Jacques Cousteau-Oceanic explorer,Naval officer and Resistance fighter.

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Before David Attenborough explored the oceans in the Blue Planet, Jacques Cousteau had been doing it for decades and he did much more then that. When it comes to Oceanic exploration he literally wrote the book.

The title ” The Silent World” was released this day 65 years ago.

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As a kid I would be glued to the Television every time they aired one of Cousteau’s explorations, they would be the highlight of the week. In this blog I will be focusing on his work during WWII and the years after the war..

During World War II, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Jacques  Cousteau and his family took refuge in the small town of Megreve, near the Swiss border. For the first few years of the war, he quietly continued his underwater experiments and explorations. In 1943 he met Emile Gagnan, a French engineer who shared his passion for discovery. Around this time, compressed air cylinders were invented and Cousteau and Gagnan experimented with snorkel hoses, body suits and breathing apparatus.

In  that time, they developed the first aqua-lung device allowing divers to stay underwater for long periods of time.

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Cousteau was also instrumental in the development of a waterproof camera that could withstand the high pressure of deep water. During this time, Cousteau made two documentaries on underwater exploration, Par dix-huit mètres de fond (“18 Meters Deep”) and Épaves(“Shipwrecks”).

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Having kept bonds with the English speakers (he spent part of his childhood in the United States and usually spoke English) and with French soldiers in North Africa (under Admiral Lemonnier), Jacques-Yves Cousteau (whose villa “Baobab” at Sanary (Var) was opposite Admiral Darlan’s villa “Reine”), helped the French Navy to join again with the Allies; he assembled a commando operation against the Italian espionage services in France, and received several military decorations for his deeds. At that time, he kept his distance from his brother Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, a “pen anti-semite” who wrote the collaborationist newspaper Je suis partout (I am everywhere) and who received the death sentence in 1946. However, this was later commuted to a life sentence, and Pierre-Antoine was released in 1954.

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In 1947, Cousteau, using the Aqualung, set a world’s record for free diving, reaching a depth of 300 feet. The following year, Dumas broke the record with a 306-foot dive. The team developed and perfected many of the techniques of deep-sea diving, working out rigorous decompression schedules that enabled the body to adjust to pressure changes. This physically demanding, dangerous work took its toll; one member of the research team was killed during underwater testing.

On July 19, 1950, Cousteau bought Calypso, a converted U.S. minesweeper

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Jacques-Yves Cousteau died of a heart attack on 25 June 1997 in Paris, 2 weeks after his 87th birthday.He was buried in the family vault at Saint-André-de-Cubzac, his birthplace.An homage was paid to him by the town by naming the street which runs out to the house of his birth “rue du Commandant Cousteau”, where a commemorative plaque was placed.

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Coco Chanel-Fascist designer

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During the Second World War, many well-known fashion brands were accused of collaborating with the Nazis. However, Coco Chanel, the iconic founder of the luxury brand, is not only accused of fraternizing with high-level Nazi officials but that she capitalized on her powerful connections to oust Jewish business partners in her company. Her loyalty to the German party did not end there.

Recent French documents revealed that she also may have been Agent 7124 (Codename: “Westminster”) for the Nazi intelligence organization, the Abwehr.

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In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Chanel closed her shops, maintaining her apartment situated above the couture house at 31 Rue de Cambon. She claimed that it was not a time for fashion; as a result of her action, 4,000 female employees lost their jobs.   Her dislike of Jews, reportedly inculcated by her convent years and sharpened by her association with society elites, had solidified her beliefs. She shared with many of her circle a conviction that Jews were a threat to Europe because of the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union.

During the German occupation, Chanel resided at the Hotel Ritz. It was noteworthy as the preferred place of residence for upper-echelon German military staff. Her romantic liaison with Baron (Freiherr) Hans Günther von Dincklage  a German diplomat in Paris and former Prussian Army officer and Attorney General who had been an operative in military intelligence since 1920, the handsome von Dincklage would meet and become lovers with Coco Chanel. The two moved in together, residing for a period in Paris’ Ritz Hotel.

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Chanel was enlisted as an Abwehr spy under the command of General Walter Schellenberg.

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The stylish designer journeyed to Spain with Baron Louis de Vaufreland, whose responsibility was to identify who could be drafted into spying for the Third Reich. Chanel regularly rubbed shoulders with the British nobility, including the British ambassador to Spain, providing Vaufreland with an excellent cover.

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World War II, specifically the Nazi seizure of all Jewish-owned property and business enterprises, provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain the full monetary fortune generated by Parfums Chanel and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of Parfums Chanel, the Wertheimers, were Jewish. Chanel used her position as an “Aryan” to petition German officials to legalize her claim to sole ownership.

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On 5 May 1941, she wrote to the government administrator charged with ruling on the disposition of Jewish financial assets. Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that Parfums Chanel “is still the property of Jews” and had been legally “abandoned” by the owners.

“I have,” she wrote, “an indisputable right of priority … the profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business … are disproportionate … [and] you can help to repair in part the prejudices I have suffered in the course of these seventeen years.”

Chanel was not aware that the Wertheimers, anticipating the forthcoming Nazi mandates against Jews had, in May 1940, legally turned control of Parfums Chanel over to Félix Amiot, a Christian French businessman and industrialist. At war’s end, Amiot returned “Parfums Chanel” to the hands of the Wertheimers.

During the period directly following the end of World War II, the business world watched with interest and some apprehension the ongoing legal wrestle for control of Parfums Chanel. Interested parties in the proceedings were cognizant that Chanel’s Nazi affiliations during wartime, if made public knowledge, would seriously threaten the reputation and status of the Chanel brand. Forbes magazine summarized the dilemma faced by the Wertheimers: [it is Pierre Wertheimer’s worry] how “a legal fight might illuminate Chanel’s wartime activities and wreck her image—and his business.”

After the war’s end, Chanel was never prosecuted for her active collaboration with the Germans. After Germany lost the war, the defeated couturier spent seven years in Switzerland with her lover, Baron von Dincklage. Eventually, in 1954, she managed to re-establish Chanel with the surprising aid of Pierre Wertheimer .

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At the end of the war, Schellenberg was tried by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for war crimes. He was released in 1951 owing to incurable liver disease and took refuge in Italy. Chanel paid for Schellenberg’s medical care and living expenses, financially supported his wife and family, and paid for Schellenberg’s funeral upon his death in 1952.

Next time you spray a bit of Chanel just think of it’s history.

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Gilles de Rais-Joan of Arc’s murderous guard

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Gilles de Rais was probably born in late 1405 to Guy II de Montmorency-Laval and Marie de Craon in the family castle at Champtocé-sur-Loire. He was an intelligent child, speaking fluent Latin, illuminating manuscripts, and dividing his education between military discipline and moral and intellectual development.Following the deaths of his father and mother in 1415, Gilles and his younger brother René de La Suze were placed under the tutelage of Jean de Craon, their maternal grandfather.Jean de Craon was a schemer who attempted to arrange a marriage for twelve-year-old Gilles with four-year-old Jeanne Paynel, one of the richest heiresses in Normandy, and, when the plan failed, attempted unsuccessfully to unite the boy with Béatrice de Rohan, the niece to the Duke of Brittany. On 30 November 1420, however, Craon substantially increased his grandson’s fortune by marrying him to Catherine de Thouars of Brittany, heiress of La Vendée and Poitou .Their only child Marie was born in 1429.

At an early age Rais distinguished himself militarily, fighting first in the wars of succession to the duchy of Brittany (1420) and then for the duchess of Anjou against the English in 1427. He was assigned to Joan of Arc’s guard and fought several battles at her side, including the relief of Orléans in 1429.

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He accompanied her to Reims for the consecration of Charles VII, who made him marshal of France. He continued to serve in Joan of Arc’s special guard and was at her side when Paris was attacked. After her capture, he retired to his lands in Brittany.

Rais had inherited extensive domains from both his father and his maternal grandfather (Guy de Laval and Jean de Craon, respectively) and had also married a rich heiress, Catherine de Thouars (1420). He kept a more lavish court than the king, dissipating his wealth on the decoration of his châteaux and the maintenance of a large train of servants, heralds, and priests. He was a munificent patron of music, literature, and pageants, in one of which he figured (The Mystery of Orléans). When his family secured a decree from the king in July 1435, restraining him from selling or mortgaging the rest of his lands, he turned to alchemy. He also developed an interest in Satanism, hoping to gain knowledge, power, and riches by invoking the devil.

Rais was chosen as one of four lords on July 17, 1429 and was officially declared a Marshal of France on that same day. Rais was not present when Joan was burned at a stake by the English in May 1431.

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A year after Joan’s death, his grandfather died on November 15, 1432 and left his sword and breastplate to René de La Suze, Rais’ younger brother, as a way to punish Rais for the reckless spending of his fortune.

In 1435, now bankrupt and no longer involved with the military, Rais began selling his properties to support his extravagant lifestyle. On July 2, a royal edict denounced Rais and prohibited him from selling any further property, Rais subsequently left Orléans.Rais’ first murders occured between 1431 and 1433, with the help of his accomplices, Rais kidnapped and killed an unknown number of children, some were even used rituals involving alchemy and demon summoning. On one occasion, Rais provided a contract with a demonic entity named Barron and attempted to summon him, but grew frustrated after no demon manifested. Having being told that Barron demanded the soul of at least one child, Rais murdered a boy and dismembered him, placing his limbs inside a glass vessel, but again, no demon manifested. On May 15, 1440, Rais abducted and murdered a cleric, which caught the attention of the Bishop of Nantes, who investigated him and discovered his heinous crimes, forty bodies of his victims were found. Rais subsequently confessed to the murders and was sentenced to death along with his accomplices. Rais was hanged and burned on October 26, 1440.

It is alleged he murdered more then 100 children.Gilles de Rais is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale “Bluebeard” (“Barbe bleue”) by Charles Perrault.

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Thiaroye massacre-The forgotten WWII massacre.

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I know what you are thinking”Another forgotten atrocity committed by the Nazi regime” but you’d be wrong. this massacre was carried out by the “good” guys.

It is an often-neglected fact that the majority of General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces were not white Frenchmen but were predominantly troops from its colonies in Africa and the Middle East.

Those from West Africa were known as the “tirailleurs Senegalais” (“Senegalese sharpshooters”) but were actually from Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Benin, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, and Togo.

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17,000 of them died in the defence of France from Nazi occupation, and many others were captured and either died or suffered terribly in the racist German prisoner of war camps.

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As colonial subjects, tirailleurs (colonial infantry) were not awarded the same pensions as their French (European) fellow soldiers during and after World War II, pensions that had been promised to them at the beginning of the war. The pensions for veterans of both races were calculated on the basis of living costs in their countries of birth, supposedly lower in colonies than in metropolitan France. These soldiers additionally claimed they were owed back pay due to an order issued by the Minister of Colonies authorizing benefits for ex-prisoners of war from West Africa, which both fell short of the benefits given to French prisoners of war and was in any case not implemented.

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This discrimination led to a mutiny by about 1,300 Senegalese tirailleurs at Camp Thiaroye on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal. on 30 November 1944. The tirailleurs involved were former prisoners of war who had been repatriated to West Africa and placed in a holding camp awaiting discharge. They demonstrated in protest against the failure of the French authorities to pay salary arrears and discharge allowances. An immediate grievance was the unfavorable exchange rate applied to currency brought back by the repatriated soldiers from France. A French general, briefly held by the tirailleurs, promised to have the rate changed to a par with that applicable to white veterans.

In the early hours of 1 December, French troops attacked. Despite the mutineers being unarmed, they came in shooting, with armoured cars, mounted machine guns and even a US Army tank.

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The official death toll of the repression was 35, although meticulous research by French historian Armelle Mabon suggests a much higher number of victims – around 3-400 – which is more in line with the estimations of veterans.

The mass grave into which the bodies were dumped has yet to be discovered.

In March the following year, 34 of the survivors were sentenced to up to 10 years in prison by a military tribunal.

In 1947, those imprisoned were amnestied, however some had already died in prison. To date they have not been pardoned, nor has the French government apologised.

Like much of France’s violent and oppressive colonial history, the Thiaroye massacre is not taught in schools, and a 1988 film about the event, Camp de Thiaroye directed by Ousmane Sembène, was banned in France, and Senegal as well.

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Joe Kennedy Jr-One last mission

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I always like ‘What if?’ scenarios. What if Joe Kennedy Jr would not have embarked on his last mission, would we be remembering the assassination of JFK? Or would Joe Kennedy have been President of the USA?

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The story of the Kennedy family is not only tragic it is also amazing and its legacy still lives on today.

High expectations were placed on the first born son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. In the wake of his support for the pre-war policy of appeasement, Joseph P. Kennedy knew he would never be President.

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He seamlessly transferred his ambition to his children, anointing the oldest, Joe Jr, as his proxy for the White House. Joe Jr was living the Ivy League life of the east coast social elite until the call to England interrupted his idyllic lifestyle as President Roosevelt appointed the elder Kennedy to be his ambassador to England. Joseph Sr placed huge pressure on Joe Jr, instilling his Irish American insecurities on his son to always compete and win. In peace and war, Joe Jr’s pursuit of excellence propelled him forward. War hero was the next expectation place on him.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a lieutenant in the Navy, died in 1944 testing a very rudimentary drone program called Operation Aphrodite.

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Here’s how it worked: the Navy would load up B-17’s or B-24’s with a ton of explosives, and then control them via radio from a trailing aircraft and steer them into targets kamikaze-style.

There was just one issue, the technology did not exist for these remotely-piloted aircraft to take off. So a crew had to take off the aircraft, get it to a safe altitude, and then parachute from the vessel.

Operation Aphrodite was combat tested program, meaning they tested the development of this new weapon by simply trying to make it happen in actual combat scenarios.

Although Joe Kennedy Sr had asked his son to maybe reconsider this mission, Joe Kennedy Jr had responded that he wanted to do just one more mission and this one was very safe.

On August 12, 1944, KennedyJOE KENNEDY JR. and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy took off in a converted B-24 Liberator (the drone versions were designated BQ-8) from Royal Air Force Station Fersfield, near Norwich. Their target was a massive underground military complex called the Fortress of Mimoyecques that had the potential to launch devastating attacks directly at London. Several minutes short of the planned bail out, an electrical fault in the Liberator caused the Torpex to detonate. In a thunderous instant.The single US Navy BQ-8 detonated prematurely over the Blyth estuary, eastern England, killing Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. and Lieutenant Wilford J. Willy

 

A formerly classified telegraph captures what happened:

ATTEMPTED FIRST APHRODITE ATTACK TWELVE AUGUST WITH ROBOT TAKING OFF FROM FERSFIELD AT ONE EIGHT ZERO FIVE HOURS PD ROBOT EXPLODED IN THE AIR AT APPROXIMATELY TWO THOUSAND FEET EIGHT MILES SOUTHEAST OF HALESWORTH AT ONE EIGHT TWO ZERO HOURS PD WILFORD J. WILLY CMA SR GRADE LIEUTENANT AND JOSEPH P. KENNEDY SR GRADE LIEUTENANT CMA BOTH USNR CMA WERE KILLED PD COMMANDER SMITH CMA IN COMMAND OF THIS UNIT CMA IS MAKING FULL REPORT TO US NAVAL OPERATIONS PD A MORE DETAILED REPORT WILL BE FORWARDED TO YOU WHEN INTERROGATION IS COMPLETED

The irony was that the mission was not necessary because the previous attack on Mimoyecques which initially deemed to be a failure had in fact been succesful.

Tallboy, or Bomb, Medium Capacity, 12,000 lb, was an earthquake bomb developed by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis and used by the RAF during the Second World War.

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On the 6th of  July 1944 –  The tall boy was dropped on the Mimoyecques  V3-weapon targets,believed to be Hitler’s super weapon .Damage was unknown at the time, and efforts continued. In September, allied ground forces found galleries blocked with earth and debris where Tallboys had hit one of the shafts. The V-weapon was revealed to be the V-3 cannon.

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A young officer called Earl Olsen had spotted a potentially defect in the control panel of the BQ-8  and reported it to his superiors.But since he wasn’t a high ranking officer and had no official qualifications in electronics his concerns were dismissed, even by Joe Kennedy  himself. What if they just would have listened to Earl Olsen.

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French troops in Co Mayo,Ireland

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One of the most extraordinary episodes in Irish history saw a French naval flotilla sail to the Northern coast of Mayo in 1798 to help Ireland in its long fight to break with Britain.

The 1789 French Revolution had been a huge source of inspiration for Irish nationalists and in the wake of the second annual celebrations of the fall of the Bastille in 1791, The United Irishmen were formed by a group of merchants and intellectuals who sought an end to British interference, parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. Its leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone, went to seek French support.

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On 22 August, about 1,000 French soldiers under General Humbert landed in the north-west of the country, at Kilcummin in County Mayo.

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Joined by up to 5,000 local rebels, they had some initial success, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the British in Castlebar (also known as the Castlebar races to commemorate the speed of the retreat) and setting up a short-lived “Irish Republic” with John Moore as president of one of its provinces, Connacht. This sparked some supportive risings in Longford and Westmeath which were quickly defeated, and the main force was defeated at the battle of Ballinamuck, in County Longford, on 8 September 1798. The Irish Republic had only lasted twelve days from its declaration of independence to its collapse. The French troops who surrendered were repatriated to France in exchange for British prisoners of war, but hundreds of the captured Irish rebels were executed. This episode of the 1798 Rebellion became a major event in the heritage and collective memory of the West of Ireland and was commonly known in Irish as Bliain na bhFrancach and in English as “The Year of the French”.[

On 12 October 1798, a larger French force consisting of 3,000 men, and including Wolfe Tone himself, attempted to land in County Donegal near Lough Swilly. They were intercepted by a larger Royal Navy squadron, and finally surrendered after a three-hour battle without ever landing in Ireland.

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Wolfe Tone was tried by court-martial in Dublin and found guilty. He asked for death by firing squad, but when this was refused, Wolfe Tone cheated the hangman by slitting his own throat in prison on 12 November, and died a week later

Armée Juive-The Jewish Army

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Many people have this misconception about the resistance of the Jews against the Nazi regime, many think they just gave up without a fight. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There were many Jewish partisan groups and resistance fighters across Europe.

In this blog I will put the focus on the French Armée Juive, sinply because of the day it is in . On August  19 1944 they were significant in the uprising of the French resistance during the liberation of Paris.

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The Armee Juive means “Jewish Army”. It was a rebellion group who was inspired by their Jewish heritage to use physical resistance to rescue fellow brethren from camps, and launch attacks against the Germans.

The Jewish Army (Armée Juive), was founded in 1942. It was established and led by Abraham Polonski, Eugénie Polonski, Lucien Lublin,David Knout and Ariadna Scriabina(aka Sara Knout, daughter of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin).

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They continued armed resistance under a Zionist flag until liberation finally arrived. The Armée juive organised escape routes across the Pyrenées to Spain, and smuggled about 300 Jews out of the country during 1943–1944. They distributed millions of dollars from the American Joint Distribution Committee to relief organisations and fighting units within France. In 1944, the EIF and the Jewish Army combined to form the Organisation Juive de Combat (OJC). The OJC had four hundred members by the summer of 1944.

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Its members smuggled money from Switzerland into France to assist Jews in hiding, smuggled at least 500 Jews and non-Jews into neutral Spain,

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and took part in the 1944 uprisings against the Germans in Paris, Lyon, and Toulouse. “Solidarité,” a Jewish Communist unit, also carried out attacks on German personnel in Paris. Many Jews joined the general French resistance as well.

In 1944, a consolidated Jewish partisan force known as the Organization Juive de Combat (Jewish Fighting Organization) or OJC, cooperated in an campaign against the retreating German army, and participated in the liberation of Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Grenoble and Nice. The OJC’s greatest success was the capture of a German train loaded with soldiers, food, weapons and ammunition. The Jewish partisans, all wearing Star of David armbands, triumphantly informed the terrified German prisoners, “Ich bin Jude (I am a Jew).”

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A letter to God-The children of La Maison d’Izieu.

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I have seen so many gruesome images of the Holocaust, but for some reason the pictures of these smiling and playing children touche me more then any other. For I know none of them survived, the only crime they committed was being a child.

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On the morning of 6 April 1944, members of the Lyon Gestapo who had been tipped off by an informant carried out a raid on the children’s home in Izieu and arrested everyone there.  44 children aged 4-17, and seven staff members who had been taking care of them, were incarcerated in the prison in Lyon, and were deported to Drancy the following day.  The deportation order was issued by Klaus Barbie, head of the Gestapo in Lyon.  Barbie reported the arrest of the children  and adults at the children’s home in a telegram that he sent to Paris. During the children’s detention in Lyon, the Germans discovered the whereabouts of some of their family members, who were also then taken to Drancy and later deported to their deaths in Auschwitz.

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During the raid on Izieu, Leon Reifman, a medical student who took care of the sick children, managed to escape and hide in a nearby farm.  His sister, Dr. Sarah Lavan-Reifman, who was the children’s home doctor, his parents, Eva and Moisz-Moshe and his nephew, Claude Lavan-Reifman also lived in the home.  They were all murdered at Auschwitz.  Miron Zlatin, Sabine Zlatin’s husband who ran the children’s home with her, was deported on 15 May, together with two of the older boys from the children’s home, to Estonia, where they were all shot to death.

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By the end of June 1944, all the children and adults caught in Izieu had been deported from Drancy.  Most were sent to Auschwitz, including all the children and five of the adults, among them Sarah Lavan-Reifman, who refused to be parted from her son Claude, and was sent together with him to the gas chambers.

Léa Feldblum, one of the care-takers, had false papers that enabled her to evade the deportation to Auschwitz, but she chose to reveal her true identity while in Drancy, in order to stay with the children.  Feldblum survived Auschwitz and immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1946.

One of the children of La Maison d’Izieu was eleven-year-old Liliane Gerenstein. Lilliane and her brother were sent to their deaths a few days after she wrote this letter to God:

“God? How good You are, how kind and if one had to count the number of goodnesses and kindnesses You have done, one would never finish.

God? It is You who command. It is You who are justice, it is You who reward the good and punish the evil.

God? It is thanks to You that I had a beautiful life before, that I was spoiled, that I had  lovely things that others do not have.

God? After that, I ask You one thing only: Make my parents come back, my poor parents protect them (even more than You protect me) so that I can see them again as soon as possible.

Make them come back again. Ah! I had such a good mother and such a good father! I have such faith in You and I thank You in advance.”

In 1987, Klaus Barbie was put on trial in France, and convicted of crimes against humanity.  He was sentenced to life-imprisonment.  Testifying at the trial, Laja Feldblum-Klepten said:

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“It is my duty to testify against Klaus Barbie in the name of my 44 children who were murdered at Auschwitz, because every night they appear before my very eyes”

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The Oradour-sur-Glane massacre.

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The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was a division of the Nazi Waffen-SS during World War II. It was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS. Das Reich served during the invasion of France and took part in several major battles on the Eastern Front, including in the Battle of Prokhorovka against the 5th Guards Tank Army at the Battle of Kursk.

It was then transferred to the West and took part in the fighting in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war in Hungary and Austria. Das Reich committed the Oradour-sur-Glane and Tulle massacres. Its staff included regimental commander SS-Standartenführer Sylvester Stadler as regimental commander, SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann, commanding the 1st Battalion.and SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Weidinger, Stadler’s designated successor who was with the regiment for familiarisation. Command passed to Weidinger on 14 June.

 

Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, Diekmann informed Weidinger that he had been approached by two members of the Milice, a paramilitary force of the Vichy Regime. They claimed that a Waffen-SS officer was being held prisoner by the Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres, a nearby village. The captured officer was claimed to be SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion (also part of “Das Reich” division).

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He may have been captured by the Maquis du Limousin the day before. Stadler ordered Diekmann to have the mayor choose thirty people to be hostages in exchange for Kämpfe.

On 10 June, Diekmann’s battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the inhabitants – and anyone who happened to be in or near the town – to assemble in the village square to have their identity papers examined. The SS also arrested six people who did not live in the village but merely happened to be riding their bicycles through there when the SS unit arrived.

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The women and children were locked in the church and the village was looted. The men were led to six barns and sheds, where machine guns were already in place.

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According to a survivor’s account, the SS men then began shooting, aiming for their legs. When victims were unable to move, the Nazis covered them with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men managed to escape. One of them was later seen walking down a road and was shot dead. In all, 190 Frenchmen died.

The SS men next proceeded to the church and placed an incendiary device beside it. When it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows, only to be met with machine-gun fire. 247 women and 205 children died in the brutal attack. The only survivor was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot, two of them fatally. Rouffanche crawled to some pea bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning. About twenty villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the SS unit had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.

Several days later, the survivors were allowed to bury the 642 dead inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane who had been killed in just a few hours. Adolf Diekmann said the atrocity was in retaliation for the partisan activity in nearby Tulle and the kidnapping of Helmut Kämpfe.

Raymond J. Murphy, a 20-year-old American B-17 navigator ,shot down over Avord, France in late April 1944, witnessed the aftermath of the massacre. After being hidden by the French Resistance, Murphy was flown to England on 6 August, and in debriefing filled in a questionnaire on 7 August and made several drafts of a formal report.The version finally submitted on 15 August has a handwritten addendum:

“Several weeks ago, I saw a town within 4 hours bicycle ride up the Gerbeau farm [of Resistance leader Camille Gerbeau] where some 500 men, women, and children had been murdered by the Germans. I saw one baby who had been crucified.”

Murphy’s report was made public in 2011 after a Freedom of Information Act request by his grandson, an attorney in the United States Department of Justice National Security Division.It is the only account to mention crucifying a baby.Shane Harris(an American journalist and author) concludes the addendum is a true statement by Murphy and that the town, not named in Murphy’s report, is very likely Oradour-sur-Glane.

Children from the village’s girl’s school, in the 1942-1943 school year. All of these girls were killed in the massacre.

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Protests at Diekmann’s unilateral action followed, both from Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, General Gleiniger, German commander in Limoges, and the Vichy government. Even SS-Standartenführer Stadler felt Diekmann had far exceeded his orders and began a judicial investigation. However, 29-year-old Diekmann was killed in action shortly afterwards during the Battle of Normandy, and many of the third company, which had conducted the massacre, were also killed in action. The investigation was then suspended.

 

 

D-DAY

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Codenamed Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning.

Rather then having an extensive text on the day I am opting to post pictures of D-Day and the days after, for there is nothing I can write which hasn’t been written before.

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Royal Marine Commandos attached to 3rd Infantry Division move inland from Sword Beach, 6 June 1944.

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Members of the French Resistance and the U.S. 82nd Airborne division discuss the situation during the Battle of Normandy in 1944.

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Large landing craft convoy crosses the English Channel on 6 June 1944

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Troops of the US 7th Corps wading ashore on Utah Beach.

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U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander, talks with men of the 101st Airborne Division at the Royal Air Force base in Greenham Common, England on June 6, 1944, before they joined the D-Day invasion.

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Gliders are delivered to the Cotentin Peninsula by Douglas C-47 Skytrains. 6 June 1944.

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An abandoned Waco CG-4 glider is examined by German troops

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Carrying their equipment, U.S. assault troops move onto Utah Beach. Landing craft can be seen in the background.

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U.S. assault troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944.

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Personnel of Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W” land on Mike Beach sector of Juno Beach, 6 June 1944

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British troops take cover after landing on Sword Beach.

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Crossed rifles on the sand are a comrade’s tribute to this American soldier who sprang ashore from a landing barge and died at the barricades of Western Europe. Picture taken a few days after D-Day, on Omaha Beach.

Crossed rifles in the sand placed as a tribute to this fallen soldier, 1944

The Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, September 2006. The cemetery contains predominantly Canadian soldiers killed during the Battle of Normandy. The cemetery contains 4 British soldiers and one French national who was killed fighting alongside Canadian troops. The British soldiers have markers very similar to the Canadian markers, but with different insignia in place of the maple leaf. The grave containing the French national is marked with a cross, which is visible on the lower left of the photo in the 4th row from the bottom.

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