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 occupation (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.

 

Tuesday
Jul272010

Sabotage

 

The World War II generation of my parishioners seemed the most enthusiastic about their new American pastor. Sadly, the youth were most familiar with recent American military adventures, especially the war in Iraq. Their view of America and Americans was much more skeptical, even hostile. But the elders remembered when America had rescued them. “If it weren’t for the Americans, we’d all be Germans,” was one’s opinion. Born in 1944, the last year of the occupation of France, he grew up in the villages of the parish, and knew the privations of post-war Europe.

There were many of the World War II generation who were still involved in parish life. Louis Guerity, the cabinetmaker at Luze, ill, stooped and in the last months of his life, was one of them. He was a deeply intelligent man, very well read. To visit his home was to enter a world of antique tools, rusted equipment, books and dishes and old newspapers. He pulled out his Bible once to ask me about a verse, and it was underlined and highlighted, the pages stained and dog-eared. It was the most well used, well-thumbed Bible I think I’ve ever seen. The dark dining room was full of old newspapers, boxes and imposing furniture. Louis had made and carved the furniture with his own hands, and it was exquisite. The dining table and sideboard were fashioned in dark wood, with flowers carved in relief. Louis himself was dying of cancer and, almost bent double by an arthritic spine. His eyes were bright, though, and his wit and intelligence shone out above his pain.

Louis told me of his days as a young man in the village of Luze.  Snowy fields near the village of Luze

Apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, he had excelled at his work. Although he had been of the age to be taken by the Germans, he had escaped deportation to the work camps, while others from Luze had been taken. Louis remembered what he called “meetings” that he attended with other young men during the war. He’d smile and say a few of them would get together for a meeting and, what a coincidence, the electrical lines to Couthenans would be destroyed. To hear him speak of those meetings began to open my eyes to how deeply involved my parishioners had been in defying the Germans while they waited for liberation.

The fields around Luze on a s

Wednesday
Aug042010

Chez Bonhotal

The Bonhotal family and their descendants live on the edge of the woods on the outskirts of Chenebier. A few kilometers' walk takes you deep into the forest, or to the village of Etobon. The Bonhotals had contact with the Indian soldiers' camps in the woods, and their children remember playing with those soldiers in the last months of 1944.

Daya Ram's headstone in the Chenebier cemeteryOne of the Indian soldiers, Daya Ram, a sergeant in an artillery brigade, had been ill since arriving at Etobon. Jules Perret reports that one of the soldiers was ill, and that he was given aspirin and tea to comfort him. Later, after living for months in the woods, Daya Ram's tuberculosis came to its crisis. The other soldiers brought him to the Bonhotal's home, where the family cared for him in their great room. With no medicines available, Daya Ram died there on October 15, 1944. Emile Bonhotal knew that they would all be in jeopardy if the Germans discovered his body. That night, Bonhotal and some helpers loaded Ram's body on a wagon and covered it with potato sacks. They moved Ram's body to the woods, where they buried it until it could be exhumed and buried in the Protestant cemetery in Chenebier. Ram's body rests there still.

 

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."

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."