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.

sikhchic.com 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 French resistance (24)

Wednesday
Feb102010

Etobon: A True Account of Courage and Sacrifice

The burial place of the Etobon martyrs          

        Thirty-nine men of Etobon were lined up against a church wall and shot, ten by ten, on September 27, 1944, for daring to defy their Nazi occupiers.

Etobon:  A True Account of Courage and Sacrifice is the story of a small village in eastern France whose people risked everything to resist the Germans during World War II. They rescued and sheltered escaped British Indian prisoners of war. They formed their own unit to fight the German army. When their actions were uncovered, the Germans executed almost all of the men of the village between the ages of 16 and 60. Their pastor, one of the leaders of the local resistance, was sent to the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald.

The village of Etobon is in one of the last regions of France to have been liberated at the end of the Second World War. The inhabitants who survived the massacre suffered bombardments, hunger and cold until the Germans were finally driven out in November 1944. The scars on the community are still visible. What happened at Etobon deserves a full telling. This tragedy continues to affect the lives of its people, as if it happened only a few years ago.

 

Tuesday
Feb162010

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.

Tuesday
Jul272010

Sabotage

 

The World War II generation of my parishioners seemed the most enthusiastic about their new American pastor. Sadly, the youth were most familiar with recent American military adventures, especially the war in Iraq. Their view of America and Americans was much more skeptical, even hostile. But the elders remembered when America had rescued them. “If it weren’t for the Americans, we’d all be Germans,” was one’s opinion. Born in 1944, the last year of the occupation of France, he grew up in the villages of the parish, and knew the privations of post-war Europe.

There were many of the World War II generation who were still involved in parish life. Louis Guerity, the cabinetmaker at Luze, ill, stooped and in the last months of his life, was one of them. He was a deeply intelligent man, very well read. To visit his home was to enter a world of antique tools, rusted equipment, books and dishes and old newspapers. He pulled out his Bible once to ask me about a verse, and it was underlined and highlighted, the pages stained and dog-eared. It was the most well used, well-thumbed Bible I think I’ve ever seen. The dark dining room was full of old newspapers, boxes and imposing furniture. Louis had made and carved the furniture with his own hands, and it was exquisite. The dining table and sideboard were fashioned in dark wood, with flowers carved in relief. Louis himself was dying of cancer and, almost bent double by an arthritic spine. His eyes were bright, though, and his wit and intelligence shone out above his pain.

Louis told me of his days as a young man in the village of Luze.  Snowy fields near the village of Luze

Apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, he had excelled at his work. Although he had been of the age to be taken by the Germans, he had escaped deportation to the work camps, while others from Luze had been taken. Louis remembered what he called “meetings” that he attended with other young men during the war. He’d smile and say a few of them would get together for a meeting and, what a coincidence, the electrical lines to Couthenans would be destroyed. To hear him speak of those meetings began to open my eyes to how deeply involved my parishioners had been in defying the Germans while they waited for liberation.

The fields around Luze on a s

Friday
Aug202010

Camps in the Woods

The escaped POWs and others who were in hiding from the occupiers were sheltered in several camps in the woods around Etobon. Spots like La-Fontaine-qui-Saute (the Leaping Fountain), Tête de Cheval (Horse’s Head), la Goutte Evotte (Evotte Spring), Isaac’s Mill and the Wolf Mill were used at various times in 1944 as makeshift camps. Building tools and cooking utensils were provided by the Etobonais and those who lived there did most of the construction and daily housekeeping themselves.

 

The woods near Tête de ChevalOf course, the French provided the food. Isaac’s Mill was used as a supply drop for provisions: coffee, wheels of the local hard gruyere cheese, called Comté, sugar, stoves and cooking pots were kept there, according to Jules Perret. Other supply tents and caches were hidden throughout the woods.

 

Periodically, members of the resistance would hike in to check on the condition of the camps and their inhabitants. Once, some of the Indian POWs were found happily knitting socks in their hideaway. When the rains of autumn, 1944, arrived, though, the camps became almost unlivable. German raids in the woods and the massacre of most of Etobon’s young men meant that those who had been hidden were in greater jeopardy. Some fled deeper into the woods. Some disappeared.



Tuesday
Apr192011

The Fighting Continues

As Jules Perret writes in his journal on Thursday, September 7, 1944, “Our maquis is known now.  They’re not being careful enough.  Their cooking is done at the parsonage, in the middle of the village.  How could we resist an attack with so few guns and such poor ammunition?  We are at the mercy of the unending columns of retreating Germans along the roads.”

The Etobonais were indeed taking risks. They had captured German soldiers whom they had wounded in small skirmishes. On Friday, September 8, some of the gendarmes who had become resistance ambushed a German soldier who was riding a bicycle near Chenebier and shot him in the leg. He was brought back to the parsonage where Mme. Marlier tended to his wounds.

On Saturday, September 9, a fateful battle took place along a main road through the woods. Jules Tournier, the field commander of the Etobon maquis, led a group of men to ambush a German convoy. They had planned to meet the convoy at a bend in the road, and had stationed a lookout to fire a warning shot as the Germans approached. Somehow, a shot was fired too soon.

A motorcycle guard and a carload of officers were the first of the convoy to reach the bend. The maquis opened fire. Then, two open trucks of soldiers with machine guns arrived and opened fire on the French. A full-scale battle began. Tournier, the commander, was shot through the heart and died on the road.