belfort, boarding a train as forced workers for Germany? The Germans continued to shell the village and people were afraid to leave their cellars. Jules Perret ventured to his own home for a short visit, then had to take shelter from the artillery shells.


Thursday, September 28


"There are a lot of us in Remillet’s cellar, all of us ill at ease.  It’s too hot.  [We think about our dear ones.  No little voice says to us “They’re all in the cemetery at Chenebier.”]

"All night long, the shelling continues.  Near daybreak I go to see our house.  It’s still standing … I hear snoring coming from the kitchen.  I opened the door.  My flashlight reveals eight Germans sleeping on the floor.  And I had locked all the doors and there’s no sign of a break-in.  Stepping over the eight bodies, I go through to the barn and find an enormous truck … A little later I come back with Jeanne.  Nobody there.  They could have gone to sleep in the beds, but they didn’t.  They cooked potatoes in the casserole and took one spoonful of lard, only one, for the pot, which wasn’t damaged.  They took a few grapes, ate a few dried plums, but left the telephone box, full of money.  In the cellar, they only took a few potatoes and didn’t touch the schnapps or the bottles.  They were good ones, then. 

"I take Victor the colt his bucket of skim milk out to his “chalet.”  A shell fell in my rows of apple trees in the Courbe au Prêtre.  Just broken branches left!  Why do people destroy everything when we could all live so happily?!

"The shells continued to whine, so we go back to Remillet’s cellar.  Those good folks have prepared a wonderful supper!  Hopefully a boche won’t come in and yell, “Get out!”

"We go from hope to despair.  One moment, the noise is so loud that we think our deliverance has arrived.  A few hours after, nothing.  Our hearts are tired.  We keep busy as best we can.  I’ll go see my sister, sad about the departure of her Alfred and Samuel.  I pour some water on the pig, in the cellar, so he can take a mud bath.

Finally some news of our unlucky ones.  They aren’t in Héricourt, like they said, but at Belfort, staying in the barracks of the GMR.  They’re working at Essert.  Louise Chevillot’s daughter saw them."


Swarms of Shells

Monday, October 9

Anniversary of two marriages:  ours and Jean’s. 

For a long time, I’ve been hiding all the horseshoe nails.  But the boches have been stealing them from other places and bringing their horses to me.  But because I don’t clinch the nails, the shoes fall off right away.

Suzette has received a picture of her and René, taken two weeks ago, that they’d sent to Audincourt to be developed, which made her cry.  It’s the final farewell.  Poor children!

Did Jean hear London radio when it recounted the massacre of Etobon?  We’ve told him nothing.  It’s soon enough for him to find out when he comes back.  When I see the two boches who have been forced on us, who eat at our table, revolt cries out within me.  And for all that, despite the cruelties they have inflicted on us, I don’t want to kill them, these two:  Karl, whose eyes fill with tears when I tell him our sorrows; the other, Willy, is just a kid.

Tuesday, October 10

I climbed up into the church attic, where the tiles are stored, so that I can fix the roof of the parsonage, which was pierced by a shell.  They had stored munitions and explosives there.  Along with Jacques, I had come to take them and hide them somewhere else, but we had found nothing.  Today, sticking my arms down into spaces under the arches, I find enough to blow up the whole village.  What should I do?  Nothing, evidently, with these boches everywhere.  And, if we blow up something, they’ll blow up something.

They’ve brought back some soldiers from the front, muddy, dead on their feet, drained.  One of them, who could hardly hold himself up, leaned against one of our doors.  He was rubbing the four hairs on his chin.  I said, “Here’s one with a goatee.”  He understood.  “Yes.  A little beard.”  “Where did you learn French?”  “Me, traveled a lot, Italy, Spain, France.”  “What’s your job?”  “To play the accordion at dances.”  “Well, it’s time to play.”  “Ah!  Soon be finished dancing.  It’s the Americans who are making the music.”  “What do you say about the war?”  “Not good.  For you, soon finished.  For us, all the way to the end, everything.”  “Everything, to the bitter end?  OK, my friend, you’ve said something that makes me happy.  Come in, and we’ll give you something warm to drink …”  Did I react wrongly?  This Willy Imbet told us that he had come out of a true hell and that during his fifteen months in Russia he hadn’t suffered so much.  You understand when he tells about the sound of hundreds of “screamers” that come down on the front.

A battery of four guns passes through the village, a walking forest.  The soldiers have branches on them all the way to their helmets.  Will they at least put them back?  Shells are arriving in swarms, tearing up fields and orchards.  One on the reservoir.  One a direct hit on Fritz’s house.

More echoes of the massacre.  No one saw Jacques at Chenebier.  Two people say they saw him getting into a car.  But he wasn’t seen at Belfort.  Could he have escaped on the way?  But we would have seen him by now.  And then his pants that were found in that awful room …

Willy Imbet just heard that a bomb fell on the trench that he left this morning.  Of the five that were found, three were dead, two wounded.  Between Sunday and yesterday, they’ve had 110 dead in this area.


"Germans gone - war over!"

At last, the liberating Allied troops had reached Etobon. They knew nothing about the massacre, the hidden Commonwealth soldiers or the sufferings of the Etobonais. Finally Jarko and the others who had sheltered in the woods could come out and celebrate.

November 18, 1944 (Continued)

When the seven German soldiers caught at the Goutte were taken to the village they planned to annihilate, the cripple Robert Chevalley beat them with his crutches.  An old man from the Pied des Côtes, the usually gentle Charles Goux, beat them with his fists:  “Here, you bastard!  Oh, you’ve stolen from me, to take munitions to the front …  Not you?  Too bad.  Here, you bastard!”  I intervened each time, because you can’t hit soldiers who’ve put their hands up… For all that, after what they’d done, their punishment was light!

Among the seven Germans, there were four SS.  That fact proved that they were going to burn the village, and they were shot the next day near the cemetery at Belverne.

A miracle had saved Etobon.  After God, we owe it all to Lucie Goux.  Without her, where would we be?  In the next world or in a concentration camp.  And the village a pile of cinders.

This reminds me that, in January 1871, the Bourbaki army was pressing the Werder army, of which one part was stationed at Etobon.  Like this morning, the French were coming from Belverne and the Germans were withdrawing to Chenebier.  And it was my grandfather, Jacques Perret, who went halfway to Belverne to say to the French:  “Come on!  They’ve left …”  Sixty three years ago.  Only, in those days, we didn’t know about mines!

An unexpected thing happened at about eight o’clock: we received another round of shells form the Franco-American side.  At cousin Charles’, a dictionary was almost run through by one.  Some roofs were pierced.  A man got out of one of the tanks that arrived about noon.  Seeing the damage, he asked, “What time was the shelling?”  “At eight.”  “Well, it was me who fired them from Roye.”  He should have done a better job.  Fortunately, apart from some broken tiles, the only injury was to the leg of one of Aunt Comte's cows in a stable.

Around eleven o’clock, putting his hands around his mouth like a megaphone, Charles yelled, “Jarko, come on out!  Germans gone – war over!”

It was a sensational entrance into the village:  Jarko, with no shoes on, in his socks in the mud.  Like a crazy man.  He waved his arms, spoke in Serbian.  All we understood was, “Tito, Tito!”  Then he wanted to shake the hand of the commander of the FFI and then he finally calmed down.  We gave him a good meal with mashed potatoes, salad and roast brought from my storehouse.

I wanted to have the church bells rung, but an officer said it would be safer to wait until the boches were out of cannon range.  Now we can get started.  A little before noon, how our beautiful bells rang!