This statement of facts, as I lived them in Les Clayes-sous-Bois during the days of the Nazi occupation until Libération, is dedicated to my Comrades of Résistance and the history of our village: Les Clayes-sous-Bois.
I do not presume to chronicle the entire history of the French Résistance in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, but simply to correct the errors, omissions, distortions and especially the lies in the book entitled Les Clayes-sous-Bois by Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez (a historian who humbly declares herself “discrete and rigorous”) published by Messidor in 1991.
August, 2008: I have just received a copy of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book entitled Les Clayes-sous-Bois. My sister Angélina, still residing in France, sent this book to me. She had this book for a long time, but she hesitated to send it to me, knowing that certain passages would be painful to me.
After reading the introduction and the poem of Mr. Rene Fontaine (First Deputy Mayor of Les Clayes-sous-Bois), I was delighted that a historian had written a detailed history of my native village. I learned many things I had never heard before about this small village where Odette, my wife, and I spent our youth, and which today we still think of as “home”.
However, when I reached page 112 and read, again and again, through page 121, I was very disappointed and deeply shocked.
How shall I begin to rectify such gross errors?
To begin with, it should be understood that Résistance was chiefly and above all, a frame of mind. It cannot be bought, either bottled or canned, at the grocery store – one must live it!
For our small group, Résistance did not begin when we joined the OCM (Organisation Civile et Militaire de France) in 1942. Long before that, we were already a group of dedicated, idealistic youngsters, brought together by membership in a Christian working-youth movement. There we developed a great fraternal friendship which matured into an enduring team spirit. Résistance to the Nazi occupation was for us a rather natural reaction.
Not only did we not have any political objectives, we hated politics altogether (for me, it is still the case today). We were young and naive enough to imagine that every citizen would be happy to be free from the tyranny of Nazism.
For clarity, I will divide the history of our Résistance movement in Les Clayes-sous-Bois into four stages:
1. 1941: A group of young idealists refusing defeat.
2. 1942: Contact with a national organization (OCM).
3. August 1944: The Libération and assimilation of our group into the French Forces of the Interior (FFI).
4. September 1944: Voluntary engagement of most of the FFI into the French Army.
After having read pages 112 to 121 of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, I cannot keep silent vis-a-vis the omissions and untrue statements, that I consider as real insults, because it touches something I have long held most precious in my heart: my comrades and friends of the Résistance in Les Clayes-sous-Bois.
If there are one thousand and one ways of saying a lie, there is only one way of saying the truth.
For myself and my comrades in the Résistance, Résistance did not have a political color; it was neither of the Right, nor of the left. The only objective of the Résistance was victory against the occupation and the defeat of the tyranny of the Gestapo and Nazism. Alas, after reading just the first lines of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s pages, I found myself immersed in the personal political opinions of the author, and doused in the colors and political opinions of the Left, the Right, and the extreme Right. What a cold shower!
All dictators throughout history employ this same method: they color their opponents with simplistic slogans to dehumanize them so that they no longer have to consider their opponents human. They do this so that they can kill them, morally or physically, or break them down without compunction. This is what the Nazis and the Gestapo did during the occupation; this is what happened in the death camps. The same in Russia under Stalin, where many people were labeled “bourgeois anti-revolution” and found themselves on a free one-way trip to Siberia. Saddest and most unhappy of all, these dehumanization tricks are still employed today, and in every corner of the world.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 113:
During the year 1942, the Résistance forces draw their outlines, affirm their ideological sympathies and mark their differences. According to their leaders and alliances (present or former) political Résistance movements direct their efforts
In terms of the Résistance in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, this statement is absolutely false! In our small group, from beginning to end, we had no political or ideological objectives, whatsoever! In our thoughts, in our actions, we were never distracted from our objectives. What Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez pretends to be unaware of, is that from beginning to end we were simply young Christians fighting against Nazi occupation. She extrapolates the national political intrigue to our small village, where we were the only actively fighting group during the occupation.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 114:
In early 1942, the OCM is still a small group that combines military reserve, high ranking public officials and business people like Maxime Blocq Mascart (linked to pre-war Right-wing circles, and one of the founders of the OCM…)
What a good news!
I had never even heard of Maxime Blocq-Mascart until I read Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s writings. I was very happy to learn for the first time that the OCM counted among its members senior officials, the businessmen, and the former servicemen of France, all of whom had the courage to offer their knowledge and their experience and yes, even their lives to the Résistance. Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez, rejoice with me, because we owe them a bit of our freedom.
Page 114 continues:
In November 1942, a section of OCM organized in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, Robert Fallot, Ellie and Robert Massa, Michel Gourdon and Santé Ceolin. Their contact is in Saint Cyr and calls himself “Frédo”.
Here Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez tries to confuse the reader by failing to take notice of the courage, tenacity and the devotion of these young people of the Résistance (at this time, we were all between 17 and 19 years of age) and it may be because our hands-on Résistance does not mesh with her idea of how a war should be fought. Thus, she does not mention the name of André Ferré, who was my “Section Assistant-Leader”. This title appeared during our assimilation into the OCM, but in spite of these military titles we considered ourselves all on the same level: Resistant. André Ferré had an extremely important, though secret, role in the Résistance of Les Clayes-sous-Bois. For safety reasons, he was the only person of the group whom I kept informed about my contacts in Versailles. This should not reflect badly upon the esteem and the absolute confidence which I held for all my other comrades – far from it – the only reason was the pressing need to partition all connections between Résistance groups. His role was to remain as much as possible in the background, to remain “dormant”, as we said in Résistance, and in the case of my arrest, to take change of the group, thus allowing the cell to survive and continue Résistance activities. Every one of us understood that our mission had more value than our lives.
Let’s recall the omission of André Ferré, as a reprisal to his father, Jules Ferré perhaps? Here again, was it ignorance or manipulation of the facts? Jules Ferré was the person who provided us the flags with which we decorated the electric poles of Les Clayes-sous-Bois, and the red and blue powders we used to whitewash the signposts along the roads of Les Clayes-sous-Bois and Villepreux. He knew very well what we planned to do with this material when he gave it to us for that Bastille Day morning (July 14, 1942). Evidently, as the occupation army was at the town hall, for him to have everything cleaned out, he faked total surprise. That very day, another child of Les Clayes-sous-Bois joined our group: Léon Guilhermier, of whom I shall speak later.
“Frédo” was my first contact with an organization of the national Résistance; at the time I didn’t even know the name of the organization. Ten or fifteen days later, “Frédo” introduced me to “Jean-Pierre”, informing me that he was to be my leader from then on. After that, I never heard from “Frédo” again until after Libération, although I know that he was working closely with the Versailles OCM.
“Jean-Pierre” explained to me that we belonged to a Résistance Group called “OCM”, a name I had never heard before. He also assigned a number to me: “2B”, which also became the name of our group. We were twinned with another group from Versailles designated “2A”.
My encounter with the OCM was a stroke of luck that occurred while I was working at the Matelots marshalling yard, where civilian goods were sorted and distributed. All of us at the time were paying special attention to all Nazi troop movements and to which coaches were reserved for the German army, in order to collect information or to prepare sabotage. A fellow worker, having noticed some of my actions on German troop trains, asked me whether I would be interested in joining the national Résistance. I agreed immediately, since at the time I was eager to join any national Résistance movement. My only desire was to coordinate our local Résistance efforts with a larger organization, to increase our own effectiveness and to help the national effort to unseat the occupiers. After several private meetings with “Frédo”, I was finally introduced to “Jean-Pierre” who taught me the principles and the importance of partitioningfor the safety of the group and the section.
I quickly saw that the tactics of the OCM represented the same way of thinking relative to the principles we were fighting for. We would take full advantage of every opportunity to weaken our oppressors, yet at the same time we would avoid or minimize the possibility of reprisals against the French population.
“Jean-Pierre” insisted on this point: to kill a German soldier and then have 50 or more Frenchmen shot in reprisals did not help the Résistance movement one bit, nor weaken the German army. But it did subject the French people to terrible and pointless misery. It was on the advice of “Jean-Pierre” that in 1943 I transferred to the marshalling yards of Trappes, where I might pick up even more information and plan larger acts of sabotage.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 114:
In May 1943, Section OCM of Les Clayes-sous-Bois participated in the kidnapping of two Gestapo agents who will be executed at the pond “des Suisses” at Versailles. The same section will distribute about forty-five identity cards and forty sets of ration cards by month through the effective assistance of town clerk, Louis Anthoreaidera who helps young STO [Service du Travail Obligatoire, a forced labor organization managed by the Nazi occupiers] escapees to hide and move about, etc. ..
The kidnapping of the Gestapo agents was an action of the Versailles OCM. Our participation consisted in the surveillance of the crossroads of Saint Cyr, Les Clayes-sous-Bois and Trappes.
Before tackling the subject of the young STO escapees, it is important to speak about these young people of Les Clayes-sous-Bois, so completely ignored by Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez.
It is tragic to have forgotten the Corre family. Joseph Corre and his cousin Charles were two young boys of our own age who carried the fight to the enemy. At the German Invasion, they traveled to Brittany, sailed to England on an old boat, and in June they joined Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division. They fought for the rest of the war within that Division, starting with Africa, moving to France and ultimately finishing victorious in Germany. I’ve no doubt that someone should write a book on these two patriotic, courageous young people. However I did not know them well enough to do a proper job of it.
In the same way, how could someone write a history of Les Clayes-sous-Bois without mentioning Léon Guilhermier and Pierre Templier? These French patriots left France in 1942 to join the Free French Army in England, but had only reached the Spanish border when the Gestapo captured them. They were imprisoned in Bordeaux until they were embarked with other prisoners onto a train bound for a concentration camp in Germany. They were packed into ancient wooden railcars from WWI, marked by the legend: “8 horses or 40 men”; Léon made it quite clear that there were far more than 40 men in that car. Following the leadership of an experienced Polish prisoner (he was a captain of the Polish army and this was his second escape) they broke open the doors and leaped from the moving train. When it was Léon’s and Pierre’s turn, they found themselves, intact but scraped-up by the slag along the quay, entering the town of Malsé in the dead of night. They crept into the village where they hid in the bell-tower of the church. The village priest found them there the next morning, and introduced them to the local farmers who gave them food and shelter until they found their way to Les Clayes-sous-Bois. I cannot remember where Pierre Templier was hiding, but Léon was taken by the abbot, Juille to the small nearby chateau of Miss Maurice. After a certain cooling-down period, Léon left his hiding place and became active in our OCM group; later he joined the FFI and was with us at Herblay. Pierre joined the FFI in 1944 when we rallied the population of Les Clayes-sous-Bois at the Libération, and he too was with us in Herblay.
It is also necessary to honor all the quiet villagers of Les Clayes-sous-Bois who fed and transported the refugees of war during the exodus. These Clétiens [the people of Les Clayes-sous-Bois] had formed their own group, and directed the refugees towards families who volunteered to lodge them. One of these was Mazar Marceau, whom I did not know at the time, but whom a few years later became my father-in-law. As the majority of businessmen had left during the exodus, this small group organized the reopening of the bakery and the butcher shop, and thus the population was able to share the little food that remained. How many other examples could I mention of selfless assistance between neighbors and fearless service towards any person in need? The citizens of Les Clayes-sous-Bois spontaneously shared their resources and moral support throughout the occupation. It is in difficult times that one can see the character of a nation, and the Clétiens rose to the challenge. All this would have been excellent topics for researching how our village fared during the war, but apparently Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez failed to look in this direction.
Now, let us return to the young STO escapees.
Three buddies of mine from Les Clayes-sous-Bois received Nazi orders to travel to Germany to aid in their war effort. Robert Massa and Michel Gourdon, who were founding members of our small Résistance group, refused to comply with this order. They did not even leave town, but instead kept a very low profile and traveled only at night. Their refusal to follow orders put themselves and their family in grave peril, because it was a common Gestapo practice to torture the families of partisans to keep the rest of the population terrorized.
The other schoolmate of mine, Jean Carrillon chose to follow the German orders and ended up in Berlin where he unfortunately perished during an Allied bombardment.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 115:
Finally, an extensive information network is established at the local level. It concerns the traffic on the Chartres rail corridor, the bomb dropping points for the bombing of Trappes and Sainr Cyr, the passages for German parcels at the Versailles-Matellots railway station… This information is brought by radio to the Résistance center every forty eight hours. Robert Fallot provides this link, which sometimes caused serious problems. One day, he had to transmit from the Church of Les Clayes-sous-Bois, with the complicity of the abbot Raymond Juille.
A succession of simple facts, more or less complete, listed out of chronological order, lightly treated by Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez, and yet, every one of these activities could earn a young partisan and his family weeks of torture and interrogation followed by their early death and that of their relatives. Of the two clandestine radios we had, only the modern one proved useful. They were both hidden inside our church, Saint Martin des Clayes-sous-Bois, with the agreement and enthusiastic support of the priest, Abbot Raymond Juille, on the condition that there were never to be weapons in the church. The radios were hidden behind the altar where the statue of the Blessed Virgin stood. The mantle was built from one wooden beam, which we were able to pull loose from the masonry, revealing a small space into which we tucked the two radios. Our OCM section was responsible for these radios.
The transmissions to England were carried out by two members of OCM Versailles: “Jean-Pierre” and another who never gave me his name; I called him “the Scot”. The reader might wonder why I did not know, nor did I need to know, the name of Jean-Pierre’s comrade. The reason is in the beautiful way the Résistance was organized: if I knew one member of the Résistance, anyone who was with him would be accepted without question. In the Résistance, it was vital to not know anything more than was required of you to know; this minimized the damage to the organization if one of us was caught and tortured by the Gestapo. “The Scot” was a redhead and spoke English. The transmissions were made in Morse code, and were of course encoded into a secret message. Transmissions never lasted more than five minutes (carefully timed) and they were sent at different times and from different places. This information and much more were collected in Versailles at a place we, in the Résistance, called the “post-office box”.
Here I would like to mention a fact that I learned long after the victory. The English intelligence service, MI5 ran a full-time school for radio operators because their statistics showed that the average lifespan of a radio operator operator was six months…
In August 1944, OCM Versailles was beheaded in one fell swoop, having lost all its leaders to the Gestapo, including “Jean-Pierre” and his wife, and “the Scot” and his wife, who was pregnant. These two young wives were the only ones to survive the tortures and death camps, and by a miracle the new mother returned with a little girl who was born in Auschwitz! A fellow inmate who happened to be a nurse helped with the childbirth, and the baby and new mother were washed with some coffee that the prisoners had kept aside. The remaining OCM section heads gathered together to reorganize, and our one and only meeting took place at Plaisir, in a private house, near the train station, to the right. That night we chose a new leader, who was killed at his place in Noisy-le-Roi by the Germans about eight days later.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 115/116:
Besides the OCM section there was a Local Committee of Résistance, led by Messrs. Kofler and Emile André (later elected councilman, deputy mayor, at the Libération). It includes fifteen people including Mr. Paul Dufaut, editor of an underground newspaper distributed by the local Committee of Résistance. Completely in shadow, we ignore the bulk of its business except the distribution of leaflets and information to Americans about the location of guns and occupiers in the locality.
Absolutely false, completely false, shamefully false.
This Committee was formed long after the liberation of Les Clayes-sous-Bois, and days after the FFI had secured the town hall. At that time, we had already turned a room on the side of the girl’s school into an armory full of captured weapons that Robert Fallo and myself had gathered-up from the fort of Bois d’Arcy after the Germans had abandoned it. On the day of Libération, these “courageous ultra latter days patriots” (Mr. Kofler, Mr. Emile André and the rest) were still barricaded within deepest cellars, trembling and groaning, wondering when it was safe to come out and unfurl, in glory and triumph, their tricolour [the French Flag] which they had so carefully buried for so many years. These “gentlemen” surfaced only after the FFI had left Les Clayes-sous-Bois on a mission in Herblay, temporarily leaving the town hall empty.
Throughout the occupation, I never saw any underground newspapers or leaflets in Les Clayes-sous-Bois. I’m not saying there weren’t any; but I will say that their circulation, if they existed, was minimal.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 116:
Shortly before liberation, attempts to establish contacts between the two organizations took place. But the ideological conflicts, the OCM being the Résistance movement leaning to the right – prevent the merger
Absolutely false, completely false, shamefully false.
Once again, we never thought of mixing Résistance with politics. But the key fact disproving Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez writing is that only one Résistance group was operating in Les Clayes-sous-Bois during the occupation: the OCM. How can someone in all conscience invent such things?
In fact, a little before Libération, I was instructed by “Jean-Pierre” to find out whether there were any other Résistance groups in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, and if so, to connect with them so that we could dovetail our acts of Résistance. Thus, I then contacted Mr. André Marty, whom I knew to be chief of the Communist Party in Les Clayes-sous-Bois. Robert Fallot and I were very pleasantly received at his home one evening, just after dusk. At the time, he lived in a subdivision on the other side of the railroad, east of the second crossing. Beside him sat another gentleman. We explained that we were members of a Résistance group and that we were trying to find out if there were any other groups in Les Clayes-sous-Bois with which we should coordinate our efforts. Mr. Marty and his friend told us they knew of no other group.
I was pleased by our amicable discussion with Mr. Marty and friend; it was a frank discussion between men, with no ideological maneuvering to muddle the water. However, both Robert and I were surprised to hear that their local communist group was not active at the time, because their national group, the “Franc-tireur et partisan”, was very active in France after Germany cancelled the non-aggression pact it had with Russia. However, I must admit that had I been contacted by Mr. Marty for the same reason, I probably would have said the same thing, not wanting to put my own group in danger. But the big difference is that just a little while later, during Libération, our group would have enthusiastically and openly joined with any other group.
However, during the Libération, when our OCM group had secured the town hall and we had joined with the FFI, we called upon the population of Les Clayes-sous-Bois to join us: BUT NOT ONE OTHER RÉSISTANCE ORGANIZATION EMERGED!
On the other hand, a great number of the young people of Les Clayes-sous-Bois joined the FFI and similar groups at that moment in time. One of them, André Biret, whom I knew as member of the Communist Party in Les Clayes-sous-Bois joined us (he was in charge of the propaganda for the “communist cell of Les Clayes-sous-Bois”). It is only logical that people of all political stripes were represented in all the groups after Libération, but at the time a person’s political inclinations were never an issue. However, Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez failed to realize the “atmosphere of idealism in which the résistants bathed“. It was a marvellous time for all of us, when every waking moment was consumed with a great desire to see France freed from the tyranny of the Nazi occupation. This was the most exhilarating time of our lives, when we put our lives in jeopardy day and night. Only those who lived it can comprehend this.
Here is a concrete example of how our actions were never influenced by ideology. When we went to Herblay, I put André Biret (the young communist) in charge of the FFI. With all her political “bathing”, I am astonished to note that our “discrete and rigorous” historian, Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez neglected to mention André Biret. In February, 1947 he received in Les Clayes-sous-Bois La Médaille de la Libération. It was grand ceremony that included officers of the French Army in dress uniform, senior police officers of Saint-Cyr (whom we had never seen before) and all the municipal council. A large stage was erected outside the town hall, just opposite the boys’ school. I was there that day. I stood up in front of everyone and demanded where it was that André had performed his acts of Résistance. Two officers from Saint-Cyr grabbed me by the arm, one on each side, and then a civilian beat me senseless. They were about to put me put in the police van when Mr. Marty approached, talked to them and they let me go. Mr. Marty said to me in a very fatherly tone: “Santé, it is better that you go home…” And so I did — me and my two black eyes!
Another anecdote while we are on the subject.
A few days after the FFI secured the city center, André Ferré, who was in charge of the town hall (we worked shifts to cover 24h/day) visited me at my parents’ house. Some people wanted to chop the hair off some of the local girls, and he came for my “orders” but he did not hide his opinion. He felt it was wrong, and I agreed with him. It was simply an act of revenge that would not help keep harmony and peace in our village. The girls had a lifetime to reflect on their consciences, and that would be more than enough punishment, especially since the collaborators were so few. There were only two women refugees in Les Clayes-sous-Bois – they worked for the Germans in Versailles – but they were long gone!
As one story leads to another, I would like to relate one very personal story. In 1947, in late August or early September, my wife Odette, after the birth of our daughter Monica, became very depressed. It was a very painful time for me, but through my faith, the support of our friends, and the people from our village with their friendship and encouragement, our family struggles were overcome. And I must say here that what touched me most was the great sympathy that the women of the Communist Party showed me on our chance meetings in the village, and especially a person who lived on Rue du Parc, almost directly across the street from our mayor at that time, Ms. Celerier.
I include these stories to show some of what our historian, Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez, completely missed: the friendly and sympathetic Les Clayes-sous-Bois I knew and loved. We had our individual beliefs, but we were always pleasant to each other.
Lieutenant Marvin N. Vinson (Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez, page 116, 117).
Lieutenant Marvin N. Vinson flew a long range fighter plane, which towards the end of the war acted as a light bomber, designated by the United States Air Force as a P-38. This P-38 was manufactured by the Lockheed Company, and we called them “deux queues” (two tails) because of the particular shape of its fuselage. It was Mr. Guérin who first found the badly injured lieutenant hiding in an outhouse on June 22nd, 1944. That same evening, Mr. Guérin alerted the Les Clayes-sous-Bois OCM. The next morning, very early, André Ferré and I transported the badly burned American to the top floor of an abandoned two-story house (the owners had taken refuge elsewhere as the house had become a bombing target since it was right beside the railroad bridge). We gave him first aid. After midday, I led Mr. Valiquet, a retired pharmacist, to the house and he used his skill and pharmaceuticals to make the pilot more comfortable.
One can never say enough about the courage of Mrs. Fallot. This small woman had a heart of gold and nerves of steel. That evening, it was she who drove the horse-cart hiding the injured young lieutenant. Robert Fallot and I escorted her on bicycles, with Robert pedaling behind and me up ahead, and we traveled in that manner all the way to town. On the way, we passed two trucks of German soldiers who beckoned to us to stop. As I was the first, I stopped and talked to them; they were lost and looking for the road to Neauffle-le-Château. I stood up on the footboard of the first truck and began to explain the way to them – but very slowly. As I spoke to the soldiers, Mrs. Fallot, the lieutenant and Robert passed quietly by without causing even one head to turn. The Germans had not even realized that we were together! I often reflect upon the courage and strength of character of this young pilot (he was no more than two years older than me). It is almost impossible to imagine; not one complaint, not one moan while we moved him up and down stairs, or even as he bounced down the French country roads on the crudest of carts. Imagine yourself as a severely wounded person (and not a small man by the way) hidden at the bottom of a wooden cart with wooden wheels drawn by a horse along stony roads. His only thought was to avoid capture by the Germans. Mr. Juille, the abbot, spoke English and quickly reassured him that he was in the hands of the French Résistance. Doctor Lion, taking many risks, looked after him the best that he could, telling us that in his case the first ten days would be critical. We must not forget the Damberthoumieu family who spontaneously and fearlessly, not only lodged the flier, but looked after and supported his needs day and night. For Mrs. Damberthoumieu and her daughter, a young girl of 18-20 years, it was a mission of love; they surrounded him with care and affection as if he had been their own son and brother. (The reader should know that their own son and brother had been reported missing since the beginning of the war. He had been crossing a frozen lake, returning from a scouting mission with his comrades. The Germans simply bombed the ice, and they were never found).
Here again we can see the devotion of simple people, who without hesitation or search for reward or glory, puts their own life at the service of another. That is the spirit of Résistance, and you can see these heroes throughout history. When Lieutenant Vinson died, it was much more than sorrow for us. For all of us who had gotten to know him, his life and death was an example of courage, endurance and kindness; and we do not forget that we owe him a share of our freedom. At one time we could have easily imagined that in five or six years there might not be be a country called “France” ever again. For me, that was a terrible time; I was picturing in my mind the joy of his mother, his father, his brothers and sisters at the moment of his return home. That was, and will always be, the greatest disappointment of my life.
This photo was taken on a corner of Creusatier’s property. You can see part of our group of FFI partisans on the way home from our mission in Herblay. This group represents less than half of our manpower (the small truck which transported us had to make two trips). You can see on the left arms of the men the armbands of the FFI which had been provided to me by Versailles. This armband was in theory an official French military insignia, and we should have been recognized as uniformed soldiers just as if we were French Army regulars. This would have granted us the rights and protections provided by the Geneva Convention, but the German army didn’t see it that way and treated the FFI like enemy agents, and were shot on the spot. It should be noted that all our rifles and the machine-gun were taken from the German army. Robert Fallot and I chose these weapons, out of the many we had seized, by how easy it was to find ammunition for them.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 118:
France liberated, the new municipal council settles and, on August 28, 1944, the local Committee of Liberation replaces the special delegation. The committee is composed of Mr. Dufaut, Mrs. Marquel, Messrs Bouchard, Méquin, Tassez, Vaquet, Guérin, Gros and André. Unanimously, the committee decides that Mr. Dufaut, president of the local Committee of Liberation, will be mayor.
Again Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez plays fast and loose with the dates. Yes, indeed, these gentlemen took full advantage of the departure of the FFI (on our mission in Herblay) to take over city hall. However, this took place well after August 28, since our mission in Herblay took place at the beginning of September!
These gentlemen took their high-sounding names and seized control of city hall much later than the end of August. Not a single one of them belonged to the Résistance during the occupation, and the only Résistance they had was a resistance to taking risks. How can such men have so little honor? Some men take all the risks and others adorn themselves with laurels.
Citation of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez’s book, page 119:
In November 1944, the prefecture orders rehabilitation in the municipalities of the members elected in 1936 and dismissed in 1939. The order requires on the one hand ”to take account of the wishes of the Résistance and of the situation born of the Liberation” and, on the other hand, to purge ”any member of a municipality whose attitude during the occupation remained too passive and who, being given his responsibilities in the town thus supported the actions of the enemy or the usurper”.
There were lots of partisan politics going on concerning, more or less, Les Clayes-sous-Bois, but absolutely never among members of the Résistance in Les Clayes-sous-Bois!
She continues, Page 119:
In this respect, the declaration of the local Committee of Liberation is clear: ”(…) none of the former city councilmen that we have been ordered to re-instate ever committed any acts of Résistance; even knowing that the Résistance committee existed they still did not come to us; in fact, there were even among them those who were not merely neutral but actually enthusiastic collaborators.
The truth is that the city council of Les Clayes-sous-Bois believes, considering the values of Résistance, we must not re-instate any of those old councilmen who had maintained a wait-and-see attitude.
Once again, these gentlemen proclaim themselves as members of the French Résistance when the battle is long over, while referring to people “who had maintained a wait-and-see attitude”! These people reveal themselves much better than I ever could.
After reading the writings of Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez, our “rigorous and discrete” historian, I note that she had in her possession all the necessary documents and information on the Résistance in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, and that she chose to “rigorously and discreetly” purge, censor, deform, and ignore the facts to fit them into her own ideological bias or that of those who paid for her services.
When I speak about the people of Les Clayes-sous-Bois who belonged to the Communist Party, I absolutely do not speak in a pejorative or discriminatory manner, but simply to show that for us, meaning all of us in our Résistance group and even me personally, ideology never entered into any of our plans or activities at any time.
In short, none of the members of the OCM or the FFI ever intended to enter into politics. We were simply young idealists whose only desire was to end the occupation and achieve final victory and peace.
It is only to be expected that the best-organized political group moved into the vacuum left by the liberation of the town and took control. Personally I see nothing wrong with that – far from it – and I do think that we owe something to these gentlemen in recognition for their services.
But I am outraged when these gentlemen declare themselves something they never were: Résistant!
Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez, you have demonstrated that you are capable of doing serious historical research. So why did you choose to ignore and marginalize, not only these young people of the Résistance, but all the Clétiens during the occupation? Was it your own decision, or was it in your contract? Either way, it is sad, terribly sad.
It does not give me any pleasure to tell you this.
Ms. Madelaine Leveau-Fernandez, but how can you look in the mirror without blushing in shame?
As for me, madam, out of respect for the reader I will refrain from expressing exactly how I feel about your writings on the Résistance of Les Clayes-sous-Bois.
Let me add a few lines from the poem of Mr. Fontaine, First Deputy Mayor of Les Clayes-sous-Bois:
It was once young idealists who would not accept defeat,
he was once again delayed super patriots who glorified the sacrifices of others,
Once upon a time people who knew only hate nobody taught them to love,
Once upon a time those who have shaped history and those who falsifies history
I would like to express to all my comrades and friends of Les Clayes-sous-Bois, how they are always in my thoughts and prayers. The little time I spent with you were the best moments of my life, may the Lord bless all of you and your families.
Your pal from the Résistance, Céolin Health
In this website you will find:
- A copy of the “extract of the decree dated August 29, 1953” awarding me the Military Medal and re-validating my Croix de Guerre with a palm.
- A copy of an article published in the newspaper “Les nouvelles de Versailles” describing the incident when I asked Mr. Andre Biret where he performed his share of Résistance during the occupation.
- A copy of a letter dated July 11, 1952 referring to Mr. Andre Biret’s request to obtain for him a certificate of membership in OCM Les Clayes-sous-Bois, even though neither he nor Mr. Curioux Robert ever belonged to the OCM of Les Clayes-sous-Bois.
- A copy of the FFI membership card that I carried with me the day I brought the Les Clayes-sous-Bois FFI membership list to Versailles, a little after our return from Herblay.
- A copy of the FFI staff with their regimental number (I have lost the copy that we made at the time of the call for people to join the FFI who had been proclaimed and posted in public places and among the merchants of the town, I have also lost my copy of the requisition order for a truck to transport FFI Herblay).
- A copy of the photograph of part of the FFI close to Creusatier’s property, of our return from our mission to Herblay.
P.S. André Ferré and I left the following documents in the archives of the city hall of Les Clayes-sous-Bois:
- Mission Order No. 101 (?) of 28 August 1944
- Requisition order for car dated August 28, 1944
- Appeal to the population of Les Clayes-sous-Bois to join the FFI dated August 29, 1944
- List of staff of the FFI
Are these documents still in the city hall of Les Clayes-sous-Bois?