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)

Tuesday
Oct092012

A Hero is Buried

Sunday, September 9, 1944 was the first of many sad days for the people of Etobon. Jules Tournier, the commander of the maquis fighters, had been shot during a gun battle with German troops. His funeral was held September 9.

Jules Perret writes,

"3 o’clock.  We’re burying Tournier on a beautiful, calm, sweet Sunday.  Far away, the sound of an airplane.  Who would think, to see all these men in their Sunday best, that they were resistance fighters burying their comrade who was killed yesterday?  M. Marlier preached a really beautiful sermon.  He admired Tournier a lot, such a courageous leader.  A brave one has left us.

After the funeral, I’ll take some aspirin to the wounded, with the gendarmes, at la Fontaine qui Saute.  To start with, seven Russians and Poles in a kind of cave, under the cliff, without anyone watching them.  Farther on, near the big cleft rock that’s been transformed into a dormitory, two Germans.  In the kitchen, a lean-to with a wall of timber, four gendarmes and eight prisoners, including the woman arrested for collaborating, who’s dressed like a man, the cook for the group.  The last to arrive is an Alsacien, who speaks good French.  Everyone warms themselves around the fire and seems to be happy.  The wounded man was happy to get the aspirin.  He asked me what Jean’s address was and said the gendarmes were all very nice.  An idyll."

Saturday
Oct132012

Death of an Occupier

The German officer who had fought to escape capture in Etobon lies in a field. Jules Perret had gone home to supper, but had to return to the place where the officer fell to see what would happen next:

"When I come back, I ask [my son] Jacques, “Is it over?”  “I think so, but he’s not completely dead.”  It’s the cook who has the sad honor to put an end to this battle.  They bring Besson back in a coma.  M.P. then tells me that they’ve killed another officer on the road at the head of a column of troops, as he gave orders to stop the retreat and hold their positions.  OK.  We can’t celebrate yet.

"Another German car.  It’s fired on.  It escapes on roads that aren’t even worthy of the name.  We’re paying attention now!

"We go to bed.  What a day!  We’re up again early.  A few of us are going to bury the officer.  We decide to put him in a dip in the ground, in Charles Suzette’s field, near my poplars.  We dig a little and then go to get him.  It’s raining.  It is a moving sight.  There he is, lying on his back, stretched out, hands folded on his chest, eyes closed, helmet on his head.  Alfred says, “I’m the one who closed his eyes when he died.”

"I gather up his papers, his photos, to let his family know, later on.  He has a pretty wife, beautiful children.  This awful war!  We carry him on two shovel handles and lay him out with respect in his little grave, not deep enough, but we had to do it quickly.  According to his papers, he was a Catholic.  (I kept these papers a long time, but since I had to hide them, I can no longer find them.)

"I’ve been at war more than four years, the other one for five years, but it’s the first time I’ve seen a German soldier killed."

Monday
Oct152012

Covering Their Tracks

Thursday, September 14

The men of Etobon had to dispose of the body of the German officer, and Jules Perret knew there might be serious consequences to the village if it was discovered. They had already heard of the murder of a child at Chenebier following the death of a German soldier there. The Etobonais knew the Germans could uncover their clandestine operations if they searched the parsonage: it served as the central kitchen for the camps of resistance, the British solders and German prisoners in the woods surrounding the village. The men had to work quickly before anyone came to investigate the Lieutenant’s whereabouts. Perret writes:

"I spent part of my morning arranging the Lieutenant’s grave so that it wouldn’t be spotted, adding dirt, putting dry leaves and branches on it.  Three militiamen, supposedly joining the resistance, killed a German at Chenebier.  To avenge themselves, the survivors set fire to Pierre Goux’s house, completely destroying it, and savagely killed little Gérard Pillat, a child of nine or ten years old.  What news for his prisoner father!

"Everything happens at once.  We are hurrying to remove everything from the parsonage that could tip someone off.  M. Marlier and I carry casseroles and mess kits full of food to the church, and hide them under the communion table.  Four veal heads, cooked, in a basket hidden in the brambles of the old cemetery.  At Isaac’s Mill, stoves and boilers, jars of preserves, wheels of Gruyere, sacks of sugar and coffee.  And they brought the wounded Germans to the same mill!  As for Besson, he is dead.  Mama dressed him in one of my suits and we brought him to the church. 

"The cannons are getting closer.  Hope is returning.  As soon as I was in bed, Fernand Goux came to tell me that, without electricity, he couldn’t make Besson’s coffin that night, so that we could bury him at first light.  We decided to take the body to the cemetery and put it in the Coulon family tomb, where he can wait.  11:30 p.m.  I’m home.  It went well.  Poor boy!  His brother is very upset."

Saturday
Oct202012

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!”

Sunday
Nov042012

The Prisoners: Found and Lost

As the battle for the liberation of France drew nearer to Etobon, those who had been active in sheltering escaped British POWs and captured German soldiers grew anxious. On September 20, the blacksmith and journal writer Jules Perret slipped into the woods to make contact with those who were hiding there. He found some ... others were missing.

Wednesday, September 20

We woke up amazed at how well we had slept.  The big German guns are thundering, firing shells twelve kilometers away … At the forge, I have to work for them, shoe their horses.  I sabotage what I can … I’m thinking about a more secure hiding-place than the one I had.  I’ll work on it – it’s time.

We’ve heard that the gendarme Gendre and his prisoners are wandering in the woods, followed everywhere by hunger.  I leave with Jacques to take them some food.  We look like woodsmen, with our hatchets, hooks and gear.  It’s raining.  Too bad.  We hear gunshots here and there, reminding us to be careful.  After lots of turns and u-turns, we got to the Moulin des Battants, completely abandoned, then to the Sarrazin Rock.  “Look, Papa!”  What a surprise!  Under the Rock, several of our Hindu friends, Cham Dram, the man with the blue eyes, the old sergeant, the one with the Turkish-style moustache, and others.  They are not fat.  We leave them the provisions and some cigarettes.  The prisoners?  They haven’t seen them.  We leave them, all of us very moved.  Will we ever see each other again?  Near la Tâle, by the side of the road, the German engineers have cut the oaks and the big trees halfway through.  All they need is a firecracker to make them fall in front of the American tanks.  Another stop at our hiding-tent, below the Chateau, where everything is in order … bursts of machine-gun fire, planes, the sound of cannons.  We come home exhausted, without having learned anything of the prisoners.