Résistances et Blessent nos coeurs de Pierre Cadroas

Rédigé par Alain dans la rubrique Document et livre

The following are extracts translated from the books “Résistances” and “Blessent nos cœurs” by Pierre Cadroas concerning the events around the 26th march 1944 in Ribérac (Dordogne) – France.

From January 1944, in the Dordogne, a thousand  men are camped in the woods making up around 50 maquis groups. Surprise raids become a regular occurrence. Sabotage and parachuting from England (120 in all) do not stop. The railways lines are cut regularly. More than 50 locomotives are destroyed in different stations in a month. To say that there is no more security anywhere is an understatement.

On the 2nd  February 1944, the order “Sperrle” is published named after the  commandant of the German legion Condor implemented during the Spanish civil war to fight against ‘the armed bands’. In Spain the nationalist army of Franco had sown terror. Spain was governed like an occupied country.
The order Sperrle stated that the ‘troubled’ areas must be surrounded, civilians arrested, the accomplices eliminated immediately, houses burnt to the ground, immediate judgements without fears of paying a price for such excess.
The methods used were identical in all the communes visited by the Brehmer division which were to terrify the population in the Dordogne and the surrounding areas. From the Armistice, security had been entrusted to the Abwehr, the German Information Service. On the 7th of December 1941, the order “Nacht und Nebel” (Night and Fog) had been given it over in the occupied territories to RSHA the Central Office of Security.

On the 11th of March 1942, security in Paris was under the supervision and direction of the SS general Oberg who was the personal representative of Himmler, Head of the SS and the German Police. The idea was to use terror to persuade the population to stop support of any resistance.
It was then decided to start the operation of clearing out all the 'terrorists' in creating an armed division of 15 000 soldiers which could operate by themselves. The Brehmer division coming down all the way from Paris was directly under the orders of Stulpnagel, chief general of the German troops in France.


At Ribérac, Dordogne, the 26th march 1944
          
After having sealed off the routes within the Forêt de la Double around Ribérac, in the early hours of the morning of the 26th march, the German general Brehmer along with his staff arrived at 5 am at the Hotel de France in Ribérac and set up their HQ. 
At 6 o’clock that morning, several thousand Germans arrived in the town, their motive at that point was not known. 
The first interventions of these seven battalions start at Ribérac and continue all day in the towns and villages of the forêt de la Double and then at Mussidan (26 km south) in the afternoon.  
 The 26th  march 1944 was a Sunday. An otherwise fresh and chilly morning but a bright sunny day.

Using small incendiary canons, the Germans start fires in the forest to try to flush out the maquis. Some houses are burnt down and there are numerous killings (20 shot dead in the area of Ribérac and in the forest de la Double). 250 people are arrested. Although many will later be released, some of them with their feet covered in blood and beaten all over, 43 will be sent to the STO (Service du Travail Obligatoire) and others will be deported.

At Saint-Martin-de-Ribérac, 3 kms from Ribérac, those arrested  were assembled close by at the bottom of Tenaille in a field owned by Marc Brunet. They are made to march the whole day, a metre apart from each other, around the field without stopping, bare footed, wearing no head-wear and under continual threat of being executed. Up at the top of Saint-Martin at the crossroads of the Bidonneaux  two canons are set up.

At Ribérac it is believed the chemist Busselet had informed the Milice via the ‘inter’ that some garage owners were giving petrol to the maquis. One of them discovered to have done so when arrested. But where had he got this information from? Some malicious persons? Someone with a  political grudge? Or a piece of gossip picked up by Busselet's friend (amie) from the Rue du four.
The ‘inter’ was the telephone system of the time. No direct dialling. You picked up the phone, got through to the local switchboard operator, you gave them your number and that of the person you wanted to talk to. The operator would then connect you but could listen in on the conversation. The operator listened and that was how the information became  known.
At this time it was necessary to queue for a good while to obtain rationed petrol. Customers were irritated about this and one day a local garage owner called Pécou had had enough of receiving insults from customers.  He decided to stop selling petrol and later said it was thanks to one particular cross customer who he had had a slanging match with, saying “he had probably saved my life!”
          
Of the six men executed who came from Ribérac itself, four were garage owners. At around 6.30 in the morning four German soldiers turned up at the home of Nestor Léon Duchez, 38 years of age, who had a garage on the rue de l’Hotel de ville. In his presence the Germans searched his house taking some provisions as well as 12,300 francs (200 euros today). They declared to Madame Duchez “We have come to search for weapons. The terror is here”.  They then arrested her husband and lead him away to Saint-Martin. During the course of the day they returned several times to his garage to take away tools, probably worth around 160,000 francs (today 2,500 euros).[1]
         
Towards 8 a.m., about ten German soldiers entered the garage Dupuy, which faced down to the bottom of the Rue du Puy,  on the Rue de l’Hotel de ville. They arrested Charles Sicaire Dupuy, 41 years of age, who had been a prisoner of war and had been released only a month earlier after having saved a German woman from drowning. During the course of the day his house and his garage were searched. A substantial quantity of materials were removed.

At 9 a.m. three soldiers from the Wehrmacht, accompanied by an officer arrived at the home of Gabriel Jean Raspiengeas, 62 years of age, who had his garage on the Rue de l'hôpital. They asked him if he had given petrol to the maquis. He replied “yes”. He was arrested and the entire contents of his garage are loaded on to a truck. His son-in-law Gilbert Dosilé, 45 years of age, at this point approached the garage. Instead of turning away and fleeing he introduces himself as being the son-in-law and in doing so he is also arrested. After being questioned he was ordered to help load up the truck and then was lead away with his father-in-law to Saint-Martin.

They were shot at ‘Pont-Auriol’ 100 yards behind the church at 9.30 that evening after having been locked up until nightfall with around 15 other people in the church at Saint-Martin. Frantic pleading on their behalf  from the maire of Ribérac, Edmond Costes,  a retired capitaine of the gendarmerie was ignored. Costes was later deported with others during a ‘round up’ organised by the Milice on the 10th May 1944.

The engines of the German’s trucks were left running to cover the noise of the shootings. Twenty minutes later a man called Brunet received a visit by a German officer who asked him to come and identify four prisoners who had tried to escape and had been shot by the guards. Some of his neighbours, Martin François Cam, Joseph Ferrot, René Jacquart, Pierre Doumain and Jean Dignac (the secretary of the maire of Saint-Martin) are made to dig, in haste, at the cemetery, a communal grave where the bodies of those that had been shot could promptly be ‘disposed of’.
Arrested around 9.30 in the morning and also betrayed, was the fifth victim Léon Dupeyrat, a violin maker aged 66, known locally as ‘Clarinette’ because he ran a shop selling musical instruments next to the Café des Colonnes situated in the heart of Ribérac. He was taken by the Germans, first of all over to the Hotel de France, then to his small farm at ‘La Boucherie’ at Allemans. Along with his farm worker Antoine Lafaye, 40 years of age, they are both thrown down into the cellar and -because they hid young men from the STO-  were machine gunned down in front of Madame Lafaye. Her pleas are ignored. The house was then burnt to the ground around 3 pm with the two bodies still inside. This is after the farm had been searched and oil and brandy had been sprayed in every room. The next day the two tortured bodies, half burnt to a cinder are found in the totally burnt out house.

At Ribérac there had been no houses set alight, no interrogations of councillors or civil servants or the like, no interrogations of some Jewish people who at this time were actually staying at the Hotel de France itself. The forest situated to the south of Ribérac was burning and the smoke was obscuring the sun. The maquis at Virolles, and at Saint-Etienne-de-Puycorbiers had managed to escape without a problem.
         

Elsewhere, earlier, the Germans had entered the Château des Farges at Pontayraud and set it alight. This was following information received from the local Milice that its buildings were being used  to house the maquis. Sulzer, the owner of the château, was at this time in Switzerland. The man leasing the property was Maurice Dumonteil, aged 47, a butcher at Ribérac. He was the sixth victim from the town.
When he left his house via the back door onto the Rue de la fontaine, he bumped into his niece Françoise who was on her way to mass. Maurice was on his way to the Café des Colonnes for his regular game of cards. Françoise told him that he should go to church rather than to the café. They left the Place du triangle and then Maurice went down the Rue de l’Hotel de France where a black traction is waiting for him parked in front of the door. Just as he passes between the car and the hotel entrance one of the back doors of the car suddenly opens in front of him. He is hit on the back of the head with the butt of a gun and is thrown into the back of the car. It is 10.30 in the morning. 

He had been spotted earlier by the Gestapo being driven to his house by Girard, a worker on his farm. Maurice, the sixth Ribéracois is executed around mid-day at his property chez Jean Gard at La Jemaye. in the barn that was then set alight.Maurice sold cattle and rented the fields attached to the property of the château. The fields were rented for agricultural farming use. How can one explain in a foreign language as difficult as german that renting the fields does not mean renting the château itself ? It was true to say that Maurice never missed a chance to piss off the Germans and that he sympathised with all the STO boys around [2], like his son Jeannot, evaded from the S.T.O. and in hiding with relatives in Bergerac.

          “When we heard my uncle Maurice had been arrested we thought that it was because his son Jeannot was hiding as a refractor of the  STO in Bergerac. My father sent me immediately with my bike to tell Ambroise at the Puy de Beaumont to warn my cousin not to turn up here. Down Epeluche I rode the high slope, when close to La Boucherie at about 2 pm, I heard the gun shots and the burning blows of the flame-thrower : I stood up on my bike. I took in what I saw and cycled the same road back directly home. I did not meet anyone. Home quick.”

Maurice’s wife Marcelle [3] only heard of his death that evening and the officials of Ribérac heard it the next morning. His body was first buried in the Frances's grave at La Jemaye and then later was transferred to the family cemetery at Ribérac.

There was another victim at Saint-Martin that day. Robert Dubois, a young man 25 years of age and an agent de liaison for the A.S. the secret army group  at Neuvic. He worked at the Bata shoe-manufacture and was living at Hubert Faure’s mother’s house (she will have the pleasure of an ‘official visit’ in the coming week). Unfortunately Robert had given too much information away. 
He had been named two days earlier on the 24th, arrested and imprisoned at Périgueux from where he had just managed to escape.He walked to Ribérac and was trying to see if he could join the nearest group of resistance there. At Saint-Martin de Ribérac as he crossed the road a car arrived... spotted… Germans. He was gunned down on a lane just off the road around midnight.It is possible that the group that shot him were from the Brigade des Nord-Africains lead by the vile Alexandre Villaplana who was in effect a civilian working for money alongside the Germans. It was he who had told Brunet that a young man had not complied with instructions given to him by the guards and had been shot at the side of the lane going to la Lande.

During this time at Ribérac :
At 11 a.m. the abbé was giving mass in the church. General Brehmer had been seen at the Hotel de France by Jean Platon. Smoking a big cigar and wearing a dark redingote (a type of riding coat) with red lapels. He was eating at he hotel run by the Jouy family. Louis and Migette Jouy were looking after some Jewish people passing through the area and living there, notably Madame Sapira, Ida Gonigberg and her daughters Annie and Monique. Also staying at the hotel was a man called Herman with his wife Perla. The Germans did not realise it. No one talked. Herman was a diamond merchant and always carried some diamonds in his pockets. He was a Jew from Lithuania. He was a nice guy slightly credulous, very well educated and had many friends in Ribérac. Later, his small and beautiful wife would unfortunately be taken and interned and would have to accept too much to escape deportation. She had a tragic destiny.

At 2.30 in the hot afternoon the sun was shining and locals made their way quietly to the stadium de la Charouffie to help on to victory the well known local rugby team CAR (Club Athletic Ribérac) over the Coquelicots (Poppies) from Périgueux by 28 to 15. Was it that day that a german side car ridden by two huge SS soldiers had been seen pulling up to watch the game for a minute and then carried on their way?

The population was not informed then of what was going on around town. A man called Max to view all the smoke had gone up to the cemetery up in town and noted that it looked like the Germans had set fire to the vast woodland all around. He could see black smoke but he too didn’t really understand what was going on.

Up in the higher parts of Villetoureix, a village which borders Ribérac, on the other side of the river, Paulin [4] could see the black smoke blocking the entire horizon to the other side of Ribérac. With his friend he had hoped to go to the cinema not far away at Bertric, but at the bottom of the road there was a german truck patrolling the area. They decided to turn back, and quick!

Jean P. returning on his bike from ‘Blanchardie’ situated on the hills near Celles about 8 kms from Ribérac, was returning home after spending most of the day with a friend. As he passed through Villetoureix, the local priest Rillac who he met told him that the huge smoke clouds that they could see were the work of the Germans and that those responsible were  still in the town of Ribérac. It was around 6 o’clock in the evening and he pedalled nevertheless into and through the town along the Rue de l’Hotel de ville and la Place Nationale which was full of Germans. They were in small groups either sitting on the edge of the pavement or leaning against a wall chattering. Their day was done. No one stopped him.
Cemetery at Saint-Martin-de-Ribérac
          
Jean continued his journey back to Saint-Martin-de-Ribérac where he lived with his parents who were farmers. In the centre of the village he turned left and pedalled up the high road aside of the church. There were Germans in all the street. The hostages were being held at the church and the garage owners had not yet been shot.  
No one stopped Jean even though he could not cycle fast on such a steep slope. Was it his green jacket and his béret of the young men from The Chantiers de jeunesse that he was wearing that made him pass for a member of the Milice ?
Anyway, he was not in a regular situation. He had not been feeling well and his convalescence break authorisation had finished the day before that day. He should have been back at work at the department of La Landes, 200 km away from Ribérac. Discovered by the Germans he would have been sent to Germany like many others that day.

Above “les Bidonneaux”, just as he passed around 7 in the evening, the two guns mentioned earlier had gone.At 6.20 p.m. when locals were collecting milk from chez Tuilet (situated at the second bridge over the Dronne) the state police were crossing the avenue Lakanal, sirens blazing. During the evening from the hills of Ribérac one could still see the vast smoke clouds coming from le Forêt de la Double.

          “At the end of the day some officers entered Emilienne's house to sleep. We tried to dissuade them. But they were happy  enough to sleep in the stables. My mother had to prepare eggs for them. They were pleasing and polite. In the early morning some of them played a balancing act on the main beam of the stables where I had hidden two guns. They didn't see them and  finally they left.

On this same day at Mussidan, 26 kms south of Ribérac, civilians had been rounded up at the station where they were then lead on to a train to Périgueux.They were arrested in the round ups from the communes around la Double where some hasty executions had taken place including four people at Saint-Sulpice de Roumagnac and the young man Clovis Raspiengeas, ages 18 years, from Vanxains who had been arrested in the woods and was made to dig his own grave. He had been found armed with an obsolete revolver. He was one of many refractors from the STO who were in hiding; some of them were taken to Périgueux and later set free.
          
At 6 p.m. German troops went through the whole of the town of Mussidan and towards midnight 250 Mussidanais are taken onto the quarters of the 35th artillery regiment in Périgueux. In total there are about 350 people held there. They were not fed for three days. Among them were some Jewish people who were taken away and deported. Some of the younger people were sent away to the STO, others were released the following Wednesday evening.

Denunciations and betrayals were often used during this time as a way of settling old grudges. 


Below are parts of an enquiry report by the police.
Louis J. no. 92 –  23rd march 1944 / no. 573
Enquiry on the Château des Farges along with note 569 :


‘X’ at Ribérac

X is a very patriotic soldier of the Legion. One can definitely have confidence in what he says. He confirms the existence of organised groups at the Château des Farges which is situated in the commune of Vanxains. He confirms also the comings and goings of cars. He is sure on this point. His job as a bailiff allows him often to notice this fact. The owner of the château is not the jewish Swiss Sulzer who is a  businessman dealing in cloth but his brother, at this time a prisoner in Germany. People had noticed the existence of refractors. The château had been rented out at the start of the war to Pichon, maire of Vanxains, at that time a collaborationist. Following certain disputes he had been thrown out by the owner who then leased the château to monsieur Dumonteil, butcher at la rue de l’Hotel de ville at Ribérac and well known for his Gaullist sympathy and it seems that the château had not been rented out for his personal use.
Nevertheless note that this rental has coincided with the arrival of refractors in the area.
‘X’ adds that during the whole day of the previous Thursday, the Centre de direction of the [resistants] FTP were still at the château. Of this he is positive.

‘Y’ at Ribérac

A well-known Anglophile[5], talkative, travelling much in the area and in direct contact with the FTP. For sure, confirmation of an existence of a Centre de Direction at the château and of many pockets of resistance groups in the surroundings in the outbuildings of the château.
Madame Pichon, the wife of the chief road man and a member of the Milice, at that time in Vichy, confirms that her husband found members of the FTP daily in the area.

‘Z’ at Ribérac

Confirms the previous information as well as the existence of organised groups in the surrounding area of ‘les Eglisottes’.
The German army continued the operations of repression around the Dordogne. There were at this time nearly a thousand people detained at the barracks of the 35th regiment of artillery at Périgueux. They were kept in squalid conditions, sleeping on sawdust on the floor, frozen by the cold mornings and bitten by vermin swarming all over the place. Continuing was the rounding up of Jews in the department.
The passage of the Brehmer division resulted in 250 people shot dead of which 150 were refugees (200 were Jews). 1000 houses totally destroyed, 3290 partially destroyed, 3000 arrests of which 1500 were kept held, and 300 sent to the STO. The Brehmer division continued  afterwards in the Correze and also the Haute-Vienne [6].

The public suffered under this sudden and severe action. They were tired of actions carried out by the maquis who they believe were the cause of these indiscriminate reprisals.
But the Brehmer division, full of rage, without making any real contact with the maquis, inflicted pain almost only on those who had nothing to hide, innocent people and elected representatives too. No one then wanted to organize life in the towns which were left in a state of increasing disorder and disarray.
The effect of order had in fact the opposite result. The people, indignant by it all, rubbed off their differences, hating this german violence, the destruction, the four hundred deported and the killings.
The groups of maquis regained confidence. Their actions increased and intensified, the heat was turned up a notch. The people supported the action, the purge begins. The 6th June is to come soon.


[1]  - They met his brother there as well to arrest him too. He told them that they came to arrest Duchez and they had him. So what? I am just a neighbour coming to help this poor family! He saved his life.
[2]  - He was regularly feeding the maquis.
[3] - Marcelle is the grand mother's sister of Pierre Cadroas, the author of the books “Résistances”, “Blessent nos cœurs” and “Passagers de guerre”, revealing the local war history. Pierre's father was sent to Poland before he joined the resistance group Heric. His family like all the others had to cross the disorder of the times.  Relative Hubert Faure landed in Normandy the 6th June and appears in the film “The Longest Day” when leading with Commandant Kieffer their marine commando to attack the casino of Bella-Riva at Ouistreham..
[4]   - Paulin will occupy the town with his group to free Ribérac in August
[5]   - Referring to Maurice Dumonteil
[6]   - Further reading -  ‘La division Brehmer’ (La Lauze) by Guy Penaud

_______________________________________________

I have translated the above in collaboration with the author Pierre Cadroas who has kindly added some anecdotes passed onto him by members of his family who were involved in the events of the 26th March 1944 at Ribérac. During the war his father Jean Cadroas had been part of the Chantiers de jeunesse had then been deported to Poland and returned to France and joined the Résistant groupe Héric on the 16th June 1944. 
His uncle Maurice Dumonteil was one of the six people from Ribérac shot on the 26th March by the German division 'Brehmer'.

Pierre Cadroas has published three books (link) :
- Résistances
- Blessent nos coeurs
- 100 ans de Rugby à Ribérac
   and is in the process of publishing 'Passagers de Guerre'

I am very grateful to Pierre for taking the time to go over my translation, putting it all in to the context of the era and adding some invaluable personal anecdotes.

The photos used on the covers of 'Résistances' and 'Blessent nos coeurs' were taken in Paris during the war by Jean Séeberger, one of the Séeberger brothers, the celebrated family of photographers. The photos of la ferme de Monsieur Boisseau and the chateau des Farges are featured in Jean Bart's book 'La Dordogne Martyre' which has a chapter dedicated to the events of the 26th March at Ribérac. 

A Saint-Martin une stèle a été montée grâce à l'action de Bernard Duchez (fils d'un fusillé) sur la petite route (100 mètres après l'église sur la route qui part à gauche) où ils ont été fusillés.
Il y a un monument spécifique a été construit après guerre à Ribérac face au bâtiment des impôts.

A lire également : 
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  • La Dordogne martyre de Jean Bart (lien)