Camps de Gurs—The Forgotten Concentration Camp

Although its official name is Gurs Internment Camp, let’s call it what it really was, a concentration camp. It is also probably one, if not the only time, the Nazis sent Jews westward.

At first, it served as a camp for Spanish republicans and German refugees who fled from Nazism. The Gurs Camp was among the first and one of the largest camps established in prewar France. It was located at the foot of the Pyrenees in Southwestern France, just South of the village of Gurs. The camp, about 50 miles from the Spanish border, was situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains northwest of Oloron-Sainte-Marie.

The camp measured about 1.4 km (in length and 200 m in width, an area of 28 ha (69 acres). Its only street ran the length of the camp. On either side of the street were plots of land measuring 200 m by 100 m, named îlots (blocks; literally, “islets”). There were seven îlots on one side and six on the other. The plots were separated from the street and from each other by wire fences. The fences were doubled at the back part of the plots to create a walkway along which the exterior guards circulated. In each plot stood about 30 cabins; there were 382 cabins altogether.

In early 1940, the French government interned about 4,000 German Jewish refugees as “enemy aliens” along with French leftist political leaders who opposed the war with Germany. After the French armistice with Germany in June 1940, Gurs fell under the authority of the new collaborationist French government, the Vichy regime.

In October 1940, the Nazi Gauleiter (“governor”) from the Baden region of Germany had also been named Gauleiter of the neighbouring French region of Alsace. In Baden resided some 7,500 Jews, mainly women, children, and the elderly, given that the young and middle-aged men had emigrated or had gone to the Nazi concentration camps.

The Gauleiter received word that the camp at Gurs was mostly empty, and on 25 October 1940, it was decided to evacuate the Jews from Baden (between 6,500 and 7,500) to Gurs as part of Operation Wagner-Bürckel. There, they remained locked up under the French administration. The living conditions were difficult, and illness rife, especially typhus and dysentery.

The deportation of the German Jews to Gurs in October 1940 is a unique case in the history of the Holocaust. IT WAS the only deportation of Jews carried out toward the west of Germany by the Nazi regime.

Conditions in the Gurs camp were very primitive. It was overcrowded and there was a constant shortage of water, food, and clothing. During 1940–41, some 800 detainees died of contagious diseases, including typhoid fever and dysentery.

One in four of the deportees died in Gurs or other French camps, 11 per cent succeeded in emigrating overseas, 12 per cent hid out in France, and 40 per cent (around 2,600 deportees) were transported to Auschwitz after July 1942. The fate of the remaining 600 deportees is unknown.

The Vichy regime turned over the Jews who were located in Gurs to the Nazis. On 18 July 1942, the SS captain, Theodor Dannecker, inspected the camp and then ordered that they prepare themselves to be transported to Eastern Europe. The Nazis sent the majority of them to the Drancy transit camp just outside of Paris. From Drancy, they were deported in six convoys to the killing centres in Poland, primarily Auschwitz.

Vichy authorities closed the Gurs camp in November 1943. Almost 22,000 prisoners had passed through Gurs, of whom over 18,000 were Jewish. More than 1,100 internees died in the camp. In 1944, Gurs was reopened briefly to intern political prisoners and resistance fighters arrested by Vichy police.

From 25 August to 31 December 1945, Nazi collaborators and hundreds of anti-Franco militants were interned. In total 3,370 persons, exclusively men.

sources

https://www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr/en/gurs-internment-camp

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/gurs

https://portal.ehri-project.eu/institutions/fr-006277

https://www.fondationshoah.org/en/node/47403

The Oradour Massacre by Das Reich

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES

The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich surrounded the tiny hamlet of Oradour-sur-Glane in the Limousin region of South Central France on 10 June 1944. The division then massacred 642 French civilians in the village.

Some believe that the troops were seeking retribution for the kidnap of a German soldier, but others say that resistance members were based in a different, nearby village. Most of the victims were women and children. Many were herded into a local church, and hand grenades thrown in, before being set on fire. The men were locked in a barn. Machine gunners shot at their legs, then doused them in petrol and set them alight. An investigation years later saw some 60 soldiers brought to trial in the 1950s. Twentywere convicted, but all were later released.

How they got away with their crimes is something I don’t understand.

The men of the village were rounded up, pushed into a barn and shot.
Then the women and children were forced inside the village church and burned alive. In the meantime, other stormtroopers went through the village, drenching the houses with an incendiary product before setting them afire and machine-gunning those who hid in a vain attempt to escape.

sources

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53875150

The Journey of No Return

The picture above is a photograph of a rail track I pass over nearly every day. Yesterday, when I passed it, I had to think of all those who went on train journeys and never returned.

The trains that travel over this rail track are comfortable, They have soft seats you can sit on, and some even have restaurant facilities on board.

On 20 January 1942, a conference was held in Berlin and became known as The Wannsee Conference. It was there that they decided what to do with the remaining Jews in Europe, not only occupied Europe but also The United Kingdom and Ireland. The Nazis wanted to murder all 11 million Jews in Europe. They called it, “The Final Solution.“

It was on that day when they decided that all Jews, Roma, undesirables, and non-Aryans, were to be transported by train to the concentration and extermination camps.

Trains were used before that, but more to concentrate the Jewish populations in the ghettos or to transport them to forced labour and concentration camps for economic exploitation.

Not like the luxury trains that pass the rail track above. The trains the Nazis used didn’t have the same facilities. The Nazis used both freight and passenger cars for the deportations. There was neither food nor water available on those trains. The toilet was one bucket for the hundreds of people per wagon. The people were deported in sealed freight cars with extreme heat in summer, freezing temperatures in winter, and the stench of urine and excrement. Some were transported in passenger cars, but the majority were deported on cars which were originally built to transport cattle. The difference was the cattle would have been a lot more comfortable because there were fewer of them, and they would be fed and given water. Without food or water, many of the deportees died before the trains reached the camps. Armed guards shot anyone trying to escape. They even had to pay for the train tickets. Everyone was pushed into the trains regardless the age, sex, or health condition. Young babies, pregnant women, people of old age, and sick people all in one car.

There is no denying how the railway transports of the Deutsche Reichsbahn operated. However, all other Railway companies across occupied Europe complied and were therefore complacent.

In France, it was the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français railway, or short SNCF. It became an instrument of death during the Holocaust. Under German occupation, it provided the trains that transported 73 convoys of Jews eastwards. French railway workers operated the trains until they reached the border with Germany, where they were replaced by German staff

In the Netherlands, Westerbork became the main transit camp in 1941 and the first deportees left on 15 July 1942. The final train left on 13 September 1944, with 279 Jews on board. Among those deported from the camp were 245 Sinti and Roma. Approximately 100 trains left Westerbork.

The prisoners at Westerbork lived from transport to transport and between hope and fear. The evening before a departure was unbearable because the names of those who would be transported were announced then. The next day there was no escape. Sometimes as many as 70 people with all their bags were crammed into each filthy boxcar of the lengthy train.

A representative of the National Westerbork Memorial, Dirk Mulder, said in a TV interview that the NS(Dutch Railways) had “complied with the German order to make trains available. The Germans paid for it and the NS had to come up with a timetable. And the company went and did it without a word of objection.”

There are some miraculous stories of survival though.

Mirjam Lapid-Andriesse was 10 years old when she was taken from her home in the Dutch city of Utrecht and placed in an Amsterdam “ghetto” with her family in April 1943. In an interview with the BBC, she recalled her memories.

“I was a little girl during the war, so my memories are childhood memories, not political, I was the youngest of four children, two boys and two girls. I remember we were taken from the ghetto by train to the Westerbork transit camp in June 1943.”

Shortly before the war ended, the Nazis began destroying evidence of concentration camps, including sites and documentation, and transporting prisoners to other locations within Germany. It was at this time, as Mirjam was travelling through Germany in 1945 on one of three trains that had departed from the camp at Bergen-Belsen, that she recalls the moment she was freed.

“Our train was known as The Lost Train,” she said after the vehicle intended to travel to Theresienstadt, in what is now the Czech Republic, was forced to reroute due to bombing, before stopping in the small German village of Tröbitz. Many of the people on board died in transit due to malnutrition and illness. I celebrated my 12th birthday on the train, on 17 April 1945. Since then I celebrate my second birthday on 23 April—the day we were liberated by the Russian army in Tröbitz, where we were held for two months. We were then returned to the Netherlands.”

Mirjam was one of the few lucky ones. Most went on a journey of no return.

#NEVER FORGET#

sources

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49233817

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30351196

Click to access Filling-the-Silence-JM1-State-of-Research.pdf

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/german-railways-and-the-holocaust

https://kampwesterbork.nl/en/history/second-world-war/durchgangslager/66-history/durchgangslager/266-transports

Holocaust Diaries

A diary is the most personal possession someone might have. It is a journal of their wishes, fears and often their secrets. It is therefore extremely important when a diary becomes public it is treated with the utmost dignity and respect, especially those that were written during the darkest era of mankind.

Diary of Susi Hilsenrath

Susi Hilsenrath was barely ten years old when her parents decided to send her and her younger brother to France from their native Bad Kreuznach in Germany. This happened in the aftermath of the nationwide anti-Jewish violence organized by Nazi leaders in November 1938, which has often been referred to as Kristallnacht.

As the Germans invaded and defeated France in the summer of 1940, Susi’s father hired a guardian to evacuate Susi and her brother from Paris to Broût-Vernet, a small town in Vichy France. There, they were helped by the Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a French Jewish organization that was helping Jewish refugee children. The organization housed them with several other Jewish children in a local château, where they awaited emigration. Susi and her brother soon received immigration visas with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, an American humanitarian organization that helped European Jewish refugees to immigrate to the United States. Travelling via Spain and Portugal, they arrived in New York City in the fall of 1941. There they were reunited with their parents and their youngest brother, who had managed to escape to the United States separately.

While housed at the château from the summer of 1940 until the late summer of 1941, Susi kept a diary. She described her life as part of the larger group of children and their uncertainty about the future. The diary captures a range of her moods and emotions, from childish musings to profound anxiety and sadness. Like many other child authors of Holocaust diaries, Susi expressed her awareness of the extraordinary and perilous situation she was in even though she may not have fully understood the specific threats that she was facing.

Sunday, August 3, 1941


“Oh, how happy I was, and now how many tears I’ve shed. I am not leaving. The others left an hour ago. Weichselbaum, Feuer, and Fellman aren’t leaving either. Oh, now I can’t stand it anymore, the day seems twice as long. Strange, everything is all turned around. Edith is leaving and Adolf and Alexander are leaving. Oh yes, Helga is also staying. With whom shall I go now? With Helga, impossible. In the end, she would drive me crazy. I don’t want to go with Sabine, and with Susi W., I don’t know whether we get along. The house will be empty, but I think 40 new children are going to come. […] I don’t know how long I can stand it here. I want so much to travel after them on a bus, to eat the good things, and travel so long on the train, through a whole country. Then by ship across the big ocean and then, best of all, to see my dear parents again. My dear, dear parents. But often I get quite a strange feeling, I think that my parents have separated and don’t want to be together anymore, but I don’t know why, the thought just comes to me on its own.

Today is Tisha b’Av.1 We fasted until 2:30, and I was terribly hungry. I thought I would be in Ganal by this time, and where am I now—in this miserable house? But one thing you can say, if we had gone with this transport, then we would have to thank the Directress for almost everything. Because she is on the telephone all day, she says, Hilsenrath and Feuer have to leave; she repeats it every time. One can certainly say that since Herr Weichselbaum left, she has become much nicer and more decent. She doesn’t shout as much anymore, and when she does shout, there’s a reason for it. She is much more engaged with us, too. I am extremely angry with Herr Cogan. If he had not phoned today, and the Directress had phoned instead, she would have accomplished more. It was like this: he spoke to Frau Salomon about the children who left (Flora and Gustel almost wouldn’t have gone, if the Directress hadn’t been there). He talked about Flora and someone asked him her age, and he said she was 15, and Gustel 12. The children who were over 12 couldn’t go, for the most part. I think Frau Salomon was about to say they couldn’t go, but the Directress spoke insistently […] After a lot of mulling it over, he got the words out. Then she told him [to say] a lot of other things, but he just would not say them. She spoke about us, too, she said, ask about Hilsenrath and Feuer. Not a word came out. “About Hilsenrath and Feuer,” the Directress said. Not a word. Finally, it came out. Madame Salomon said it was impossible, he said “Fine, fine,” and once again, “fine.” He doesn’t care whether we go or not. I’m sure that if the Directress had had the telephone in her hand, she would have accomplished something. But he, the dumb fool, or even better, idiot, can’t do anything. Then the Directress took the phone in her hand for a minute and asked about Hilde and Otto, because they couldn’t go either, and she accomplished it. Oh, if you only knew how angry I am at Cogan.

I’m not at all sorry about the children who left, only Edith. How we came together, I really don’t know. How happy I would be if I had gone with her. I would have enjoyed the trip twice as much. Oh, that would have been so nice, and now everything is over, all over. Never, I think, will I feel really good here”

Susi survived the Holocaust

Eva Heyman was a Jewish girl from Oradea. She began keeping a diary in 1944 during the German occupation of Hungary. Published under the name The Diary of Eva Heyman, her diary has been compared to The Diary of Anne Frank. She discusses the extreme deterioration of the circumstances the Jewish community faced in the city, offering a detailed account of the increasingly restrictive anti-Jewish laws, the psychological anguish and despair, the loss of their rights and liberties and the confiscation of property they endured. Heyman was 13 years old when she and her grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz.

She started writing in her diary on her thirteenth birthday 13 February 1944.

February 13, 1944

I’ve turned thirteen, I was born on Friday the thirteenth. From Grandpa, I received phonograph records of the kind I like. My grandfather bought them so that I should learn French lyrics, which will make [Mother] happy because she isn’t happy about my school record cards except when I get a good mark in French I do a lot of athletics, swimming, skating, bicycle riding, and exercise. I’ve written enough today. You’re probably tired, dear diary.

March 19, 1944

Dear Diary,
You’re the luckiest one in the world, because you cannot feel, you cannot know what a terrible thing has happened to us. The Germans have come!

May 10, 1944

Dear Diary,

We’re here five days, but, word of honour, it seems like five years.

The most awful thing of all is that the punishment for everything is death. There is no difference between things; no standing in the corner, no spankings, no taking away food, and no writing down the declension of irregular verbs one hundred times the way it used to be in school. Not at all: the lightest and heaviest punishment—death.

sources

https://www.yadvashem.org/education/educational-materials/ceremonies/diary.html

https://perspectives.ushmm.org/item/diary-of-susi-hilsenrath/collection/holocaust-diaries

Iwan Illfelder-Murdered this day 80 years ago.

He is just one of the 6 million. But I believe that remembering all those Jewish fellow citizens, is best done one at a time. They were all human beings like everybody else. The same ambitions, the same emotions.

Iwan was born in Iserlohn, Germany, on 31 March 1903.

He came from Cologne to The Netherlands and was registered on 4 July 1933 in the Peoples Registry of Amsterdam. He resided since then at various addresses in the city. On 15 August 1934 he married Hilde Rosendahl, a daughter of Max Rosendahl and Emma Henriette Kussel, who passed away already 12 May 1917 in Odenkirchen (Germany).

Iwan’s wife Hilde, had already been living for four years in Amsterdam, when her family in 1938 (her father Max and his 2nd wife Julie Stern and brother Erich) also came to Amsterdam were they were registered at the address Onbekendegracht 9 II.

On 29 July 1938, Iwan and his wife Hilde also moved to live there. Hilde’s younger brother Erich, child from the 2nd marriage of her father, was housed in February 1940 in the so called Lloyds Hotel at Oostelijke Handelskade 12 in Amsterdam, a reception centre for German refugee children but he was transferred from there to refugee camp Westerbork in July 1940.Iwan was arrested in France on 15 May 1940 and was put in prison in camp St. Cyprien and later in Drancy, from where he has been deported to Auschwitz on 17 August 1942, where he was murdered upon arrival on 20 August 1942, while his wife Hilde, was murdered in Auschwitz just over a year later, on 30 November 1943.

source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/153360/iwan-illfelder

Paris-Rouen: Concours des Voitures Sans Chevaux—The First Motor Car Race

I can’t say I am a great fan of car races. To be honest I don’t get the fascination of the F1-Formula One. However, I have to admit that despite my lack of enthusiasm for the sport, I am still proud that the current world champion is a Dutchman.

It made me think though where did it all start?

Surprisingly enough it goes back further than I expected. It was on this day in 1894, 128 years ago, the first car race took place. It was called “Paris-Rouen: Concours des Voitures Sans Chevaux,” which translated it means race of cars without horses. The race was between Paris and Rouen.

The contest was organised by the newspaper Le Petit Journal and run from Paris to Rouen in France on 22 July 1894. It was preceded by four days of vehicle exhibition and qualifying events that created great crowds and excitement. The eight 50 km (31 mi) qualifying events started near the Bois de Boulogne and comprised interwoven routes around Paris to select the entrants for the main 126 km (78 mi) event.

Pierre Giffard was the editor of Le Petit Journal, a very popular magazine of the time. Through it all, he had organised cycling competitions to attract public attention, and now he decided to do the same for the motor car. Writing under the pseudonym “Jean sans Terre,” in the issue of Le Petit Journal on 19 December 1893, he proposed the organisation of a competition for Voitures sans Chevaux (Carriages—or Cars without Horses) during the following year. The first prize was to go to the car which the Judges deemed best to be “without danger, easily handled, and of low running cost”. Initially, the objective was to cover 50km (31 miles) in three hours, later amended to four because many would-be competitors deemed the original average speed of 10mph “dangerously high”. The final route from the Porte Maillot, Paris, to Rouen, would total 126km, nearly 80 miles. Each car’s finish in terms of coachwork and painting was considered immaterial – all that was required was that the car should move under its own power.

Giffard’s entry window closed on 30 April 1894, by which time no fewer than 102 entries had been received. Their listed means of propulsion contain some wondrous aspiration. Rousselet of Paris entered a car powered by ‘gravity’, Roussat of Paris’s power source was described as ‘hydraulic’, Victor Popp’s was ‘compressed air’, and Leval’s was “Baricycle moved by the weight of the passengers”. Loubiere’s was by “multiple systems of levers,” De Prandieres of Lyons enigmatically ‘Automatic’, while Cesar Barthelemy of Yebles cited a ‘system of pendulums’. Others entered machines variably propelled by a ‘system of levers,’ a ‘combination of animate and mechanical motor,’ ‘electro-pneumatic,’ ‘weight of passengers,’ ‘high-pressure gas,’ and… ‘self-acting’… The vast majority, however, cited petrol, or steam.

The run to Rouen was fixed initially for 1st June but was then postponed to 7th June, before it became very apparent that most competitors would never be ready in time. So a vote was held to fix an alternative date, and by 68 votes to 13, the date of 22nd July was chosen.

69 cars started the 50 km (31 mi) selection event that would show which entrants would be allowed to start the main event, the 127 km (79 mi) race from Paris to Rouen. The entrants ranged from serious manufacturers to amateur owners, and only 25 were selected for the main race.

The race started from Porte Maillot and went through the Bois de Boulogne. The distance from Paris to Rouen was 126 km.

The official winners were Peugeot and Panhard as cars were judged on their speed, handling and safety characteristics, and De Dion’s steam car needed a stoker which was forbidden.

The order of the finishers was as follows:

  1. De Dion (Steam) – Count Jules-Albert de Dion
  2. Peugeot (Petrol) – Georges Lemaitre
  3. Peugeot (Petrol)
  4. Panhard et Levassor (Petrol)
  5. Peugeot (Petrol)
  6. Le Brun (Petrol)
  7. Panhard et Levassor (Petrol)
  8. Panhard et Levassor (Petrol)
  9. De Bourmont (Petrol)
  10. Peugeot (Petrol)
  11. Vacheron (Gasoline)
  12. Peugeot (Gasoline)
  13. Panhard et Levassor (Petrol)
  14. Roger (Petrol)
  15. Le Blant (Steam)

Count de Dion was the first to arrive in Rouen after 6 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph). He finished 3 min 30 sec ahead of Albert Lemaître (Peugeot), Auguste Doriot (Peugeot) (16 min 30 sec back), Hippolyte Panhard (Panhard) (33 min 30 sec) and Émile Levassor (Panhard) (55 min 30 sec).The winner’s average speed was 17 km/h (11 mph).

It is funny to see that the winning car used steam as the fuel for the engine. Maybe a good alternative for electric cars?

sources

https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/1894_Paris-Rouen_Race

https://www.goodwood.com/grr/race/historic/2019/6/the-1894-paris-rouen-trial-the-race-that-wasnt-a-race/

https://group-media.mercedes-benz.com/marsMediaSite/en/instance/ko/Competitive-motorcar-race-from-Paris-to-Rouen-on-22-July-1894-The-birth-of-motorcar-racing-125-years-ago-closely-associated-with-Mercedes-Benz-from-the-outset.xhtml?oid=43973577

Odette Hallowes—Tortured and Starved in Ravensbrück—and Survived

This is one of those amazing stories of resilience and perseverance.

Odette Sansom, aka Odette Churchill and Odette Hallowes, code name Lise, was an agent for the United Kingdom’s clandestine Special Operations Executive (SOE) in France during World War II.

She was born on 28 April 1912 in Amiens, France.

She met an Englishman, Roy Patrick Sansom, in Boulogne and married him in Boulogne-sur-Mer on 27 October 1931, moving with him to Britain. The couple had three daughters, Françoise Edith, born in 1932 in Boulogne; Lili M, born in 1934 in Fulham; and Marianne O, born in 1936 in Fulham. Mr Sansom joined the army at the beginning of the second world war, and Odette Sansom and the children moved to Somerset for their safety.

In the spring of 1942, the Admiralty appealed for postcards or family photographs taken on the French coastline for possible war use. Hearing the broadcast, Odette wrote that she had photographs taken around Boulogne, but she mistakenly sent her letter to the War Office instead of the Admiralty. That brought her to the attention of Colonel Maurice Buckmaster’s Special Operations Executive.

Odette was recruited as a courier for the SPINDLE circuit of Special Operations Executive. She was a wife and mother of three who didn’t drink, smoke or swear, and to the casual observer, she was quite ordinary, perhaps even boring. Yet, she was a trained killer. She feared neither danger nor dagger—interrogation nor torture. She didn’t think twice about confronting German generals or commandants and often placed principle before prudence. Like her colleagues in the SOE, she signed up for the war knowing that arrest (and execution) was a very real possibility—a fate that awaited almost one in two for F Section (France) couriers.

She was betrayed by a double agent, Colonel Henri, in April 1943. Colonel Henri was a German officer who claimed he wished to work for the allies. Despite, Odette’s suspicions, his involvement led to her arrest.

Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, she was sent with fellow SOE agent Peter Churchill (no relation to the Prime Minister) to Fresnes Prison in Paris. At Fresnes, she was interrogated and tortured 14 times by the Gestapo, including having her toenails torn out, her back scorched by a red hot poker, and locked in a dark basement for 3 days at a time. During the interrogation she lied to the Gestapo agents saying Peter Churchill was her husband and the nephew of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to make the Germans believe she was a relative of Winston Churchill then she’d be kept alive as a bargaining tool.

In 1943, she was sentenced to death twice, to which she responded, “Then you will have to make up your mind on what count I am to be executed because I can only die once.” Infuriated, the Gestapo agent sent her to Ravensbruck Camp. At Ravensbruck, she was kept on a starvation diet in a cell where other prisoners could be heard being beaten. After D-Day, all food was removed for a week, all light was blocked from her cell, and the heat was turned up. She was expected to die after a few weeks but instead only fell unconscious and was relocated to solitary confinement. As a child she’d been blind and bedridden from serious illnesses for three-and-a-half years, so the darkness didn’t bother her, and as she was considered a difficult child (likely due to her illnesses) during her convent education, she was used to starvation punishments. As the Allies approached Ravensbruck, the commandant drove her to a nearby American base to surrender, hoping to use Odette as a bargaining tool to escape execution.

She testified against the prison guards charged with war crimes at the 1946 Hamburg Ravensbrück Trials, which resulted in Suhren’s execution in 1950. Roy and Odette’s marriage was dissolved in 1946 and she married Peter Churchill in 1947.

Despite her appalling treatment, she was not over-consumed with bitterness. Instead, after the war, she worked for various charities seeking to lessen the war pain for others. For her service, she was awarded the George Cross. Her humility meant she was not keen on accepting the award, but she did accept it on behalf of all agents who suffered during the war. She briefly married, Peter Churchill, before marrying her third husband, Geoffrey Hallowes. She died in 1995 aged 83.

sources

https://www.biographyonline.net/military/odette-sanson.html

https://time.com/5502645/decorated-wwii-spy-odette/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odette_Hallowes#Recruited_by_SOE

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D-Day-The beginning of the end.

Although the tide had already turned for the Nazis , June 6-1944 was to become the final push for the allied troops to free Europe from the Nazi regime.

the British 22nd Independent Parachute Company, 6th Airborne Division being briefed for the invasion, 4–5 June 1944

Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of former US President Theodore Roosevelt,was the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops. At 56, he was the oldest man in the invasion,[29] and the only one whose son also landed that day; Captain Quentin Roosevelt II was among the first wave of soldiers at Omaha Beach.

At the time of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944, Roosevelt was a frail man, not in the best of health; needing the aid of a walking stick. His health had suffered as a result of the first World War, he had arthritis . Despite his poor health, he proved to be a fine leader and as depicted in the film the longest day, he would famously state: “We’ll start the war from right here!”. He made this famous quote after discovering that the allied landings on Utah Beach were approximately 2 km off course.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr, died as a result of a heart attack on July 1944, just over a month after D-Day.

He was awarded a Medal of Honor.

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Unit: 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division

‘Citation: For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.’

It was a young postmistress in Ireland who played an important part in D-Day.

When Maureen Flavin took on a job as postmistress at the Blacksod light house in Co. Mayo in Ireland she had not anticipated the other job which was bestowed on her.The job was taking barometer and thermometer readings(basically weather forecasting) at the remote Blacksod weather station on Ireland’s west coast. But she did do her job and it made a global impact.

On her 21st birthday, June 3 1944, she took the barometer readings and noticed a sudden drop, indicating bad weather was coming. Maureen gave the report to Ted Sweeney who was the lighthouse keeper and they sent it in and, Maureen , quickly received a call from a British woman asking them to check and confirm the report.

The report was send again and an hour later, she received a call from the same British woman, asking her to check and confirm again, which she did.

Unbeknownst to Maureen the Allied leaders who were in London were relying on her weather reports to judge whether they should proceed with the D-Day launch as planned. The chief meteorologist, a Scottish man named James Scagg, was giving General Eisenhower regular weather updates.

He advised Eisenhower that based on Maureen’s report Operation Overlord, which was planned for June 5,1944, should be postponed.

sources

https://www.army.mil/d-day/history.html

RTE Doc on One

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt_Jr.#D-Day

https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/theodore-roosevelt-jr

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Marcel Petiot-Evil beyond Evil

I have often wondered how many murders have been unsolved because of World War 2?

And one would also have to wonder how many serial killers were active during the war years. I reckon some may have just joined the SS. However there were several ‘civilian’ serial killers at large during WW2.

Nazi-occupied Paris was a terrible place to be during the waning days of the War. With Jews, Resistance fighters and ordinary citizens all hoping to escape. Disappearances became so common they often weren’t followed up.

One man exploited this situation for his own evil satisfaction and greed.

Marcel Petiot was a respected doctor in France until his horrific murders were uncovered during World War II. Though perceived as gentle, kind, and generous by those who thought they knew him, he in fact only posed as a liberator for Jews hoping to escape occupied France to find sanctuary in South America. Insisting that these hopefuls bring their possessions to him for safe keeping and submit to an injection that would keep them safe from foreign diseases, Petiot instead killed his victims and kept their possessions amounting in the end to thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of furniture, clothing, furs, and jewelry.

Petiot was unusually intelligent as a child but exhibited severe behavioral problems in school and was expelled several times before completing his education. At age 17 he was arrested for mail theft but was released after a judge determined that he was mentally unfit to stand trial. In 1917, while serving in the French army during World War I, he was tried for stealing army blankets but found not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite his mental state, he was returned to the front, where he suffered a mental breakdown. He was eventually discharged for abnormal behaviour, for which some of his examiners said he should be institutionalized. Despite his history of instability, Petiot then enrolled in school and eventually obtained a medical degree in 1921.

Petiot’s first murder victim might have been Louise Delaveau, an elderly patient’s daughter with whom Petiot had an affair in 1926. Delaveau disappeared in May of that year, and neighbors later said they had seen Petiot load a trunk into his car. Police investigated but eventually dismissed her case as a runaway.

That same year, Petiot ran for mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne and hired somebody to disrupt a political debate with his opponent. He won, and while in office embezzled town funds. The following year, Petiot married Georgette Lablais, the 23-year-old daughter of a wealthy landowner and butcher inSeignelay. Their son Gerhardt was born in April 1928.

The embezzlement discovered by his constituents, and they reported him to the Prefect of Yonne Département. In August 1931, he was suspended from his position as mayor.

Only a month after he was removed as mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, he won a seat on the general council for the Yonne district .He was the youngest man to ever sit in that office, at the time.. During his time on the council, he was charged with the theft of electric power from Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. He was fined and lost his seat on the council, and moved to Paris.

After the 1940 German defeat of France, French citizens were drafted for forced labor in Germany. Petiot provided false medical disability certificates to people who were drafted. He also treated the illnesses of workers who had returned. In July 1942, he was convicted of over prescribing narcotics, even though two addicts who would have testified against him had disappeared. He was fined 2,400 francs.

After paying a fine, he then took on the alias of Dr. Eugène and set up a false escape network for Resistance fighters, Jews and criminals looking to escape the Gestapo. He claimed that his network, Fly-Tox, worked in conjunction with Argentinian authorities to safely transport people to South America without the knowledge of the German invaders. He had had three accomplices: Raoul Fourrier, Edmond Pintard, and René-Gustave Nézondet.

He claimed that he could arrange a passage to Argentina or elsewhere in South America through Portugal, for a price of 25,000 francs per person. His accomplices, directed victims to “Dr. Eugène”, including mainly Jews, Resistance fighters, but also ordinary criminals. Once victims were in his control, Petiot told them that Argentine officials required all entrants to the country to be inoculated against disease, and with this excuse injected them with cyanide. He then took all their valuables and disposed of the bodies.

It was the Gestapo that first became suspicious of him. However, they thought that he was a member of the Resistance and was assisting Jews to escape. They apprehended all three of his accomplices and tortured them for information.

While the Gestapo did not learn anything about the Resistance, as Fourrier, Pintard, and Nézondet had nothing to tell them, they did reveal that “Dr. Eugène” was Marcel Petiot.
On March 11, 1944, Petiot’s neighbours told the authorities that there was a foul stench in the area. They were also informed of the large amounts of smoke that often came out of the chimney of the house. The police discovered a coal stove in the basement of his house, as well as the quicklime pit. They also found human remains and properties of his victims.

At first, Petiot had dumped the bodies of his victims in the Seine, but he later destroyed the bodies by submerging them in quicklime or by incinerating them.

In the subsequent months, Petiot evaded capture by staying with his friends. He adopted a new pseudonym, “Henri Valeri”, during the liberation of Paris and enlisted in the French Forces of the Interior (FFI). He was eventually captured on 31 October 1944 at a Paris Métro station.

Petiot went on trial on 19 March 1946, facing 135 criminal charges. René Floriot acted for the defense, against a team consisting in state prosecutors and twelve civil lawyers hired by relatives of Petiot’s victims. Petiot taunted the prosecuting lawyers, and claimed that various victims had been collaborators or double agents, or that vanished people were alive and well in South America under new names.

The extensive coverage of the Petiot affair soon escalated into a full-blown media circus. Newspapers dubbed the doctor the Butcher of Paris, Scalper of the Etoile, the monster of rue Le Sueur, the Demonic Ogre, and Doctor Satan. One of the first and more popular sobriquets was the Modern Bluebeard. Later, other names would be proposed for the murder suspect, from the Underground Assassin to the Werewolf of Paris.

He admitted to killing just nineteen of the twenty-seven victims found in his house, and claimed that they were Germans and collaborators – part of a total of 63 “enemies” killed. Floriot attempted to portray Petiot as a Resistance hero, but the judges and jurors were unimpressed. Petiot was convicted of 26 counts of murder, and sentenced to death.It was estimated that he netted 200,000( I believe an equivalent of $2,000,000} francs from his ill-gotten gains. He was charged with murder for profit.

On 25 May, Petiot was beheaded, after a stay of a few days due to a problem in the release mechanism of the guillotine.

It is estimated he killed 60 people, many of them were French Jews who had been hiding and hoped to try to escape to South America. It wasn’t the Nazis who murdered him but a French Doctor pretending to be a resistance fighter.

He was known throughout Paris as a freedom fighter who would help smuggle away anyone being hunted by the Nazis.

Yet it turns out he preyed on their hopes and dreams and murdered them.

The irony is that it was the Gestapo who stopped the killing. Although the could not find anything on him, it must have been clear to Petiot that he would remain under suspicion

(initially posted on July 13,2016 under the Title ‘Marcel Petiot-“Doctor Satan” ‘)

sources

.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9004961/Chilling-new-photos-grinning-French-serial-killer-Dr-Satan-trial-murdering-60-people.html

https://www.ala.org/united/friends/bookclubchoices/death

https://allthatsinteresting.com/marcel-petiot

http://www.crimemagazine.com/dr-petiot-will-see-you-now

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Allan Muhr-Rugby, Tennis and his murder in Neuengamme Concentration camp.

We are currently in the middle of the Six Nations Rugby tournament. Thus far France is heading for a grand slam, but it isn’t quite a done deal as of yet.

I came across a story of a former French Rugby player, I am surprised that so little is known about him.

Allan Muhr, was murdered on December 29 1944, he was starved to death at Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg.

Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Philadelphia in 1882, Allan, who had recently come of age, travelled on his own to France around the turn of the century. “Allan Muhr planned to fully devote himself to sport in Europe,” explains Fréderic Humbert, an expert in rugby history and the curator of the World Rugby Museum who has researched what happened to Allan Muhr. “He could afford to do that as he lived off his family’s assets and never needed to work. Sport therefore became the central element in his life.”

He appears in the 1900 US census, but made a rapid impact on his adopted homeland.

A profile written in 1907 recorded that the newly arrived Muhr enrolled at the prestigious Lycee Janson – taking elementary French classes – purely for the purpose of playing rugby, but injured his shoulder during his first match. In spite of this setback he was rapidly a force at Racing Club, playing second row or prop and earning the nickname ‘the Sioux’ for his origins and distinctive profile.

He evidently had the time and money necessary to devote himself to a range of sporting activities. While his professions are listed as translation and sporting journalism, he does not appear to have been encumbered by the pressing need to earn a living. That 1907 profile reported that “He amazes us because he is not the slave of any bureau chief or other boss or editor, still less of the rulers of the USFSA (the French sporting authorities of the time). He does what he pleases when he pleases.”

At the same time, the profile noted, he was “a slave to his passion for rugby”, besides which his enthusiasms for motoring and tennis were mere pastimes. That passion was rewarded when he was chosen for France’s first ever Test match – against the All Blacks on New Year’s Day 1906. Muhr appears at the back of the French team picture, a skull-capped figure alongside touch judge Cyril Rutherford, the Scot who played such a huge part in the early development of French rugby.

At the same time, Allan was a successful tennis player – even participating in the French championships in 1909. In February 1913, he was an active founding member of the International Tennis Association in London. He also took part in car racing as an amateur and played in a Parisian soccer club. Allan even attempted to establish baseball in France ,but this was unsuccessful.

Playing second-row alongside the French Guyanese Georges Jerome, one of two black players in the team, Muhr did well enough in the 38-8 defeat to retain his place for France’s first ever match against England, on March 22 that year. France lost again, 35-8, but Muhr claimed France’s first try against the old enemy, crossing after brilliant work by Stade Francais centre Pierre Maclos.

During World War I, Allan led a voluntary unit of ambulance drivers who transported the wounded soldiers from the front to the American Ambulance Hospital, which had been founded by Americans in Paris when the war broke out. When the USA entered the war in 1917, this organization was integrated into the US Army, and so Allan also became an officer in the American armed forces.

From 1920, Allan ended his career as an active sportsman and dedicated himself to organizing international competitions and developing the French teams in rugby and tennis. He became the vice chairman of the first European omnisport club, Racing Club de France, and captain of the French “Davis Cup” tennis team, which he led to international success. He also managed the rugby department of the Racing Club and selected the players for the French national rugby team. When the Olympic Games were hosted in France in 1924, Allan was responsible for organizing the competition and conducting the international negotiations.

When war came again in 1939, Muhr reprised his volunteer role with the Red Cross.he was 57 at the time and was married to his Belgian wife Madeleine Braet

After the USA entered the war in 1941, he had to go underground to flee from the German occupying forces. He took his son. Philippe with him. Together with other US citizens and members of the French Resistance, they stayed in Sayat, a small village in the Auvergne, for a year before being captured there by the Nazis on November 21, 1943. they were taken to the camp at Compiegne where they were interrogated. Allan and Philippe were deported to the Neuengamme in May 1944, where Allan was starved to death on December 29,1944. His son Philippe survived the war

Allan’s services to France were not forgotten. After the war he received a posthumous award of the Legion d’Honneur – the least he merited for a life which, while it ended under unspeakably grim circumstances, was one of the most varied and eventful in rugby’s annals.

sources

https://arolsen-archives.org/en/news/a-life-for-sport/

http://en.espn.co.uk/blogs/rugby/story/251813.html

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