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 liberation of France (5)

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.

 

Saturday
Feb152014

"Papa, soon over!"

As the liberators grew closer, even the German troops realized the end was coming. Some bid farewell to the Etobonais, and some just disappeared.

Tuesday, November 14

Surprised by a storm of shells in the village, I went to a shelter, dug out of solid rock that Jules Mignerey had made.  There, we talked about a lot of things, especially the “doctoresse” Deville-Rauch, this Parisian woman, taking refuge in a house where three cousins have been shot.  What shame!  We’ll take care of her, and soon, too.

An order not to leave the village.  The shells are falling one after the other.  We stay warm in our own homes, at the mercy of these infernal things … This evening, a big commotion.  In the dark of night, in the rain and wet snow, trucks going every which way.  Guttural shouts, “Halt!  Stop!” … It’s sinister.  Is it the end?

Wednesday, November 15

Up before dawn, I spot a 2-wheeled caisson for a 52mm mortar in front of my house.  I went up to it and removed a piece, most likely the breech, and hid it under an old sack.  A little later the Germans load the caisson onto a truck along with the mortar, which will never fire again.

In the afternoon, while I was harvesting the last of the cabbage, at the Goutte Evotte, fifty soldiers, in several groups, came down from the front, ragged, haggard, drained, carrying the heaviest objects suspended from poles.  I’ve never seen anything more miserable.  To the last, to try to get them to talk, I offered some apples.  “Krieg nix gut.  Amerika is coming.”  One of them says, in French, “This damned war, the men too.  Ah!  Finished, finished.”

What a mess, everywhere!  Sacks of potatoes are sacks of mud!

Big George is loading his wagon with all his possessions.  The two calves, oats hay, one cow tethered behind, the other having been reclaimed by its owner.  “Goodbye!”  He hands us 400 francs and ships the horse. 

There aren’t many Germans left in the village, ten in all, including Imbey, who asks me to hide him so he can give himself up.  He claims that Montbéliard is in the hands of the Americans.  “Tomorrow, prisoner.  You tell Americans, give myself up volunteer …  If George not had his horse, he be American too.  Good beast, George.  Eat, sleep …”

Thursday, November 16

When he saw me, Jarko threw his arms around my neck.  “Papa, soon over!”

Fritz, the big marshal, asks me for a bill for the oil they’ve burned.  I write him one for 200 francs.  He tears it up.  “Another.  For 400.”  And he pays it.

When Willy Imbey comes to say, “Goodbye,” I’m astonished.  “So, why?”  “Me not leave comrades.  Impossible.  Come back tonight.”

Tuesday
Mar042014

"Goodbye, Papa!"

The German troops were leaving Etobon, but they were not leaving empty-handed. They planned to take all of the cattle with them as they retreated towards Germany. For Jules Perret, the acting mayor, it was one more blow.

Friday, November 17

Last night, just as I had gone to sleep, the sound of voices.  They were calling the two – Evalt and Elmout – who sleep above our cellar.  We hear the sound of ambulance engines being put in our barn.  I get up and go into the house.  In the kitchen, Karl was fastening his pants.  “Leaving, Karl?  I can hide you.”  “Can’t.  Too many kamarades.  Me leave with them.  Bad luck.  So much bad luck.”  He started to cry and so did I.  He embraced me.  “Oh, Papa, goodbye, Papa!  Me come back when war over.”

Doctor Rudy Rauch, during this bombardment like the one at Verdun, came back to look for his Dulcinea.

A little while later, a storm of shells.  Nonstop, one after the other, twenty on the village.  For once, Philippe is seriously scared.  We run for the cellar.

At Jules Nardin’s, two shells traversed their living room without exploding.  One on my sister’s roof, one on Charles Surleau’s.  The water line was broken at Bichon’s.  One on Manuel’s abandoned house.  The barn doors were torn off at uncle Jules’, at la Cornée.  All in all, more fear than damage.  Our luck is holding.

Someone’s asking for the mayor.  I present myself to an officer accompanied by two men.  “In one half hour from now, all horned livestock are to be assembled in front of the school.”  I tell him I’m sick, I can’t walk.  Mama intervenes.  She yells at him something awful.  What a hero!

So, limping along, I go with them.  Tears and moans all around.  And no one to go with the herd, and no rope.  Order to release the animals, to drive them to the front of the school, where they arrive from all around.  What a zoo!  What a mess!

The worst, when Albert brings his poorly castrated bull that jumps on everything.  He starts up, here and there, and clears out the place.  The cows save themselves.  You had to laugh.  I was holding our Friquette.  The others went to pasture at the Pré de la Valle.

The officer went crazy with anger.  He throws his cudgel, which brushes men, then takes out his revolver, which he brandishes, orders several men who are there to follow him to attack the herd.  No one moves.  From the window of the town hall I see the valiant officer and his two men chasing the cows all the way to Le Chat’s orchard.  They gather up a few including Jacque’s two and la Friquette – I didn’t take Lisette out of her stall – and they take them away.

A while later, a cow has appeared at our front door.  La Friquette has come back, along with Jacques’ big cow.  As for the colt, I hid him in one of Albert’s sheds, behind the barrels and the rabbit cages.

In all, they couldn’t have gotten more than five cows.  But they’ll be back tomorrow.

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.

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.]