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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. 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 mass grave (2)


Return to the Killing Fields

As men from the neighoring villages dug a huge common grave next to Etobon's cemetery, the bodies of those shot in Chenebier were exhumed from the churchyard  to be identified. It was the most horrific of days. Jules Perret could not stand to be present as Jacques and the others were identified.

Friday, December 8

What weather, last night!  This morning, the diggers are soaked.  I tried to drive a truck full of boards and poles through the mud.  In this mess, I couldn’t move an inch.  Why do we have to have more of this weather!?

Alas, in the killing field of Banvillars, there are some of ours.  Louise recognized her husband Marcel Nardin and Marguerite Nardin her brother Albert.  And five gendarmes, taken with them – the adjutant Henry, Pierre LeBlanc, Pierre Bouteiller, Jean Millet and Pierre Savant Ros.  New sadness.  And worry, because all the corpses haven’t been identified.

Three o’clock.  I just came back from the cemetery.  What a job!  So much dirt!  The five meters left between the trenches is not enough, but we can’t start over.  We’ll put the monument at the end.  But the transverse trench is badly placed for four or five coffins.  It’s so hard to do the right thing.

Five o’clock.  Suzette and Aline come home from Chenebier.  What a wrenching scene!  No more illusions.  Jacques is dead, killed by a single bullet to the back of the head.  He’s not disfigured at all.  Only his forehead is wrinkled, as if he’s worried.  But so many are unrecognizable!  Christ Guémann was shot at least fifteen times.  Our niece Hélène recognized my brother-in-law and Samuel.  Alfred still seemed to be singing.

Charles’ Marguerite didn’t leave all day.  She washed them all.  They found Jacques’ wallet, his knife and his beret; but in his shirt pocket, where he and Aline, that same morning, had put a little change-purse with 1500 or 2000 francs and some Bible verses that I had also given to Jacques, there was nothing.  His pocket was unbuttoned.

We hear details about all of them.  We shiver as we listen.

A plaque marks the location of the mass grave in the churchyard at Chenebier. The bodies of the fallen now rest in Etobon.


The Coffins

The day had come to bring the martyrs home. Places in the common grave had been chosen, and the men's remains were brought from Chenebier by truck. One was still unidentified: that grim task fell to his mother.

Saturday, December 9

At daybreak, I limp across the village.  The trenches aren’t finished, the labels not yet done.  They won’t be finished until the moment we leave for Chenebier.  We have to satisfy everyone.  After Gilbert Goux will be the Perrets.  There are eight of them.  Jacques will be between Pierre and René.  Uncle Alfred and his Samuel, with all the older men, are across from the Perrets.  The two Bauer sons across from their father, the two sons of Louis Nardin and the two sons of Guémann in the transverse trench.  One half meter between coffins, except for brothers, who rest side by side.

When I come back to the house to get ready, I find two pastors, M. Poincenot and M. Netillard, who are waiting for me with their car.  That was fortunate, because I couldn’t walk all the way to Chenebier.  We’ll have to leave the car by the cemetery, because the bridge was blown up.  We pass over wooden planks.  We’re among the first to arrive at the school.  What a sight!  In front of us, in two rows, all these coffins, and these names, these names …

We step forward, Jeanne and I, we search.  In the second row, on the left, the Perrets.  In front of them, in the first row, I read:  Alfred Pochard, Samuel Pochard.  A little further to the left:  Jacques, René, Pierre, all the others.  What sadness!  It’s very cold.  And there, in front of us, our children, our children … Poor little Philippe, you look here and there without understanding that it’s your papa who is in front of you …

Bouquets of flowers arrive from everywhere, covering the coffins.  Rosettes, palms, tricolored ribbons.  FFI from Belfort, from Fougerolles.  It’s so cold!  The speeches are so long!  Please, not so many words, so many patriotic frills.  My eyes can’t leave the factory where they experienced such cruel moments.  The snow starts to fall, mixed with rain.  Gusts of wind.  We’re transfixed, we feel nothing.

This roll call is mournful.  “Perret, Jacques”  Lieutenant Pernol’s voice responds:  “Shot by the Germans.”  Thirty-nine times.

Is it over?  No.  A truck brings three more coffins from Banvillars where our own are laid out:  Marcel and Albert Nardin, Pierre Prosper.

Coming back in the car, we arrive at the cemetery a little before the trucks.  The weather is still terrible.  How can I write of what happened?  Men of Belverne, Chenebier and Echavanne, a few from Etobon, take the coffins, carry them, and line them up on the ground while the snow stings their faces.  The whole field is covered with coffins.  It’s snowing so hard that the names are covered, and we aren’t sure we’re crying in front of our own children.

Among all these coffins, there in one of an unknown.  M.P. opens it and asks several people to come forward.  This unknown holds his handkerchief in front of his face, in his right hand, as if to hide from the approach of death.  Berthe Croissant approaches.  Suddenly, a cry, so frightening, as if she thought he were still alive:  “It’s Roger! … My son, my son …”  Next to him, Albert Nardin clasps his hands, as if he were praying.  Of the group of four houses around the Cornée, there are eight dead.

We couldn’t stand any more, so we went back to the house for a hot drink and went out again when we heard our beautiful bells begin to ring.  Their voices pierce our hearts.