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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 village martyr (2)


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.


The Funeral

After the coffins arrived at the cemetery, it was time for the funeral. So much grief, so many tears ... Jules Perret's account is heart-wrenching:

Here we all are in the church.  The ones we are mourning came here to pray, to sing, to hear the message of the Gospel.  They used to sit there, there.  I see them again, I hear their voices rise at the psalm and the hymns.  Now they’re side by side again, hands joined, eyes closed, on the bottom of the immense grave where we just placed them …  Is it true?…  My Jacques!  My eyes are so full of tears that I can’t see anyone, and yet the church is full because people have come from near and far to surround us with sympathy.

A voice came to us from the high pulpit, the voice of M. Lovy, who had been our pastor for eight years, who knew, loved, drew into a brotherly circle our lost ones.  His voice trembles, he chokes on his words:

“Have pity on me, Lord, because I am without strength.  Heal me. Lord, for my bones shake …  From out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice!  O that your ears would be attentive to my pleas … My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen wait for the morning … If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not raised … If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  Finally, this text:  “I say to you, who are my friends:  do not fear those who kill the body and who, after that, can do no more.”

No message, no sermon:  the cry of a wounded heart bending over crushed hearts, of a heart that knows that the cream of our parish has been mowed down, so many youth of whom the Lord said, “You are the light of the world …” to the other hearts to show that they know that the souls of believers never die.

We listen to these words that console us and tear us apart…  “Those who fell at the foot of the protestant church in Chenebier, their gazes fixed on the beloved heights of Etobon, left in a way that is reserved for very few martyrs, because they died – knowing them, I can affirm it – in the peace of their Lord.  O that that same peace would be yours, in the midst of your tears, dear friends of Etobon.”

In the midst of your tears … they flow, unstoppable.  Ah!  That God would be with each of us, that he would take us by the hand!  There is only Him to console us, to heal us …

I could see no more, I could hear no more, not even my own sobs, or mama’s or Suzette’s or anyone’s.  I could only repeat to myself, “Lord, hold us in your mighty hand …”

How we got outside, in the wind, the snow, the cold, I have no idea.

As soon as I could, I went back to the cemetery to photograph the coffins of Charles and René, at the bottom of the pit and bid them the supreme Adieu.  More tears!  The diggers started their work again.  And now all are hidden for this life …  awaiting the great Reunion.

The day is over.  We have supper.  And yes, we still have to eat!  All together, we talk again about them, always about them.