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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 liberation of Etobon (5)

Thursday
Mar062014

Lucie Goux and the Liberation of Etobon

The Etobonais knew that Allied troops were approaching, but they weren’t sure how far away they were or whether they’d arrive in time to save the village. As the Germans departed, they had one last plan to destroy Etobon and its inhabitants. A contingent of fifty German soldiers was approaching the village from Chenebier with orders to burn Etobon. They had already dug holes for mines around the church at Chenebier, where their men had been murdered, and the rumor was that they planned to force the Etobonais into the church and then detonate the mines and burn the building.

One brave villager, Lucie Goux, saved her neighbors by daring to walk towards the Allied tanks coming from Belverne to let them know that the road had not been mined and that they could advance quickly. The Allied troops reached the village before the Germans did, and Etobon was liberated.

After the war, Lucie was cited for her bravery. Her award is pictured below. The translation is: “Homage to the French Resistance. The Commanding Colonel of the Franche Comté and Territoire de Belfort Inscribes on the Roll of Honor of the Resistance Under German Occupation, Lucie Goux, at Etobon. Citation: she went towards the liberating French troops, thereby hastening the liberation of Etobon and avoiding the deportation of its inhabitants who were surrounded by a German detachment.” The citation is numbered 447 and signed by the FFI Commander.


The first part of Jules Perret’s account of that glorious day:

Saturday, November 18

We get up, really perplexed.  A few more boches at the school tying up their equipment on “borrowed” wagons:  “bring back right away.”  Their cannons have moved out.  But the big gun that rings like a bell is still firing.

Around eight o’clock, some girls from Héricourt, who we think are spies, announce they’re going to evacuate us.  If only Philippe were in Switzerland!  Follow along after the boche wagons?  Never.  We’re going to head for the woods.  Mama prepares a mountain of bundles.  Who’s going to carry all that?  Impossible.  At around 9:30 I decide that we’re staying, we’ll barricade ourselves in the cellar, under God’s care.  All of a sudden, Mama’s energy vanishes.  She stretches out on the chest at Albert’s and doesn’t move.

A little later, we hear an amazing sound of movement on the Bois de Vaux road.  The church bells at Belverne ring with all their might.  What emotion!  Our liberators?  Yes, it’s them!  But they would have arrived too late – for the second time – to a village in flames, if it had not been for Lucie Goux, née Bonhotal.  She’s the one who saved us.  As soon as she heard the bells of Belverne, she set out on foot.  Halfway to Belverne, she saw soldiers advancing carefully, sounding the ground with mine detectors.  At that rate, it would have taken them 10 hours to get to us, and in two our fate would have been decided.  With all her might, Lucie Goux yelled at the soldiers:  “Come quick!  They’ve left!  There are no mines on this road!”

So, they rushed ahead.  And, at that very moment, fifty boche were coming from Chenebier with the order to evacuate the inhabitants of the “terrorist village” and to “burn it.”  Some even said that they wanted to shut us in the church at Chenebier like they did at Oradour, and blow it up!  In any case, the mine holes had already been dug!

Things happened quickly.  At 10 o’clock, as I was sitting beside Mama, still stretched out on the chest, I hear shouting.  “Here they are!  Here they are!”  Oh, you who have never experienced a moment like that, you can’t understand!  I rush outside, I see two tanks in front of the house, surrounded by a cheering crowd.  They weep for joy.  They embrace the soldiers.  They cover the tanks with chrysanthemums, they toss fruit to them, they hand them bottles.  Long live America!  The soldiers we’re celebrating seem surprised to find a village with all these people, because they don’t know our story.  They’re wearing strange headgear.  We ask, crowding around them, “Who are you?”  They respond, “We’re French, like you.  We’re the resistance from the Haut-Vienne {in the Massif Central, capitol: Limoges}, la Corrèze {in central France, capitol:  Tulle}, and l’Yonne {in north central France, capitol:  Auxerre}.”  New transports of joy, tears, too:  “You came two months too late!”  “Why?”  “They massacred 40 men, all our youth!”  We see their faces harden, their fists clench.

After the tanks comes the infantry.  Among them, armed and helmeted, five women, very dignified, one whose husband and son had been shot.  She can understand us!

At that very moment, there appeared at the corner of the Goutte au Lijon, a little ahead of the others, the advance guard of the fifty boches ordered to burn the village.  These seven men, suddenly finding themselves 200 meters from French troops, were so surprised that instead of retreating, they threw themselves in the ravine of the Goutte, where, caught in a rat trap, they became Kamarades.  The rest of the band, hiding behind a curtain of trees and seeing their opportunity lost, fled across the fields.

Monday
Mar242014

"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!

Wednesday
Apr022014

A Stroke of a Magic Wand!

Etobon had been freed by French and North African troops. It was almost too good to believe - tonight the Etobonais could sleep without fear for the first time in years.

Saturday, November 18, 1944, continued

This afternoon, two doctors, who were doing the work themselves, came carrying tables and benches.  I went to help them; without our loss, there would have been others. They’re setting up the infirmary in the parsonage. 

This evening, the real tanks arrived.  There are so many!  And they’re so big!  We still can’t comprehend what’s happening.  Is it true the boches have been chased off?  That we’ve seen them walking through the village, hands up, followed by the boos of the crowd while the kids play with their helmets, as if they were soccer balls?  That tonight we can undress and sleep peacefully!  Is it true that soon we can go after the monsters who massacred our children?  How should we punish them for what they took from us?  Philippe says, “I’d hang them from a hook for a thousand years.”

Sunday, November 19

The tanks – ours – passed during part of last night.  An officer told me in the wee hours, “Ring the bells.  Belfort is surrounded.” And the bells rung, as triumphantly as yesterday.

A company of North African muleteers is camping in our stable.  One of those little goats stole one of our rabbits, grilled it … then happily gave us half!  The logistics officer wanted to turn in the thief, but you have to forgive little sins like that.  This junior officer, after eating only canned food for so long, was happy to feast on potatoes and milk.  We also have to do the cooking for the adjutant.  Ah, my friends!  To live with the French, compatriots, to understand each other, live in trust, what a stroke of a magic wand!  A junior officer from Perpignan tells us he just took part in the shearing of doctor Rauch’s mistress, who didn’t have time to flee with her boche.  It was Robert Chevalley who wielded the scissors and transformed her magnificent head into a billiard ball.  What will her husband say?  She wanted to kill herself.  No one will stop her.

They say they’ve taken 7,000 to 8,000 prisoners in the region.  How I wish I were well enough to go and see if the executioners were among them.  An officer has made me return four rifles and lots of cartridges, real ones.  I went to get the revolver taken form the prisoner Schott, hidden under the tiles on top of the old cemetery wall.  Strange thing, not far from it I found another one, with its magazine, which a boche had no doubt left behind.

These next days, we have to take care of exhuming everything we’ve buried:  canned goods, schnapps, blankets, clothing …

The FFI of Lomont were dealt a heavy blow at Ecurcey, which was defended by a hundred tanks.  They might have all been killed there.  Three from Chenebier gave up their lives:  André Mettetal, our cousin, Toupense and Rebillard, Alfred Jacot’s son-in-law.  Honor to those brave men!

Sunday
Jun152014

Her Son's Grave

Now that Etobon was once again under French control, people were free to make the trip to Chenebier to see where their men were buried.

Monday, November 27

Mama went to her son's grave for the first time.   I’m too ill to go … The fighting has stopped at Belfort.  All the forts have been surrendered. 

We learned of the death of Dr. Pavillard, of Héricourt, wounded in the stomach by a shell blast.  An old friend.

How things have changed in a few weeks!  Generals de Lattre, Bethouard, LeClerc, have passed through here!  Others, too.  Only a few days ago, in an inspection tour around Belfort, the German general of the GQG of the Fuhrer wrote to his master, “Facing us, we have only French African troops, fatigued and decimated by battles in Italy and Provence, and poorly trained FFI, unfit for any combat.  No serious attack will have to be dealt with in this sector for several weeks, if not several months.”  The next day, the general was killed in the front lines, his report still in his pocket.  And it became, in record time, an avalanche:  Héricourt, Montbéliard, Belfort taken, our troops glide along the entire Swiss border and touch the Rhine!  And now they’ve announced LeClerc is at Strasbourg and on the Rhine!  One more kick in the pants around Colmar and we’ll be on their turf!  And they were chasing our cows at Etobon ten days ago and planning to burn us up nine days ago.  The punishment is beginning!  Those monsters have caused us enough misery.

Thursday, November 30

A card has arrived, written by Jean to his twin brother, Jacques, that damned day, September 27.  He says, “I have a creepy feeling that really bothers me.”  Is it possible?  To be so far from each other, yet have a premonition like that?  Ah! Twins!  What a homecoming our Jean will have.

Today they will bury the three sons of Chenebier who were killed at Ecurcey.  Just recently, three men from Frahier were blown up by a mine. 

What a surprise!  Here’s my sister’s Jacques, who fought in the Tunisian campaign of the 66th artillery and now serves in a munitions unit.  Imagine the joy of this boy, after years of silence away from home, when he sees his steeple, his roof, crossing the threshold of his house … only to learn that his father and his brother Samuel were shot two months ago.  To say they’re dead would be sad enough, but shot, taken to a slaughterhouse, horrible!

Friday
Sep052014

A Brave Friend

The dead were buried, but the suffering continued. Jarko, a Serbian soldier who had been hidden at Etobon, was finally able to return home. He had fought alongside the maquis and become a well-known figure in Etobon. Pierre Goux, shot in Bavilliers, returned to his home in a coffin. He would be buried near his companions.

Sunday, December 10

Jarko has left, never to return, to hide his tears.  Armed with a document of safe passage, he will go to Paris, from where he’ll return to Serbia.  A brave friend has left us … This Sunday seems so long, without their presence.  My heart feels like a stone in my chest.

Monday, December 11

Misery!  A car brought yet another coffin.  I help carry this poor Pierre Goux into the sacristy, where, not long ago, we had lain Raymond Besson.  Since then, only the dead.  I stayed alone by the coffin for a long time and thought about many things.

Tuesday, December 12

We’re burying Pierre Goux near his comrades.  It’s almost more sad than the other day, when we had to organize, transport the dead, unroll the ropes.  Today, its’ definitive.  Each one cries near their own dead.  Oh, that my sister would have pity on me in front of these two graves!  And Suzette and Aline, and everyone.  I’ve never seen so many people weeping together.  The outsiders have left.  Now it’s only us, faced with our dead.  And there are more to come.  Even for us the war isn’t over yet:  every day the mines create more victims.  The mayor of Brevilliers, a teacher from Héricourt, a soldier burned to cinders in his tank, blown up by these diabolical things.  At Chenebier, little Roland Hénisse, 10 years old, killed by a grenade.  Others at Ronchamp … And the list is not complete. And the concentrations camps are still at work. [Monday, May 14, 1945, we learned of the death, in the camps, in atrocious conditions, of Fernand and Raymond Nardin, then Jacques Christen, the brothers Edgar and René Quintin, children of 17 and 19 years old, Raoul Clainchard, three days after having been freed.  Since December 12, more deaths, everywhere, by mines and grenades.]