• Jean-Jacques Auduc ,
    Le Mans, FranceMORE...

    My name is Jean-Jacques Auduc. I was born on July 9, 1931, in Cerans-Fouilletourte, to a modest family. My father used to make windmills. He was supposed to emigrate to Canada, but then he met my mother. She was a secretary. I went to school in Saint Pavin. I was nine when the war started. Our father was imprisoned by the Germans, but he escaped. On his return, on May 10, 1940, he arrived at an orphanage on the border between France and Belgium, where they had slaughtered a hundred children. They had killed everyone there. That's when he decided he would go into the resistance, thinking about his own children.

    To form his group he decided he would only ask people from his own family, to avoid any issues of trust. So my parents, uncles and aunts, and grandmother joined. I was just entering my teens. But I could go everywhere that adults couldn't. Because we were forming a resistance in the south, our job was primarily to gather information, but also to take care of American or British soldiers who parachuted or whose planes had crashed. I used to carry messages. I would go retrieve messages from a hotel, where they were hidden behind a radiator there and I would bring them to my grandmother's house. I kept them in the handlebar of my bicycle, and I cycled the 25km distance. It was very difficult to get out of Le Mans at the time, because of the German and French police everywhere. But I could manage. As a child, it was quite easy. I never had problems.

    One mission I had came from the British photos of the airfield in Le Mans. They noticed there was a fleet of planes, and were worried about their purpose. It was impossible to approach the airport without trouble, so I went there with my kite, to play. The German soldiers were quite old and not very frightening. They even played with me.I realized the planes were made of wood. They were fakes. They hadn't even painted them underneath. So I sent the message and the British dropped fake bombs carved out of wood, like a joke that was also an intimidation tactic. They wanted the Germans to know they didn't have complete control, that there was resistance. To make them paranoid of spies hiding everywhere.

    Guns were sometimes parachuted behind my grandmother's house. The whole family had to be there because there was much to be carried away immediately. I used to keep watch, in case anyone arrived. Once, I thought there was a problem. I gave the alarm. In fact, it turned out to be just some cows in the distance. But they still congratulated me for this, because I was eleven and I was doing my job carefully.

    The Americans had a lot of planes, but not so many pilots. When the planes were shot down, they would come retrieve their men. A few Allied pilots had been shot down around the surrounding villages. One of them was David Butcher, in Poille-sur-Vegre. He was a tail gunner for a B-17 bomber. The tail section had been shot and he parachuted into a field. The nine other men onboard were all killed. We kept these survivors at our home because we couldn't take them through the Pyrenees at the time, we would've been arrested.

    We had to wait for another group to be formed to help us with the escape. The four of the Americans stayed in a small room in the attic, but after a week, we needed to let them out. My mother made fake papers for them, identification cards, at her secretary job. They were supposed to be deaf and dumb. I was the one that escorted David Butcher around and I was apprehended for it. I was scared, I was twelve then. But he gripped my hand to signal me not to run away. He took papers from his pockets that explained his condition. The Germans seemed apologetic. We were very scared, but they let us go. Butcher said he thought he was too close to them, it was better when he was in his plane.

    My parents were arrested in early November, 1943. One of our neighbors was waiting for me at the end of the street and told me not to go home. She told me that the Gestapo was waiting. They wanted me, because as a child, they knew it would be easy to make me speak. They waited at the house a long time for anyone that might show up. My family had expected that something like this could happen, so there were plans. I was to go to Paris in the event of this, where somebody from the organization would be waiting for me. When I arrived, there was nobody. That person had been arrested also. I didn't know what to do. However, I was lucky because at the time there were men helping with the luggage in the stations. One of them approached me after seeing I was alone on the platform. I explained the situation and it turned out this man was from the same village. He took care of me for a while.

    Three months later, my parents were sent to a camp. Our mother in one, our father in another. Everyone separated.

    I had several addresses where I could go, but I never stayed long. There was one place I stayed for three days and the Gestapo arrived the day after. I had to keep moving. The last people I stayed with were prostitutes in Montmartre, who were very nice to me, because some people didn't want me in their house - it was too dangerous. But the prostitutes kept me safe. Eventually, I was able to return to my grandmother's house, where my brother was, because the Gestapo had ceased to be interested in me.

    I was with her on D-Day. We used to listen to the British radio and that's how we knew the landing had taken place. There was mainly hope, the end of the nightmare. The possibility to see my parents again.

    When the war ended, the hope was in the Americans. As a child, I couldn't think of what would happen after. I thought only about seeing my parents, my mother. Most people didn't know what the concentration camps were. We thought they were like factories where people were sent to work. The horror was unimaginable at the time. One of my uncles was killed there. My father and another uncle managed to return. While my mother was in a camp, she was sold to a laboratory for experiments. 98% of these women were killed. But she came back, though in a bad state. The doctors said it would good for her when she got better, that she should have another child, it would be good for her. She died five months after my sister was born, at 41 years of age.

    Later, I ended up taking lessons through correspondence, studying forestry. I spent my time in the forest with animals, as my father had done. I currently belong to the Franco-American Association, with responsibilities to this area. I have a medal that was presented to me by General Eisenhower.

  • Robert Quint,
    Paris, FranceMORE...

    My name is Robert Quint. I was born in Le Blanche on July 5, 1925.

    I started school at four years old, in 1929 and I was there until 1936. After that, I worked for the government at SNCF (the national railway company) until 1942. In 1939, the Germans invaded and soon they were in the countryside. I didn't like seeing so many Germans everywhere. They were in the schools, in the shops, and in the houses. I saw Jewish people being sent away. I couldn't stand to see that, people herded like animals onto trains. It was a shock for me, so I decided to become part of the resistance.

    It was forbidden to listen to the radio. There was a curfew and everything was shut at night. They would publish photographs of those they had executed for the purpose of creating an atmosphere of terror. But I didn't care. I listened to the radio. To news from London and General de Gaulle. News from the resistance.

    They gave us tickets for food rations, but sometimes they were fake tickets. People were starving. I wanted to fight against that. But we had to be careful because the French police didn't have any choice but to collaborate with the Germans. It was very dangerous for us.

    The Germans would use the trains to send supplies. My purpose with the resistance movement was to work very slowly, and to make mistakes. Sabotage. We had time cards for work and I used to burn them. We counterfeited our own so they would think we worked longer hours than we did. Once, we wanted to put the French flag on the roof of the central station. I was the skinniest boy on the whole crew. I went to the roof to do it, but they saw me and we had to escape.

    The President of the SNCF was killed by the Germans on March 13, 1942. This motivated some of the employees to join the resistance. Mostly, I sabotaged trains. I stole repair equipment. I did this alone. The resistance group was instrumental in making sure it went smoothly. But I want to say the truth here. For me, it was normal to do this. It wasn't to be heroic, it was a desire for a return to normality. There were little actions every day, little problems created on every train in Paris. For example, we put an old part on a train to stop it for a few weeks. Anything to slow the Germans down and to starve them of resources. Some of us had collections of train parts in our homes. I was very lucky to not get caught.

    The station was the first place the Americans bombed to disable the transport lines in 1942. When the Germans withdrew in January, 1945, SNCF fixed the rail systems within two weeks or so. This was to help the Americans, British and French forces advance.

    By May, the war was over. I tried to become a pilot for the army. It was my passion because of all the time I had spent watching planes. I was refused because I was too weak. I was too small, malnourished from the war. So I began my life. There was freedom. I went to the bars, I danced. I played football. It felt like a second birth when the Germans left France. I had a beautiful youth after. Later, I met my wonderful wife and I made my life here, in La Blanche - now I'm happy. I've lived in this same house since 1931.