Etobon Project Blog - Journal posts are listed below
The Etobon Project

The Etobon blog

This blog is written as a chronological narrative.The most recent posts are found at the end of the journal.

The graves of some of those who died September 27, 1944

The Etobon blog contains portions of my translation of Ceux d'Etobon, by Jules Perret and Benjamin Valloton. Perret was an witness to a Nazi atrocity committed in the closing months of World War II in the village of Etobon, France. Perret's son, brother-in-law and son-in-law to be were victims of the massacre.

sikhchic.com has posted an article in which I've given the basic facts of the story of Etobon. Please visit the site and see other stories related to World War II prisoners of war.

You can find post links, most recent first, on the right side of each page.

 

 

Wednesday
Feb102010

Etobon: A True Account of Courage and Sacrifice

The burial place of the Etobon martyrs          

        Thirty-nine men of Etobon were lined up against a church wall and shot, ten by ten, on September 27, 1944, for daring to defy their Nazi occupiers.

Etobon:  A True Account of Courage and Sacrifice is the story of a small village in eastern France whose people risked everything to resist the Germans during World War II. They rescued and sheltered escaped British Indian prisoners of war. They formed their own unit to fight the German army. When their actions were uncovered, the Germans executed almost all of the men of the village between the ages of 16 and 60. Their pastor, one of the leaders of the local resistance, was sent to the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald.

The village of Etobon is in one of the last regions of France to have been liberated at the end of the Second World War. The inhabitants who survived the massacre suffered bombardments, hunger and cold until the Germans were finally driven out in November 1944. The scars on the community are still visible. What happened at Etobon deserves a full telling. This tragedy continues to affect the lives of its people, as if it happened only a few years ago.

 

Thursday
Feb112010

Why I'm Sharing This Story

The story of the suffering of the people of Etobon needs to be told and I'm in a unique position to tell it. I am the American pastor whose eyes were opened to what happened in Etobon and the neighboring village of Chenebier. I lived and worked for two years among the people who were there, whose family names are on the cemetery wall in Etobon. I was privileged to hold the post of Pastor of Etobon and Chenebier, part of the Paroisse du Mont-Vaudois, which includes all the surrounding villages and countryside. I baptized, married and buried the people who were formed out of this tragedy. I preached on Sundays in the church where the resistance hid its weapons and food and in the church where 39 men were murdered. I took part in the annual remembrance of the massacre. I know the principals, their children and grandchildren. I have read and translated their journals and memoirs. I have wept at their graves. They entrusted me with their story. Now I must tell it.

Friday
Feb122010

September 27

 Every September 27, the people of Etobon and the surrounding villages in this far eastern corner of France gather to remember what happened that day in 1944. The 60th anniversary in 2004 drew a larger crowd that in recent years, but the ceremony was the same:  prayer, the French national anthem, called the Marseillaise, and a poem read by schoolchildren. The centerpiece is the reading of the names, each followed by, “Mort pour la France,” “Died for France.”

      Each time the people of the villages gather for this ceremony, they are prepared for any weather. Sometimes September 27 is warm and sunny, sometimes cold and damp, sometimes pouring rain. Not far from Etobon, in Couthenans, the village where I was assigned to live, by mid-September the heat in the parsonage was already becoming a concern. The days had become cloudy, damp and drizzly. My colleague Pascal had told me one rainy morning, “welcome to winter in the Franche-Comté.” And when I asked if it would rain the entire winter, he said, “I hope there’ll be some snow.” The clouds, drizzle and cool temperature meant that I always felt just a bit chilled, and began to add a camisole underneath or a cardigan on top, and often both.

Tuesday
Feb162010

The Church at Chenebier

 

You can still see the bullet holes on the side of the Lutheran church at Chenebier. Even today, you can see where they pitted the stone of the church wall. Bulletholes in the church wall at ChenebierA few up high, higher than a man’s head. But lower, where a man’s head would be if he were on his knees, the wall is pocked with them. When I first saw them, I didn’t know what I was looking at. Monsieur Widmer called me over to the tiny pavement at the side of the church. It was sunny. I was dazed. He said, “Did you know, Madame, they shot forty men here?  Just here. During the war. I remember hearing the planes go over at night, going to Germany. How happy it made me. We love Americans, Madame. It makes me angry to hear them criticized.” My eyes teared up. What was he talking about, forty men, just here? The 27th of September, 1944, 39 Glorious Martyrs Were Shot Here By The Germans. France Will Not Forget.The pavement by the church wall was maybe 12 feet long and 8 feet wide – the size of a small room. But the bullet holes were there.  

Just a few months before that Sunday in August 2004, I was dreaming of my new life as a French pastor. The grit and poverty of western Pennsylvania would be just a memory. An historic parsonage waited for me. Baguettes would be delivered fresh each morning. There would be French yarn for my knitting needles. What I didn’t expect was to find an atrocity at the center of my parish.

Saturday
Feb202010

The Names

The side of the church in Chenebier where 39 men were murderedOn the corner of the right side of the church at Chenebier, there is a plaque that reads, "Place of those who were shot and of French remembrance." Beside the church is a small square, floored with concrete pavers.  A hedge screens it from the neighbors' farmhouse.

The polished marble plaque on the side of the church is what takes words and breath away. It lists the names of the 39 men and boys who were murdered that day in September 1944. The sheer number of names is the first thing that shocked me: that many bodies piled up in this small space. The second shock is the names themselves. There are so many of the same family name. Brothers and fathers, cousins and brothers-in-law, adopted sons, died together that day.

The plaque listing the names of those who died against the church wall on September 27, 1944