The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/10/05


You will observe, in connection with this notice of 16
September, announcing the execution, or rather the
assassination of M. Pitard and his companions, that the
murderers had neither the courage nor the honesty to say
that they were all Parisian lawyers. Was it by mistake? I
think that it was a calculated lie, for at this time it was
necessary to handle the elite gently. The occupying power
still hoped to separate them from the people of France.

I shall describe to you in detail two cases which spread
grief in the hearts of the French in the course of the month
of October 1941, and which have remained present in the
memory of all my compatriots.

They are known as the "executions of Chateaubriant and of
Bordeaux." They are related in Document 415 in your document
book, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 285.

After the attack on two German officers at Nantes on 20
October 1941, and another in Bordeaux a few days later, the
German Army decided to make an example. You will find, on
Page 22 of Document 415, a copy of the notice in the
newspaper "Le Phare," on 21 October, 1941. It is the last
page of the document:

   "Notice. Cowardly criminals in the pay of England and of
   Moscow have killed, by shooting in the back, the
   Feldkommandant of Nantes on the morning of 20 October
   1941. Up to now the assassins have not been arrested.
   
   As expiation for this crime I have ordered that 50
   hostages be shot, to begin with. Because of the gravity
   of the crime, 50 more hostages will
   
                                                  [Page 137]
   
   be shot in the case of the guilty not being arrested
   between now and midnight of 23 October 1941.

The conditions under which these reprisals were executed are
worth describing in detail:

Stulpnagel, who was commanding the German troops in France,
ordered the Ministry of the Interior to select prisoners.
These prisoners were to be selected from among the
Communists who were considered the most dangerous (these are
the terms of Stulpnagel's order). A list of 60 Frenchmen was
furnished by the Minister of the Interior. This was Pucheu.
He has since been tried by my compatriots, sentenced to
death and executed.

On the first page you will find a copy of the letter from
the Sub-prefect ofChateaubriant to the Kommandantur of
Chateaubriant, in reply to the order which he received from
the Minister of the Interior:

   "Following our conversation of today, I have the honour
   of confirming to you that the Minister of the Interior
   has communicated today with General Stulpnagel, in order
   to point out to him the most dangerous Communist
   prisoners among those who are now held at Chateaubriant.
   You will find enclosed herewith the list of 60
   individuals who have been handed over this day."

On the following page is the German order

   "Because of the assassination of the Feldkommandant of
   Nantes, Lt. Col. Hotz on 20 October 1941, the following
   Frenchmen, who are already imprisoned as hostages in
   accordance with my publication of 22 August 1941, and of
   my decree to the legal representative of the French
   Government of 19 September 1941, are to be shot."

In the following pages you will find a list, which I shall
not read, of all the men who were shot on that day. I leave
out the reading of the list in order not to lengthen the
proceedings unduly.

On Page 16 you will find a list of 48 names. On Page 13 you
will find the list of those who were shot in Nantes. On Page
12 you will find the list of those who were shot in
Chateaubriant. From these lists you will observe that the
bodies were sent out for burial to all the surrounding
communes.

I shall read to you the testimony of eyewitnesses as to how
they were buried after having been shot. On Page 3 of this
document you will find that note of M. Dumesnil, concerning
the executions of 21 October 1941, which was drawn up the
day after these executions. The second paragraph reads:

   "The priest was called at 11.30 to the prison of La
   Fayette. An officer, probably of the G.F.P., told him
   that he was charged with announcing to certain prisoners
   that they were going to be shot. The priest was then
   locked up in a room with the 13 hostages who were in the
   prison. The other three, who were at Les Rochettes, were
   attended by Abbe Theon, professor at the College
   Stanislas.
   
   The Abbe Fontaine said to the condemned: 'Gentlemen, you
   must understand, alas, what my presence means.' He then
   spoke with the prisoners collectively and individually
   for the two hours which the officers had said would be
   granted to arrange the personal affairs of the
   condemned, and to write their last wills to their
   families.
   
   The execution had been fixed for 2 o'clock in the
   afternoon, half an hour having been allowed for the
   journey. But the two hours passed by, another hour
   passed, and still another hour before the condemned were
   sent for. There were some, like M. Fourny, who were
   optimistic by nature, and hoped that a countermanding
   order would be given. The priest himself did not at all
   believe this.
   
   The condemned were all very brave. It was two of the
   youngest, Gloux and Grolleau, who were students, who
   constantly encouraged the

                                                  [Page 138]
   
   others, saying that it was better to die in this way
   than to perish uselessly in an accident.
   
   When they left, the priest, for reasons which were not
   explained to him, was not authorised to accompany the
   hostages to the place of execution. He went down the
   stairs of the prison with them as far as the truck. They
   were chained together in twos. The thirteenth had on
   handcuffs. Once they were in the truck, Gloux and
   Grolleau made another gesture of farewell to him,
   smiling and waving their chained hands.
   
   Signed: Dumesnil (Counsellor attached to the Cabinet)."

Sixteen were shot in Nantes. Twenty-seven were shot in
Chateaubriant. Five were shot outside the Department. As to
those who were shot in Chateaubriant, we know what their
last moments were like. The Abbe Moyon, who was present,
wrote on 22 October 1941, Page 17 of your document, the
account of this execution. This is the third paragraph, Page
17:
   
   "It was a beautiful autumn day. The temperature was
   mild. There had been lovely sunshine since morning.
   Everyone in town was going about his usual business.
   There was great animation in the town since it was
   Wednesday, which was market day. The population knew
   from the newspapers, and from the information it had
   received from Nantes, that a superior officer had been
   killed in a street in Nantes, but they refused to
   believe that such savage and extensive reprisals would
   be applied.
   
   At Choisel Camp the German authorities had, for some
   days, put into special quarters a certain number of men
   who were to serve as hostages in case of special
   difficulties. It was from among these men that those who
   were to be shot on this evening of 22 October 1941 were
   chosen.
   
   The Cure of Bere was finishing his lunch when M. Moreau
   presented himself. M. Moreau was Chief of Choisel Camp.
   In a few words the latter explained to him the object of
   his visit; that, having been delegated by M. Lecornu,
   the Sub-prefect of Chateaubriant, he had come to inform
   him that 27 men selected from among the political
   prisoners of Choisel, were to be executed that
   afternoon, and he asked Monsieur Le Cure to go
   immediately to attend them.
   
   The priest said he was ready to accomplish this mission,
   and he went to the prisoners without delay. When the
   priest appeared to carry out his mission, the Sub-
   prefect was already with the condemned. He had come to
   announce the horrible fate which was awaiting them,
   asking them to write letters of farewell to their
   families without delay. It was under these circumstances
   that the priest arrived at the entrance to the
   quarters."

You will find on Page 19 the "departure for the execution,"
paragraph 4:

   "Suddenly there was the sound of car engines. The door,
   which I had shut at the beginning so that we might be
   more private, opened. A German officer appeared. He was
   actually a chaplain. He said to me: 'Monsieur le Cure,
   your mission has been accomplished and you must withdraw
   immediately.'"

At the bottom of the page, the last paragraph:

   "Access to the quarry where the execution took place
   being absolutely forbidden to all Frenchmen, I only know
   that the condemned were executed in three groups of nine
   men, that all the men who were shot refused to have
   their eyes bound, that young Mocquet fainted and fell,
   and that the last cry that sprang from the lips of all
   of them was an ardent 'Vive la France.'"

On Page 21 of the same document you will find the
declaration of Police Officer Roussel. It also is worth
reading:

   "22 October 1941, at about 3.30 in the afternoon, I
   happened to be in the Rue du 11 Novembre in
   Chateaubriant, and I saw coming from

                                                  [Page 139]
   
   
   Choisel Camp four or five German trucks, I could not say
   definitely how many, preceded by a sedan, in which was a
   German officer. Several civilians in handcuffs were in
   the trucks and were singing patriotic songs; the
   'Marseillaise,' the 'Chant du Depart' and so forth. One
   of the trucks was filled with armed German soldiers.
   
   I learned subsequently that these were hostages who had
   just been taken from Choisel Camp, to be led to the
   quarry of Sabliere on the Soudan Road, to be shot in
   reprisal for the murder in Nantes of the German Colonel
   Hotz.
   
   About two hours later these same trucks came back from
   the quarry and drove into the court of the Chateau of
   Chateaubriant, where the bodies of the men who had been
   shot were deposited in a cellar until coffins could be
   made.
   
   On coming back from the quarry the trucks were covered
   and no noise was heard, but a stream of blood escaped
   from them and left a mark on the road from the quarry to
   the castle.
   
   The following day, 23 October, the bodies of the men who
   had been shot were put into coffins, without any French
   persons being present, the entrances to the chateau
   having been guarded by German sentinels, and were taken
   to the cemeteries of the surrounding communes,three
   coffins per commune. The Germans were careful to choose
   communes to which there was no regular transport
   service, presumably to avoid the population's going en
   masse to the graves of these martyrs.
   
   I was not present at the departure of the hostages from
   the camp nor at the shooting in the quarry of Sabliere,
   as the approaches to it were guarded by German soldiers
   armed with machine guns."

Almost at the same time, in addition to these 48 hostages
who were shot, there were others: those of Bordeaux. You
will find in your document book, under Document 400-F,
documents which have been communicated to us by the
Prefecture of the Gironde, which we submit to the Tribunal
as Exhibit RF 286.

You will find the first document issued by the Section of
Political Affairs, dated 22 October 1941, marked 400-F (C),
at the bottom of which you will read:

   "In the course of the conference which took place last
   night at the Feldkommandantur of Bordeaux, the German
   authorities asked me to proceed immediately with the
   arrest of 100 individuals known for their sympathy with
   the Communist Party or the de Gaullist movement, who
   will be considered as hostages, and to make a great
   number of house searches.
   
   These operations have been in progress since this
   morning. So far no result of interest has been brought
   to my attention. In addition, this morning at 11 o'clock
   the German authorities informed me of the reprisal
   measures which they had decided to take against the
   population."

These reprisal measures you will find set forth on Page "A"
of the same document, in a letter addressed by General von
Faber Du Faur, Chief of the Regional Administration of
Bordeaux, to the Prefect of the Gironde. I quote:

   "Bordeaux, 23 October 1941.
   
   To the Prefect of the Gironde
   
   As expiation for the cowardly murder of the Councillor
   of War, Reimers, the military Commander in France has
   ordered fifty hostages to be executed. The execution
   will take place to-morrow.
   
   In the case of the murderers not being arrested in the
   very near future, other measures will be taken, as in
   the case of Nantes.

                                                  [Page 140]

   I have the honour of making known this decision to you.
   
   Chief of the Military Regional Administration
   
   Signed : von Faber du Faur."

All of these men were executed.

There is a famous place in the suburbs of Paris, which has
become a place of pilgrimage for the French since our
liberation. It is the Fort of Romainville. During the
occupation the Germans converted this fort into a hostage
depot, from which they selected victims when they wanted to
take revenge after some patriotic demonstration. It is from
Romainville that Professors Jacques Solomon, Decourtemanche,
Georges Politzer, Dr. Boer and six other Frenchmen went
forth. They were arrested in March 1942, tortured by the
Gestapo, then executed without trial in the month of May
1942.

On 19 August, 1942, 96 hostages left this fort, among them
Monsieur Le Gall, a municipal councillor of Paris. They left
the fort of Romainville, were transferred to Mont-Valerien,
and executed.

In September 1942, an attack had been made against some
German soldiers at the Rex Cinema in Paris. General von
Stulpnagel issued a proclamation announcing that, because of
this attack, he had ordered 116 hostages to be shot and that
extensive measures of deportation were to be taken. You will
find an extract from this newspaper in Document 402 under
letter "B."

The notice was worded as follows:

   "As a result of attacks committed by communist agents
   and terrorists in the pay of England, German soldiers
   and French civilians have been killed or wounded.
   
   As reprisal for these attacks I have had 116 communist
   terrorists shot, whose participation or implication in
   terroristic acts has been proved by confessions.
   
   In addition, severe measures of repression have been
   taken to prevent incidents on the occasion of
   demonstrations planned by the communists for 20
   September 1942.
   I ordered the following:
   
   From Saturday, 19 September 1942, at 3 o'clock in the
   afternoon, until Sunday, 20 September 1942, at midnight,
   all theatres, cinemas, cafes and other places of
   amusement shall remain closed to the French population
   in the Departments of the Seine, Seine-et-Oise and Seine-
   et-Marne; all public demonstrations, including sport
   activities, are forbidden.
   
   From Sunday, 20 September 1942, from 3 o'clock in the
   afternoon until midnight, it is forbidden to non-German
   civilians to move about in the streets and on public
   squares in the Departments of the Seine, the Seine-et-
   Oise and the Seine-et-Marne. The only exceptions are
   persons representing official services, etc."

In fact, it was only on the day of 20 September that 46 of
these hostages were chosen from the list of 116. The Germans
handed newspapers of 20 September to the prisoners of
Romainville, announcing the decision of the High Military
Command. It was, therefore, through the newspapers, that the
prisoners of Romainville learned that a certain number of
them would be chosen at the end of the afternoon to be led
before the firing squad.

All lived during that day in expectation of the call that
would be made that evening. Those who were called knew their
fate beforehand. All died innocent of the crimes for which
they were being executed, for those who were responsible for
the attack in the Rex Cinema were arrested a few days later.

It was in Bordeaux that the 70 other hostages, of the total
of 116 announced by General von Stulpnagel, were executed.
In reprisal for the murder of Ritter, the German official of
the Labour Front, 50 other hostages were shot

                                                  [Page 141]

at the end of September 1943, in Paris. You will find in
this same file 402 (C), a reproduction of the newspaper
article which announced these executions to the French
people as reprisal against terroristic acts, saying that the
attacks and acts of sabotage had multiplied in France in
recent days, and for this reason 50 terrorists, convicted of
having participated in acts of sabotage and of terrorism,
had been shot on 2 October 1943, on the order of the Higher
SS and Polizeifuehrer.

All these facts concerning the hostages of Romainville have
been related to us by one of the survivors, one of the
hundreds of Frenchmen imprisoned in this fort, Monsieur
Rabate, a mechanic living at 69, Rue de la Ton beIssiore,
Paris, whose testimony was taken by one of our
collaborators.


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