The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-Second Day: Thursday, 24rd January, 1946
(Part 5 of 7)

[M. DUBOST continues]

Page 136]

You will observe, in connection with this notice of 16 September, announcing the execution, or rather the assassination of M. Pitard and his companions, that the murderers had neither the courage nor the honesty to say that they were all Parisian lawyers. Was it by mistake? I think that it was a calculated lie, for at this time it was necessary to handle the elite gently. The occupying power still hoped to separate them from the people of France.

I shall describe to you in detail two cases which spread grief in the hearts of the French in the course of the month of October 1941, and which have remained present in the memory of all my compatriots.

They are known as the "executions of Chateaubriant and of Bordeaux." They are related in Document 415 in your document book, which I submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 285.

After the attack on two German officers at Nantes on 20 October 1941, and another in Bordeaux a few days later, the German Army decided to make an example. You will find, on Page 22 of Document 415, a copy of the notice in the newspaper "Le Phare," on 21 October, 1941. It is the last page of the document:

"Notice. Cowardly criminals in the pay of England and of Moscow have killed, by shooting in the back, the Feldkommandant of Nantes on the morning of 20 October 1941. Up to now the assassins have not been arrested.

As expiation for this crime I have ordered that 50 hostages be shot, to begin with. Because of the gravity of the crime, 50 more hostages will

[Page 137]

be shot in the case of the guilty not being arrested between now and midnight of 23 October 1941."
The conditions under which these reprisals were executed are worth describing in detail:

Stulpnagel, who was commanding the German troops in France, ordered the Ministry of the Interior to select prisoners. These prisoners were to be selected from among the Communists who were considered the most dangerous (these are the terms of Stulpnagel's order). A list of 60 Frenchmen was furnished by the Minister of the Interior. This was Pucheu. He has since been tried by my compatriots, sentenced to death and executed.

On the first page you will find a copy of the letter from the Sub-prefect ofChateaubriant to the Kommandantur of Chateaubriant, in reply to the order which he received from the Minister of the Interior:

"Following our conversation of today, I have the honour of confirming to you that the Minister of the Interior has communicated today with General Stulpnagel, in order to point out to him the most dangerous Communist prisoners among those who are now held at Chateaubriant. You will find enclosed herewith the list of 60 individuals who have been handed over this day."
On the following page is the German order
"Because of the assassination of the Feldkommandant of Nantes, Lt. Col. Hotz on 20 October 1941, the following Frenchmen, who are already imprisoned as hostages in accordance with my publication of 22 August 1941, and of my decree to the legal representative of the French Government of 19 September 1941, are to be shot."
In the following pages you will find a list, which I shall not read, of all the men who were shot on that day. I leave out the reading of the list in order not to lengthen the proceedings unduly.

On Page 16 you will find a list of 48 names. On Page 13 you will find the list of those who were shot in Nantes. On Page 12 you will find the list of those who were shot in Chateaubriant. From these lists you will observe that the bodies were sent out for burial to all the surrounding communes.

I shall read to you the testimony of eyewitnesses as to how they were buried after having been shot. On Page 3 of this document you will find that note of M. Dumesnil, concerning the executions of 21 October 1941, which was drawn up the day after these executions. The second paragraph reads:

"The priest was called at 11.30 to the prison of La Fayette. An officer, probably of the G.F.P., told him that he was charged with announcing to certain prisoners that they were going to be shot. The priest was then locked up in a room with the 13 hostages who were in the prison. The other three, who were at Les Rochettes, were attended by Abbe Theon, professor at the College Stanislas.

The Abbe Fontaine said to the condemned: 'Gentlemen, you must understand, alas, what my presence means.' He then spoke with the prisoners collectively and individually for the two hours which the officers had said would be granted to arrange the personal affairs of the condemned, and to write their last wills to their families.

The execution had been fixed for 2 o'clock in the afternoon, half an hour having been allowed for the journey. But the two hours passed by, another hour passed, and still another hour before the condemned were sent for. There were some, like M. Fourny, who were optimistic by nature, and hoped that a countermanding order would be given. The priest himself did not at all believe this.

The condemned were all very brave. It was two of the youngest, Gloux and Grolleau, who were students, who constantly encouraged the

[Page 138]

others, saying that it was better to die in this way than to perish uselessly in an accident.

When they left, the priest, for reasons which were not explained to him, was not authorised to accompany the hostages to the place of execution. He went down the stairs of the prison with them as far as the truck. They were chained together in twos. The thirteenth had on handcuffs. Once they were in the truck, Gloux and Grolleau made another gesture of farewell to him, smiling and waving their chained hands.

Signed: Dumesnil (Counsellor attached to the Cabinet)."

Sixteen were shot in Nantes. Twenty-seven were shot in Chateaubriant. Five were shot outside the Department. As to those who were shot in Chateaubriant, we know what their last moments were like. The Abbe Moyon, who was present, wrote on 22 October 1941, Page 17 of your document, the account of this execution. This is the third paragraph, Page 17:
"It was a beautiful autumn day. The temperature was mild. There had been lovely sunshine since morning. Everyone in town was going about his usual business. There was great animation in the town since it was Wednesday, which was market day. The population knew from the newspapers, and from the information it had received from Nantes, that a superior officer had been killed in a street in Nantes, but they refused to believe that such savage and extensive reprisals would be applied.

At Choisel Camp the German authorities had, for some days, put into special quarters a certain number of men who were to serve as hostages in case of special difficulties. It was from among these men that those who were to be shot on this evening of 22 October 1941 were chosen.

The Cure of Bere was finishing his lunch when M. Moreau presented himself. M. Moreau was Chief of Choisel Camp. In a few words the latter explained to him the object of his visit; that, having been delegated by M. Lecornu, the Sub-prefect of Chateaubriant, he had come to inform him that 27 men selected from among the political prisoners of Choisel, were to be executed that afternoon, and he asked Monsieur Le Cure to go immediately to attend them.

The priest said he was ready to accomplish this mission, and he went to the prisoners without delay. When the priest appeared to carry out his mission, the Sub- prefect was already with the condemned. He had come to announce the horrible fate which was awaiting them, asking them to write letters of farewell to their families without delay. It was under these circumstances that the priest arrived at the entrance to the quarters."

You will find on Page 19 the "departure for the execution," paragraph 4:
"Suddenly there was the sound of car engines. The door, which I had shut at the beginning so that we might be more private, opened. A German officer appeared. He was actually a chaplain. He said to me: 'Monsieur le Cure, your mission has been accomplished and you must withdraw immediately.'"
At the bottom of the page, the last paragraph:
"Access to the quarry where the execution took place being absolutely forbidden to all Frenchmen, I only know that the condemned were executed in three groups of nine men, that all the men who were shot refused to have their eyes bound, that young Mocquet fainted and fell, and that the last cry that sprang from the lips of all of them was an ardent 'Vive la France.'"
On Page 21 of the same document you will find the declaration of Police Officer Roussel. It also is worth reading:
"22 October 1941, at about 3.30 in the afternoon, I happened to be in the Rue du 11 Novembre in Chateaubriant, and I saw coming from

[Page 139]

Choisel Camp four or five German trucks, I could not say definitely how many, preceded by a sedan, in which was a German officer. Several civilians in handcuffs were in the trucks and were singing patriotic songs; the 'Marseillaise,' the 'Chant du Depart' and so forth. One of the trucks was filled with armed German soldiers.

I learned subsequently that these were hostages who had just been taken from Choisel Camp, to be led to the quarry of Sabliere on the Soudan Road, to be shot in reprisal for the murder in Nantes of the German Colonel Hotz.

About two hours later these same trucks came back from the quarry and drove into the court of the Chateau of Chateaubriant, where the bodies of the men who had been shot were deposited in a cellar until coffins could be made.

On coming back from the quarry the trucks were covered and no noise was heard, but a stream of blood escaped from them and left a mark on the road from the quarry to the castle.

The following day, 23 October, the bodies of the men who had been shot were put into coffins, without any French persons being present, the entrances to the chateau having been guarded by German sentinels, and were taken to the cemeteries of the surrounding communes,three coffins per commune. The Germans were careful to choose communes to which there was no regular transport service, presumably to avoid the population's going en masse to the graves of these martyrs.

I was not present at the departure of the hostages from the camp nor at the shooting in the quarry of Sabliere, as the approaches to it were guarded by German soldiers armed with machine guns."

Almost at the same time, in addition to these 48 hostages who were shot, there were others: those of Bordeaux. You will find in your document book, under Document 400-F, documents which have been communicated to us by the Prefecture of the Gironde, which we submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit RF 286.

You will find the first document issued by the Section of Political Affairs, dated 22 October 1941, marked 400-F (C), at the bottom of which you will read:

"In the course of the conference which took place last night at the Feldkommandantur of Bordeaux, the German authorities asked me to proceed immediately with the arrest of 100 individuals known for their sympathy with the Communist Party or the de Gaullist movement, who will be considered as hostages, and to make a great number of house searches.

These operations have been in progress since this morning. So far no result of interest has been brought to my attention. In addition, this morning at 11 o'clock the German authorities informed me of the reprisal measures which they had decided to take against the population."

These reprisal measures you will find set forth on Page "A" of the same document, in a letter addressed by General von Faber Du Faur, Chief of the Regional Administration of Bordeaux, to the Prefect of the Gironde. I quote:
"Bordeaux, 23 October 1941.

To the Prefect of the Gironde

As expiation for the cowardly murder of the Councillor of War, Reimers, the military Commander in France has ordered fifty hostages to be executed. The execution will take place to-morrow.

In the case of the murderers not being arrested in the very near future, other measures will be taken, as in the case of Nantes.

[Page 140]

I have the honour of making known this decision to you.

Chief of the Military Regional Administration

Signed : von Faber du Faur."

All of these men were executed.

There is a famous place in the suburbs of Paris, which has become a place of pilgrimage for the French since our liberation. It is the Fort of Romainville. During the occupation the Germans converted this fort into a hostage depot, from which they selected victims when they wanted to take revenge after some patriotic demonstration. It is from Romainville that Professors Jacques Solomon, Decourtemanche, Georges Politzer, Dr. Boer and six other Frenchmen went forth. They were arrested in March 1942, tortured by the Gestapo, then executed without trial in the month of May 1942.

On 19 August, 1942, 96 hostages left this fort, among them Monsieur Le Gall, a municipal councillor of Paris. They left the fort of Romainville, were transferred to Mont-Valerien, and executed.

In September 1942, an attack had been made against some German soldiers at the Rex Cinema in Paris. General von Stulpnagel issued a proclamation announcing that, because of this attack, he had ordered 116 hostages to be shot and that extensive measures of deportation were to be taken. You will find an extract from this newspaper in Document 402 under letter "B."

The notice was worded as follows:

"As a result of attacks committed by communist agents and terrorists in the pay of England, German soldiers and French civilians have been killed or wounded.

As reprisal for these attacks I have had 116 communist terrorists shot, whose participation or implication in terroristic acts has been proved by confessions.

In addition, severe measures of repression have been taken to prevent incidents on the occasion of demonstrations planned by the communists for 20 September 1942. I ordered the following:

From Saturday, 19 September 1942, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, until Sunday, 20 September 1942, at midnight, all theatres, cinemas, cafes and other places of amusement shall remain closed to the French population in the Departments of the Seine, Seine-et-Oise and Seine- et-Marne; all public demonstrations, including sport activities, are forbidden.

From Sunday, 20 September 1942, from 3 o'clock in the afternoon until midnight, it is forbidden to non-German civilians to move about in the streets and on public squares in the Departments of the Seine, the Seine-et- Oise and the Seine-et-Marne. The only exceptions are persons representing official services, etc."

In fact, it was only on the day of 20 September that 46 of these hostages were chosen from the list of 116. The Germans handed newspapers of 20 September to the prisoners of Romainville, announcing the decision of the High Military Command. It was, therefore, through the newspapers, that the prisoners of Romainville learned that a certain number of them would be chosen at the end of the afternoon to be led before the firing squad.

All lived during that day in expectation of the call that would be made that evening. Those who were called knew their fate beforehand. All died innocent of the crimes for which they were being executed, for those who were responsible for the attack in the Rex Cinema were arrested a few days later.

It was in Bordeaux that the 70 other hostages, of the total of 116 announced by General von Stulpnagel, were executed. In reprisal for the murder of Ritter, the German official of the Labour Front, 50 other hostages were shot

[Page 141]

at the end of September 1943, in Paris. You will find in this same file 402 (C), a reproduction of the newspaper article which announced these executions to the French people as reprisal against terroristic acts, saying that the attacks and acts of sabotage had multiplied in France in recent days, and for this reason 50 terrorists, convicted of having participated in acts of sabotage and of terrorism, had been shot on 2 October 1943, on the order of the Higher SS and Polizeifuehrer.

All these facts concerning the hostages of Romainville have been related to us by one of the survivors, one of the hundreds of Frenchmen imprisoned in this fort, Monsieur Rabate, a mechanic living at 69, Rue de la Ton beIssiore, Paris, whose testimony was taken by one of our collaborators.

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