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 Nazi atrocity (9)

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.

Friday
Sep272013

8 a.m., September 27, 1944

 

The events of September 27, 1944 are best told in the words of Jules Perret.

 

Wednesday, September 27, 1944

"At eight o’clock, the crier called all the men from 16 to 60 years old to the school.  Should I go?  I wanted to talk it over with Jacques, but he was tending the animals.  So I went over to the school with Old Man Besson.  I said to him, “Why are you going?  You’re not from here.”  So he went home.  In the classroom, I sat down between the gendarme Savant Ross and my brother-in-law.  And there were Jacques and René, sitting a little farther away.  Then there were the Germans.  With them was someone dressed as an aviator, bareheaded, in sabots.  He was pale and muddy.  Standing in front of us with a demonic smile, he pointed with his stick at some of the guerillas.  “Who is this character?” asked my brother-in-law.  “Gunther Ulrich, one of our escaped prisoners,” Ross answered.  The men from the lower village, who got word a little later, started showing up.

"We look at each other.  We talk.  We say,  “They’re going to take us to dig anti-tank trenches at Héricourt.”  With my bad knee, I’m not at all interested in going.  I want to talk to Jacques, but he is staring at the curtain in front of the stage, where you can read the words, “Peace, Fraternity.”  I get up, pace back and forth, then slip through a door that a guard had just walked away from, go down into the basement of the girls’ school, go through the laundry and come out behind the boys’ school, just a few steps from my house.  But I still have to cross the road in front of four Cossack guards.  I go right up to them and say, “Comrade Cossack Kouban?”  “Ja, ja, Kouban.  You know Kouban?”  “Yes, know Kouban.”  “You Kouban?”  Enchanted, they speak some Russian and let me pass.

"Suzette is in the kitchen.  I tell her they’re sending all the men to Héricourt, and that I pulled myself out.  “You did the right thing.  But they’re searching all the houses.  Take your scythe and go hide in Tisserand’s hut by the pond.”  It’s good advice.  More Cossacks, in the orchard.  I shake a plum tree.  Gut!  And I go on.  Behind grandmother’s house, Suzette meets me with a cape.  A little farther on, more Cossacks, Jacques’.  Guten morgen, Cossacks!  I point to the rain:  “Nix gut!  Krieg nix gut.  Kreig fertig.  Kouban!”  It’s all the German I know.  We hear some shelling far away.  A Cossack says, “Boom!  Boom!  Pap kaput!”  I go back and sit down on my cape, behind a bush, not far from the lieutenant’s grave.

"And here’s what I thought:  “Where is M. Boigeol’s officer’s jacket that Jacques asked for the other day?  He hasn’t returned it.  What if they find it?”  I wanted to go back home or back to the school.  I had only taken a few steps, when here comes my sister.  She tells me they’re taking the men to Héricourt, and they have to have food and clothing for several days, and congratulates me for escaping this chore.  I told her about Boigeol’s jacket.  I find out it’s under a pile of hay near our outhouse.  I put it in a safer place.  And I go back to the field where Suzette will come looking for me around noon."

 

Friday
Sep272013

The Round-Up

All the men from 16 to 60 were ordered by the Germans to assemble in the village school on the morning of September 27. Jules Perret joined them, but slipped out and hid. His memoir continues:

"In the village, people are worried, especially for the seventeen men set apart as “suspects.”   What’s in store for them?  Do they have any idea?  The Guemann brothers gave their sister all the money they had on them.  “We won’t be needing this.”  Charles called out several times to his daughter Denise:  “Kiss me once more.  You’ll never see me again.”  And H. Croissant, thinking of his fiancée, wrote with the point of a nail on the classroom wall where the “suspects” were locked up, “Goodbye, Germaine, my angel, H.C.”  and he drew a heart next to the words.

In all, they rounded up 75 men.  We don’t know why, but the commanding officer sent eight back.  Several didn’t show up, claiming illness.  M. Pernol hid in the steeple.  Marcel Goux also hid.  He crouched behind the woodpile that’s squeezed into his telephone room and stayed there until evening.  Before he took off, he heard Jacques and René, coming back from the toilets, saying “No, there’s no way …”  Without a doubt, they were talking about escaping.  They must have seen all the Cossack guards.

Sixty-seven men left, including our Pastor – who will be deported {to Buchenwald} – surrounded by the Cossacks.  Mama cries on the church steps.  When she gives her son a leather overcoat and a flask of schnapps, he says to her, “Why such a long face?  We’re going to dig trenches.  Don’t be so sad!”  “Goodbye, my little Philippe!  Be a good boy!”  He left confident, his face pink.  To René, who was wearing sabots, Suzanne gave some shoes.  Jus as the column was moving off, shells started falling around the village.

Without a doubt, if the Americans advance, the Germans will take our men to Germany.  They’re talking about evacuating us.  We decide to sleep in Remillet’s cellar.  I lock all our doors."

Saturday
Sep282013

Etobon, September 28

The day after the men were marched out of the village, those who remained in Etobon knew nothing of their fate. Were they in Héricourt digging trenches? In Belfort, boarding a train as forced workers for Germany? The Germans continued to shell the village and people were afraid to leave their cellars. Jules Perret ventured to his own home for a short visit, then had to take shelter from the artillery shells.

 

Thursday, September 28

 

"There are a lot of us in Remillet’s cellar, all of us ill at ease.  It’s too hot.  [We think about our dear ones.  No little voice says to us “They’re all in the cemetery at Chenebier.”]

"All night long, the shelling continues.  Near daybreak I go to see our house.  It’s still standing … I hear snoring coming from the kitchen.  I opened the door.  My flashlight reveals eight Germans sleeping on the floor.  And I had locked all the doors and there’s no sign of a break-in.  Stepping over the eight bodies, I go through to the barn and find an enormous truck … A little later I come back with Jeanne.  Nobody there.  They could have gone to sleep in the beds, but they didn’t.  They cooked potatoes in the casserole and took one spoonful of lard, only one, for the pot, which wasn’t damaged.  They took a few grapes, ate a few dried plums, but left the telephone box, full of money.  In the cellar, they only took a few potatoes and didn’t touch the schnapps or the bottles.  They were good ones, then. 

"I take Victor the colt his bucket of skim milk out to his “chalet.”  A shell fell in my rows of apple trees in the Courbe au Prêtre.  Just broken branches left!  Why do people destroy everything when we could all live so happily?!

"The shells continued to whine, so we go back to Remillet’s cellar.  Those good folks have prepared a wonderful supper!  Hopefully a boche won’t come in and yell, “Get out!”

"We go from hope to despair.  One moment, the noise is so loud that we think our deliverance has arrived.  A few hours after, nothing.  Our hearts are tired.  We keep busy as best we can.  I’ll go see my sister, sad about the departure of her Alfred and Samuel.  I pour some water on the pig, in the cellar, so he can take a mud bath.

Finally some news of our unlucky ones.  They aren’t in Héricourt, like they said, but at Belfort, staying in the barracks of the GMR.  They’re working at Essert.  Louise Chevillot’s daughter saw them."

Sunday
Sep292013

Rumors

Friday, September 29, the shells and rain were still falling on Etobon. Almost surely, the bombardment had two purposes: to continue the punishment of the Etobonais and to keep them from finding out what happened a few kilometers away in Chenebier. Rumors began to circulate, though, from German soldiers and neighbors. Jules Perret's journal continues:

 

"The shells are still hammering the soil of Etobon.  Two boches, a big blond and a dark one, stopped, seeing Suzette and Aline in front of the house:

“'Can you tell us where our comrade is buried, the one who was killed in this village on the 13th?'

“'Nobody knows.  Women don’t get mixed up in these things.'

“'You think so?  There are female terrorists here, too.'

“'Talk to the men.'

The blond boche snickered. 

“"Men?  There aren’t any.'

“'Pretty much.  They took them to the trenches.'

“'They shot them yesterday at Chenebier.  Go see for yourselves!'

"Suzette shrugged her shoulders at this despicable lie.  After a few more questions, the women concluded that these two were Karl Lade, the prisoner taken on the 13th, and one of those taken prisoner at my sister’s house, called Schott.

"This whole thing perplexes us.  We also heard that these boches have threatened to burn the village unless the body of Officer X was handed over.  Panic has begun to set in.  Some are leaving.  We thought about going to Chenebier, to Aline’s parents’, but the major in charge of the infirmary said, 'Why leave?  You won’t find anything,' and we calmed down.

"On my way from Remillet’s cellar to my house, I found two little boches, who were eighteen years old at the most.  For a little milk – what the colt didn’t want – they put two hundred-franc notes on the table.  'Soldiers clean, correct …'  I’m ready to take anything from the Germans that they could use against us in the war, but money is something else.  But they wouldn’t take it back.  And they gave me 100 more francs for a room.

"Three others were walking around my wagon, trying to take off a wheel.  I intervened.  Then I fed a little iron to my forge.  The one who took it from me had a Bible in his pocket.  He said to me, 'Protestant!'  But he still would have stolen part of my wagon.

"At Chenebier, the German captain is haranguing the villagers.  He told them Germany was in flames, that his mother and wife had been killed by a bomb, but that the people of Chenebier had nothing to fear if they behaved and didn’t act like those people of Etobon, all of them terrorists.  He added, “Despite that, I saved the village from complete destruction.”  I wonder what that meant.

"Ambulances pass by with the wounded."