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. 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 WWII (5)


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."


No One from Etobon Dared to Complain ...

German and Cossack troops were preparing to retreat from Etobon towards the Rhine River. Insubordination and desertions were becoming even more of a problem, putting the Etobonais at continued risk.

Saturday, November 4

The Cossacks are leaving the village.  Thinking of the future, they ask me for a certificate of good conduct!  It was pretty delicate to edit.  Finally, “During the period October 24 to November 4, 1944, no one from Etobon dared to complain to me about the Cossacks of the 15.201F stationed in this village.  Etobon, November 4, 1944.  For the executed mayor, J. Perret.”

I did not seal it.  I told them the mayor had the seal in his pocket when they killed him.  Mama roasted two chickens, one for us, one for Jarko, the hermit of the pines, who is finding the time really long.  Coming back from taking him his chicken, I met Mario, from Frahier, who had just repaired the electric line.  He says the Germans had evacuated Frahier all of a sudden to go as reinforcements in the Vosges, and that we’ll soon be liberated.  (Mario was killed a few days later by a shell.) 

Here, our boches act like they’ll be staying forever.  They’re building an oven to cook lice in the cellar of the girls school, and to get bricks for it, they demolished the scale house.  An Austrian adjutant, a good guy, is doing the work.  He’s strong as an ox.  He says to me, “Can’t do any good.  Don’t know if the stove is good, it’s for the Americans.  He works with one hand, because the other one’s in a sling, after he gave it a good hammer blow.

Monday, November 6

Saturday, the big boche George brought a cow, picked up who knows where, into our stable.  A while later I heard him shout, “Papa, Papa, cow!”  She was calving!  Ten minutes later, “Papa, Papa, oh, cow! Oh, cow!”  She calved again.  I didn’t want to get involved.  Let him deal with it.  He dealt with it very well.  Without hesitating, he put the two calves to suckle.

Tuesday, November 7

The rain just won’t stop.  Georges, soaked to the skin, comes back from the front, which he’s supplying, with a second cow!

Life has changed since we’ve gotten electricity back.  The Doktor just burst into our kitchen without giving an explanation.  Maybe to see if we were listening to the radio.  None of our boches got up to salute him.  He grabbed one by the nose, saying, “Is this what you do when an officer enters?”

This evening, a terrible storm, the wind so violent that we couldn’t hear 18 shells exploding.  For two days now, the Germans have not responded.  Karl is writing, Willy is playing with Philippe, Georges speaks his joy at having bought a wagon for 6000 francs, Suzette reads, Mama knits and I note the happenings of the day.

Wednesday, November 8

Rain, rain … At the forge, two boches demand tin solder.  I’ve hidden it.  They search everywhere.  I get mad.  So, one of the two, who speaks French more or less:  “Ah!  You’re getting angry!  Look what I found.  Enough to put you in prison!”  And he showed me some machine gun sights, abandoned by the Polish in 1940, that they then take to the Tyrolian adjutant at the louse oven.  I went to see this adjutant.  “Do not worry at all.”

Willy told us today that a shell had killed ten of their men in a shelter.


"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.


A Stroke of a Magic Wand!

Etobon had been freed by French and North African troops. It was almost too good to believe - tonight the Etobonais could sleep without fear for the first time in years.

Saturday, November 18, 1944, continued

This afternoon, two doctors, who were doing the work themselves, came carrying tables and benches.  I went to help them; without our loss, there would have been others. They’re setting up the infirmary in the parsonage. 

This evening, the real tanks arrived.  There are so many!  And they’re so big!  We still can’t comprehend what’s happening.  Is it true the boches have been chased off?  That we’ve seen them walking through the village, hands up, followed by the boos of the crowd while the kids play with their helmets, as if they were soccer balls?  That tonight we can undress and sleep peacefully!  Is it true that soon we can go after the monsters who massacred our children?  How should we punish them for what they took from us?  Philippe says, “I’d hang them from a hook for a thousand years.”

Sunday, November 19

The tanks – ours – passed during part of last night.  An officer told me in the wee hours, “Ring the bells.  Belfort is surrounded.” And the bells rung, as triumphantly as yesterday.

A company of North African muleteers is camping in our stable.  One of those little goats stole one of our rabbits, grilled it … then happily gave us half!  The logistics officer wanted to turn in the thief, but you have to forgive little sins like that.  This junior officer, after eating only canned food for so long, was happy to feast on potatoes and milk.  We also have to do the cooking for the adjutant.  Ah, my friends!  To live with the French, compatriots, to understand each other, live in trust, what a stroke of a magic wand!  A junior officer from Perpignan tells us he just took part in the shearing of doctor Rauch’s mistress, who didn’t have time to flee with her boche.  It was Robert Chevalley who wielded the scissors and transformed her magnificent head into a billiard ball.  What will her husband say?  She wanted to kill herself.  No one will stop her.

They say they’ve taken 7,000 to 8,000 prisoners in the region.  How I wish I were well enough to go and see if the executioners were among them.  An officer has made me return four rifles and lots of cartridges, real ones.  I went to get the revolver taken form the prisoner Schott, hidden under the tiles on top of the old cemetery wall.  Strange thing, not far from it I found another one, with its magazine, which a boche had no doubt left behind.

These next days, we have to take care of exhuming everything we’ve buried:  canned goods, schnapps, blankets, clothing …

The FFI of Lomont were dealt a heavy blow at Ecurcey, which was defended by a hundred tanks.  They might have all been killed there.  Three from Chenebier gave up their lives:  André Mettetal, our cousin, Toupense and Rebillard, Alfred Jacot’s son-in-law.  Honor to those brave men!


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.