Post-War French Gestapo Trials
Translated by C.W. Porter
The real stakes of the Allied Crusade and the consequences for Germany
First of all, I think that a person of bad faith can pretend that, during the war, this or that German organisation revealed the “true face” of Hitlerism. I will explain: if you kick a dog and he bites you, does this reveal a ferocious nature? If threaten someone with a knife and he wounds you with a revolver shot, does this reveal a murderous nature on his part? Surely not. Both acted in self defence, to protect their physical integrity, even their life. Their acts are precise and solely intended to respond to a precise aggression. Under normal circumstances, both the dog and the man may be very peaceful; we don’t know. This is why, faithful to the teachings of Christian morals, traditional justice permits “self-defence” and does not declare someone a murderer if he has acted under these circumstances [the Fifth Commandment declares: “Thou Shalt Not Kill” . But Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote: “If therefore one kills someone to defend one’s life, one is not guilty of homicide” (IIa, IIæ, question 64, art. 7). More generally, Christian morals do not condemn the act of killing an aggressor unless three conditions are met:
1°) The values defended must be of great value. These values include: life, the integrity of the limbs, chastity and temporal goods of great value;
2°) The aggressor must act unjustly and immediately (i.e.: the attack must be immediate or imminent such as when the aggressor draws his dagger, his pistol, raises his rifle, calls his accomplices, incites his dog to attack, etc.);
3°) The defence must not occasion any harm to the aggressor in excess of that absolutely required to repel the attack. Thus one must not kill if flight is impossible (unless flight is dishonourable) or if the adversary can be rendered harmless through mere wounding (source: Héribert Jones, Précis de théologie morale catholique [publisher: Salvator, Mulhouse, 1959], § 215)].
The war declared on Germany on 3 September 1939 was a war or extermination
Well, what is true of a dog or a man is also true of Germany. On 1 September 1939, an armed conflict broke out between two adjacent countries, an armed conflict such as there have been thousands in the past. Two days afterwards, the local conflict expanded to Western Europe; there again, this was not exceptional. But the new belligerents (England and France) soon transformed it into an ideological war to the death. The question was to destroy National Socialist Germany. This truth appears:
- for the first time, on 5 September 1939, when England torpedoed the last attempt at mediation [source: Sans Concession, n° 8, pp. 5 ff.];
- for the second time, on 17 September 1939, when the democracies refrained from declaring war on the USSR which had just committed the same “crime” as the German Reich: invading Poland;
- for the third time, on 7 October 1939, les democracies contemptuously rejected Hitler’s offers of peace [see: Reynouard, 6 October 1939. La furie des bellicistes (ed. du VHO)].
On 22 March 1940, moreover, the French government published a very strange “Ministerial declaration” stating: “France is engaged in a total war […]. For this reason, the stakes of this war are total” [source: Ministerial declaration of war of 22 March 1940, read by Paul Raynaud before the Chamber of Deputies and by Camille Chautemps before the French Senate. Reproduced in extenso in Documentation catholique, n° 911, 5 April 1940, col. 332]. Now, a few months before, this same France had claimed to enter the war to protect the independence of Poland. What was this more general declaration of war intended to conceal? The answer was provided less than three months later. On 11 June 1940, at the Supreme Council held at Briare, Winston Churchill threw off the mask. He rejected all possibility of peace with the enemy and said on the contrary:
Even if Germany succeeded in occupying all of France […] the Allies retain after all, the means to defeat and destroy the National Socialist regime [source: Maxime Weygand, Rappelé au service (ed. Flammarion, 1950), appendix VI: "Procès verbal de la séance du Conseil suprême tenu au château du Muguet, near Briare, le 11 June1940” (reproduction in extenso), p. 596; see also, XXX, “Churchill's Confession”]
An enormous confession. There was no longer any question of the independence of Poland (we will see moreover in 1945, when the country was purely and simply abandoned to Stalin…). The protection of small nations was only a pretext. For Churchill and his clique, the real objective was the destruction of the Third Reich, incarnation of National-Socialism. This objective, they will attain. Hitler was therefore right when, on 19 September 1939 at Danzig, he said:
“Poland, too, was only a means to an end. Because today it is being declared quite calmly that Poland was not the primary thing, but that the German regime is”
[source: A. Hitler, Discours. Du 28 April 1939 au 4 May1941 (ed. Denoël, 1941), p. 95].
On 19 July 1940, before the Reichstag, Hitler stated (emphasis added):
If we compare the causes which prompted this historic struggle with the magnitude and the far- reaching effects of military events [the German-Polish dispute over Danzig and the Corridor], we are forced to the conclusion that its general course and the sacrifices it has entailed are out of proportion to the alleged reasons for its outbreak - unless they were nothing but a pretext for underlying intentions [Ibid., p. 205].
These “hidden causes”, were naturally the destruction of the Reich. Starting in 1940, thus, Hitler’s Germany knew that it was fighting for its existence, against the Allies who were fighting for its total destruction.
In his speech on 19 July, moreover, the Führer did not hide it: “Alas, I am fully aware that the continuation of this war will end only in the complete shattering of one of the two warring parties” (Ibid., p. 242).
German actions between 1939 and 1945 must be placed in the context of a war of extermination
Now, at such times, most actions taken must be considered from a new point of view. Just like the dog or man mentioned above, these are precise actions dictated solely by the necessities of the moment, particularly, to protect its integrity. One cannot therefore recognize in all these acts the result of any ideology. When one defends his life, one no longer acts according to one’s philosophical principles, but rather in according to the instinct for self-preservation.
If one wishes to judge National Socialism (or more particularly the Gestapo), one must judge it in times of peace, not in wartime, and above all not during the two last years of the war, when everything was collapsing in Germany faced with an enemy which destroyed its cities one by one, exterminated its women and children and which promised to continue until unconditional surrender.
Since 1916, in a response to French Catholics who repeated stories of “German atrocities”, Wladislas Switalski had written:
“To be able, with objective authority, draw from the facts gathered conclusions on the character of the enemy, one must not only tax the particular case according to the scale of an ideal value, but it is important at the same time to give it is place in the general conduct of the adversary, and above all not to lose sight of the general framework of the events of the war” [source: W. Switalski, “La psychologie des récits de cruautés”, published in: La culture allemande, le catholicisme et la guerre. Réponse a l’ouvrage français “La guerre allemande et le catholicisme” (ed. C.L. van Langenhuysen, 1916), p. 165.]
That which was true in 1915 was infinitely more true in 1943-1944. That which is habitually presented as acts imputable to “Nazi barbarism” is, in the majority of cases, the consequences of the war of extermination declared by the Allies against the Reich on 3 September 1939. This truth, Dr. Merkel had the courage to say — insofar as it was possible — at Nuremberg. While his final summation was drawing to a close, said:
"One last point, however-perhaps the most profound-must not be overlooked in this connection. The German soldier, the German civil servant, the German working man, and every German man knew that the world had placed us in a situation which meant a life-and-death struggle. In the course of the war it gradually became appallingly clear that it was a question of existence or extermination. Indeed, you would be misjudging the soul of the German people if you overlooked the fact that every decent Ger man, when he realized this horrible truth, felt himself under an obligation to do everything which was expected of him in order-to save his country. And when we judge the behavior of the German people and its political police we must take these factors into consideration in order to do them justice" [IMT XXI, 540].
In his "Report on the German atrocities committed during the occupation”, Professor H. Paucot admitted that the Gestapo “became increasingly cynical and impatient with the growing antipathy to the occupying power and the growing resistance” [IMT, XXXVII, doc. F-571, p. 264]. It is clear: the Germans stiffened when the situation worsened and when behind the front some people launched an illegal war.
This basic truth, we will repeat unceasingly…
On the omnipresence and omnipotence of the Gestapo in the occupied territories
The official argument
The reader may perhaps respond that it is dishonest to take refuge in very general considerations to attempt to excuse inexcusable acts. To counter this criticism, I will now invoke the action of the Gestapo during the conflict.
If one believes the stories of the Resistance members, the Gestapo was everywhere in the occupied territories. An illegal arms cache is discovered? It’s the work of the Gestapo! A search is conducted? It’s the Gestapo! A network is dismantled: It’s the Gestapo! Resistance members are deported? It’s the Gestapo! Innocent people are arrested? It’s the arbitrary power of the Gestapo! In sum, from 1940 to 1945, the Gestapo is said to have been a monster with immense power, present everywhere at once to cause a reign of terror in the occupied territories.
The Gestapo was not prepared for the war
Naturally, this version does not correspond to reality. In the first part of this study, we have seen that within Hitlerian Germany, there were between 9-10,000 Gestapo agents, that is, one agent for every 7,200 persons. Therefore, we cannot see how this State police force could suddenly carve up territories extending from the point of Brittany to the heart of Russia. At Nuremberg, Dr Merkel asked the witness K. Best whether the Gestapo was “ready for war” . Best replied:
"BEST: No. On the one hand they were not prepared with regard to material. They especially lacked arms, vehicles and signal material, et cetera, for use in occupied territories. There was, on the other hand, no possibility of calling in police reserves, a possibility which the regular police had. The whole work of organizing the Gestapo was still in its initial state. Directives for careers were formulated. Office buildings were built and it can, therefore, not be said that the Secret Police or the Security Police were ready for a trial of such dimensions" [IMT XX, 134.]
Very few Gestapo officials in the occupied territories
Of course, execution officials belonging to the Gestapo were just the same sent into the occupied territories; but in a maximum proportion of 13 % [IMT XXI, 543]. In view of the estimates cited above, one may deduce that 1,500 inspectors at most were sent abroad. This is ridiculously few…
Under questioning, former head of the RSHA, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, declared himself incapable of providing a figure, even approximate, even approximate. But he stated that to his knowledge, 800 members of the Gestapo had been sent to France.
"DR. MERKEL: Approximately how many Gestapo officials were active in the occupied countries?
KALTENBRUNNER: That I cannot tell you even approximately, but I believe I have heard a figure of 800 people, for example, for the occupied region in France" [IMT XI-408].
If we accept the data according to which 20 % of these persons were execution officials (the others concerning themselves with administration), we arrive at 160 inspectors properly speaking for France. Now it must be recalled that in the occupied countries, the Gestapo had four services:
Let us note that the criminal section also pursued German officers suspected of black market activity. In 1947, at the trial known as the “French Gestapo auxiliaries” trial, one of the defendants Schoumacher, declared:
"SCHOUMACHER. — My work consisted, all the time I was with them, of causing the arrest of German officers who stole goods and were reselling it on the black market […].
THE PRESIDENT. — There was a lot, it’s well known.
SCHOUMACHER. — There were a few" [PAFG, hearing of 24 February 1947, pp. 125 and 126].
At any rate, all the inspectors sent into France — where the Gestapo had its central headquarters in the Rue des Saussaies — did not concern themselves with tracking down Jews or fighting the Resistance. Only a few dozen could have been assigned to these tasks. This simple observation is enough to judge all the stories which present the Gestapo as an omnipresent, omnipotent monster in the occupied territories.
In France, the Gestapo lacked means
Precise example: the files found at the concierge
One precise example illustrates this lack of means and relative powerlessness: on 13 June 1944, in Paris, agents working for the Germans conducted a raid on a concierge’s lodge being used as a mail drop for a Resistance network. The action bore fruit: “Pamphlets, address lists, documents, and 2 typewriters were confiscated and taken away.— A sum of 50,000 F was discovered in an envelope [...]” [PGG, 1, p. 52]. On the 6th floor, moreover, they “placed their hands, in a maid’s room, on a rather large quantity of weapons (grenades, submachine guns, incendiary bombs, etc.) which had been stored there […] and which constituted the arms cache of their Resistance group” (Ibid., p. 57). It was obviously a large network, well-structured and financed.
The Gestapo should have ordered a search of all the addresses discovered. Nothing came of it. The agents received the following order: “place a guard in the lodge [...], arrest everyone who comes by for any reason related to this affair or asking to speak to any of the Resistance members in the lodge” (Ibid., p. 52). As to the address list, it was not exploited, due to lack of means.
Marcel Paul confirms this lack of means
The fact that the Gestapo was not equipped with enormous power in France was confirmed by… Marcel Paul personally. Interrogated on 31 July 1945 during the trial of Marshall Petain, he declared in a language in conformity with the time:
“If the occupying authorities had not disposed of and enjoyed of the permanent and ruthless assistance of the Vichy police, nine tenths of the patriots who were arrested would have been able to continue the liberating action […].
In the ranks of Resistance fighters, and particularly in the ranks of the active combatants, we especially feared the so-called French police, who obeyed the orders of Vichy. We feared them especially, because the policemen from the Gestapo, were not generally assisted by the French; they could not gather the information which would have permitted them to arrest us” [source: "Trial of Marshall Petain”, steno-typed transcript, Part 8, p. 127, col. C].
Nothing could be clearer: the Gestapo had, in the end, little means.
Marcel Paul nevertheless “forgot” to say that, in addition to the “Vichy police”, the French population also assisted the occupant with anonymous denunciations. During the so-called “Bonny-Lafon” trial, one defendant, Alexandre Villaplana, declared:
“ […] every day, the Germans received anonymous letters [from informants] [ B]ecause they took no initiative, they are no more effective than any other police force in the world, without denunciations” [PBL, 3, p. 147.]
Why didn’t the German police take “any initiative” ? Once again, the answer is: because they were cruelly deprived of the means. This is why, in the occupied territories, they counted on the local police and on … denunciations.
The amateurism of the auxiliaries
If the means were so deficient that they had to see the assistance of auxiliaries recruited all over the occupied territories. Chosen in haste, they were sometimes guilty of incredible amateurism. During the “Bonny-Lafon” trial, a former Resistance member who had been arrested with his wife and companions in a cafe in connection with the struggle against clandestine organisations was called upon to testify. He declared:
“During this time, my wife was with me. I saw her every day. Because I must tell you that they are not very strong; they locked you up all together, so that we could tell each other what we were going to say” [PBL, 6, p. 121, deposition of Andre Wagner].
The same witness also stated that before acting, the German police had kept his shop under surveillance. But the young people responsible for doing so had not been discreet, far from it. At the hearing, M. Wagner stated:
“I noticed that, for a long time, we were under surveillance, because, several times, I noticed that young people who were not always the same people, who took notes, parked on the sidewalk opposite the shop, who noted the licence plate numbers of all the bicycles of people who visited us” [Ibid., p. 122].
Indicators who take notes quite in full view of the shop to be kept under surveillance, suspects locked up together between two interrogations; this is far removed from the super-efficient police force equipped with all the necessary means and the most professional agents. Truly, the official image of the Gestapo in France is not the image usually presented, super-powerful and omnipresent…
The origin of numerous confusions
The Gestapo becomes a scapegoat
Of course, witnesses who have falsely implicated the German secret police did not always lie deliberately. Many of them were mistaken in good faith, since they were not familiar with the flow chart of the different German police units. In his final summation, Dr. Merkel explained:
"Among the German people, and perhaps even more abroad, it was customary to ascribe to the Gestapo all police measures, terror acts, deprivations of freedom, and killings, as long as they had any police connection at all. It became the scapegoat for all misdeeds in Germanv and the occupied territories, and today it is made to bear responsibility for all evil. Yet nothing is more mistaken than that. The error arises from the fact that the whole police system, whether Criminal Police, Wehrmacht Police, Political Police, or SD, without distinction of the branches, were considered Gestapo" [IMT XXI-500].
Immediately afterwards, Dr. Merkel cited a precise example of confusion: the assassination of the French general, Mesny (end of 1944 or beginning of 1945) had been attributed by the Nuremberg prosecution to the Gestapo while it had been been committed by the criminal police (Ibid., p. 530).
The interpenetration between the services in the occupied territories
In France, a source of error was the following: in Paris, the Germans installed their intelligence services in the Hotel Lutetia. These were services of the military police, who were naturally subordinate to the Wehrmacht [“services dependant le la Wehrmacht” (PAFG, hearing of 24 February 1947)]. Nevertheless, out of a concern for efficiency, the intelligence gathered by their members was then transmitted to Rue des Saussaies (former headquarters of the Surété Nationale) and Avenue Foch, where the Germans had placed the services of their political police (Gestapo and SD). This Police centralised the intelligence gathered [it should be noted that the services of the SD in France were working with a British captain, who after being captured, agreed to serve Germany. “Gifted with a intelligence and a prodigious memory, as well as talent as an artist, such that it permitted him to draw quite accurate sketches of the persons with whom he had been in contact, this man was able to cause the arrest of numerous Allied agents and parachuted patriots” (PBL, 1, p. 48. For confirmation at trial, see PBL, 3, 24-25)]. Hence, finally, a certain interpenetration between these police bodies. In November 1945, an official of the Judicial Police, Roger Sirjean, who had investigated the activity of these services, confirmed:
There was […] interpenetration between, on the one hand, the services of the Gestapo, and on the other hand, the German [anti-]espionnage services of the SRA SRA [Service de Renseignement de l’Armée] properly speaking, and all these services, or almost all, are camouflaged under a comfortable façade: that of purchasing offices [PGN, 3, p. 41].
This is why the agents of this military police were erroneously taken for members of the Gestapo, when they didn’t belong to the Gestapo at all.
A great number of annexed services constituted of dubious persons
Let add that this military police came to work with police forces consisting of foreigners. In France, the police forces employing a majority of Frenchmen were located at Paris, Rue Lauriston (Bonny-Lafon [Lafon’s real name was Henri Chamberlin (born 22 April 1902). An unhappy childhood (orphaned of both parents at 11 years, obliged to work at the Halles and sleep under bridges until the age of 16…) had placed him on a dangerous slope. At the Armistice, he had 9 convictions for theft, confidence swindles and writing bad cheques. In addition since 5 February 1940, he was wanted by the police as a draft dodger (PBL, 1, p. 9). As for his companion in arms, Pierre Bonny, he been fired from his position as chief inspector of police as a result of the Stavisky scandal and the " affair of the Prince Counsellor” (PBL, 1, p. 122). At the beginning, the “French Gestapo” was located at 23, Ave Pierre Ier de Serbie. But towards mid-1941, it moved to 93, Rue Lauriston (PBL, 1, 6).]), and at Neuilly-sur-Seine, Boulevard Maurice Barres (Martin and Van Houten group) [actually created in February 1941 (prior to which time, it existed in the form of a " purchasing office” only, in Rue Petrarque, Paris), the group was split in two one year later. Gedeon Van Houten remained at Boulevard Maurice Barres while Frederic Martin moved to Boulevard Victor Hugo. One year later, Martin moved to General Dubail, Paris]. The Gestapo consisting chiefly of Georgiens — most of them refugees living in France since the 1920s — were located in Rue de Londres, Paris, and, later, Rue de Varennes (the Odicharia group).
We should also mention the “Corsican gang” in the Boulevard Flandrin (Leandri group); the “Berger Friedrich gang” in the Rue de la Pompe, the “Merode gang” in the Rue Mallet Stevens (Rudy group), the” Courbevoie team” in the Rue Cardinet (Olaff group)...
All these police units were composed of more or less dubious persons, acting above all from a concern for material gain and very few out of political conviction. During the trial of the “Bony-Lafon gang”, the President of the Tribunal spoke of the defendants as “men who could never conceivably be tried on political charges [des gens dont il ne saurait être, à aucun moment, question de placer le procès sur le terrain politique”] [PBL, 1, p. 5].
An exception, the young Georges Collignon
Just the same, there were exceptions. Among them, let us mention the young Georges Collignon. Born 4 July 1917, “from a a very respected family” (PGG, 1, p. 152), he had been a good student and was, at the beginning of the occupation, earning from 3 to 5,000 F per month (not counting bonuses) as a broker in a commissions agency. His joining the “Georgia Gestapo” was therefore not due to the need for a job, but a desire for adventure and easy money. During the “Georgia Gestapo trial”, he was the most dignified and respectable defendant [XXX “Collignon CV”]
Case of the wives of Resistance members: the Gestapo could have done much worse. Faced with his judges he had the courage to explain frankly what led him to work for the occupier:
"Government Commissioner Reboul. — Did you ever consider going over to the Resistance?
COLLIGNON. — I wanted to go over to the regular troops.
Reboul. — You think that Resistance members who didn’t belong to the regular troops were not really Resistance members?
COLLIGNON. — That wasn’t the idea at all, but if you’re going to fight, you should openly inasmuch as possible, there was nothing to hide. If you fought in a foreign country, starting out by going to Algeria, I would have had to join a regular army. I had nothing to hide [.].
Reboul. — That’s a funny opinion [Note: It is in perfect conformity with the Fourth Hague Convention on Land Warfare].
THE PRESIDENT. — You weren’t successful?
COLLIGNON. — No, I didn’t succeed.
THE PRESIDENT. — You returned from the other side?
COLLIGNON. — It was necessary to prevent the cases which were occurring [i.e., Communist sabotage and assassinations], because the Germans threatened to carry out mass deportations and executions, as at Chateaubriand. It was a question of preventing, to a certain extent, in my view, assassination attacks and bombings against the army, either the occupying forces or any other, which could place French people in almost hopeless situations [ .]. I’m not talking about ideals. I have said that I am an advocate of order.
Reboul. — What order?
COLLIGNON. — That order prevails, that our lives are not constantly in danger [ ...] When there was a bombing attack, the Germans, for one person killed, took 50 or 100. That’s what I thought" [PGG, 1, pp. 7-8]
The defendant later persisted:
"COLLIGNON. — I have explained that I did all that in a special order of ideas. I did not agree that 50 Frenchmen should be killed for one dead German. I tried to prevent all that, that’s all.
Reboul. — Yes, but you killed and wounded Frenchmen in lamentable operations.
COLLIGNON. — The origin is one thing, the facts are something else. The facts are there, I have never denied them. Then, I was, not forced, but I could not refuse. I had them behind me" [...] [PGG, 4, p. 109].
Not surprisingly, the defendant was finally sentenced to death (see Le Monde, 5 August 1945, p. 3). Personally, I take my hat off to him. Salute, Roger Collignon [XXX “Collignon-Death”] .
Services which did not all work for the Gestapo
Having made the above remark, let us return to our main subject. Some of these services, such as those in the Rue de Londres (the “Georgia Gestapo” ), were working for the military police; they therefore depended on the Hotel Lutetia. Others, like those in the Rue Lauriston (“Bonny-Lafon gang” ), depended on the SD, therefore Avenue Foch [“The organisation of the Rue Lauriston were on principle subordinate to the German SD organisation in the Avenue Foch, which had detached two German non-commissioned officers there Hess, and Willy Karhof” (PBL, 1, pp. 34-5)]. But here again, there is a confusion, since, although people speak of the “French Gestapo”, the “Neuilly Gestapo”, the “Georgia Gestapo” …, as if they were directly subordinate to the Rue des Saussaies and the Avenue Foch, which was not the case.
Deliberate confusion since the “Liberation”
After the “Liberation”, this confusion was carefully maintained. During the "Georgia Gestapo” (10-28 July 1945), the following dialogue occurred between the government commissioner and the young Georges Collignon:
“THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — […] At this time, you could not know that you were working for the Gestapo?
COLLIGNON. — You could never have called that the Gestapo. The Gestapo are the state police.
THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — You couldn’t suspect that you were working for a Gestapo annex?
COLLIGNON. — We were working for the German military police to be exact, the Militarish Polizei…
THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — I’ve never studied German and I don’t intend to learn it now. For me, you were people who belonged to a Gestapo annex, although you answered negatively when I asked you whether you belonged to a Gestapo annex" [PGG, 3, pp. 62-3].
The confusion persists today. When in early 2005, the daily Le Monde revealed the remarks of Jean-Marie Le Pen to Jerome Bourbon for the weekly Rivarol on the Occupation, the editorialist of the Sud Ouest spoke of “tortures of the Rue Lauriston and other Gestapo jails” [see Sud Ouest, 14 January 2005, p. 2.], as if all the jails in the north zone had been Gestapo jails, which was far from the case.
All these facts show that in France and elsewhere, the Gestapo was not the omnipresent, omnipotent police force described today, far from it. It is presented in this way by distorting the facts, since all German police agents have been confused with the Gestapo since 1940.
Was the Gestapo authorised to torture people?
The case of "aggravated interrogations"
To this people will reply, “All this quibbling is useless. When a Frenchman gets arrested, we don’t care who beats him up and who tortures him. You can’t deny that all the German police services, Gestapo and others, practised torture. … That’s the only thing that matters” . In support of this allegation, people cite two decrees published in 1937 and 1942, decrees which authorized “aggravated interrogations” .
Content of the orders authorising “aggravated interrogations”
However, what is the real situation? At Nuremberg, witnesses Best and Hoffmann openly admitted the existence of these two documents
"DR. MERKEL: And how did the so-called third-degree interrogations take place?
BEST: Concerning the third-degree interrogation methods, Heydrich issued a decree in 1937" [IMT XX-134]
“THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): Was that decree in writing?
HOFFMANN: That was a written decree by the Chief of the Security Police add the SD [ …]
THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): What was the date of the second decree?
HOFFMANN: 1942" [IMT XX-180]
Why? Quite simply because the decrees were in no way criminal. Under interrogation, K. Best explained:
"Heydrich gave me the reason that he had received permission from higher authority to issue this decree. This measure was thought to be necessary to prevent conspiracy activity on the part of organizations hostile to the State and thus prevent actions dangerous to the State; but confessions were in no wav to be extorted. He called attention to the fact that foreign police agencies widely applied such methods. He emphasized, however, that he had reserved for himself the right of approval on every individual case in the German Reich; thus he considered any abuse quite out of the question" [IMT XX-134]
Shortly afterwards, K. Hoffmann confirmed all points:
"HOFFMANN: The contents of the first decree provided that for the purpose of uncovering organizations hostile to the Reich, if no other means were available, the person involved could receive a certain number of blows with a stick. After a specified number, a physician had to be called in. This order could only be used for extracting a confession for conviction in individual cases. Approval for this had to be obtained in every case from the Chief of the Security Police and SD" [IMT XX-180]
Since he stated that the second decree passed in 1942:
"HOFFMANN: According to the second decree the only measures approved were those which were milder than blows with a stick-standing at interrogations, or fatiguing exercises" [IMT XX-180]“
The bad faith of the Nuremberg Tribunal
Let us not that on this subject, the Tribunal revealed its dishonesty once again. In fact, among the other justifications that in 1937, R. Heydrich had given to K. Best, appeared the fact — beyond dispute — that “He called attention to the fact that foreign police agencies widely applied such methods [ IMT XX-134], which was obvious. When he interrogated Kaltenbrunner, defence counsel for the Gestapo wished to stress this reality. This is the exchange:
"DR. MERKEL: Do you know of the so-called "severe interrogations?” Are these in force in other countries, too?
KALTENBRUNNER: I was President of the International Criminal Police Commission, and in this capacity I had the opportunity to speak about this topic at a meeting in the autumn of 1943. From this conference and also from my reading of the foreign press over a number of years I gathered that the police system of each state also makes use of rather severe measures of interrogation.
DR. MERKEL: Could a State Police official. ..
THE PRESIDENT: What happened at some international police commission does not seem to be relevant to anything in this case" [ IMT XI-312]
Here it is: as soon as the Defense attempted to invoke the “tu quoque” argument (you do it, too) to show that, basically, at least, there was nothing abnormal about acting in a certain way, the Tribunal immediately interrupted claiming this was irrelevant.
A flagrant example of this systematic obstruction occurred on 19 March 1946, during the prosecution interrogation of Göring. Seeking to show that the National Socialists had conspired very early to trigger a war of aggression, Prosecuto Jackson produced a document from the Reichs Defence Council (EC-405). Dated 26 June 1935 and marked “Secret”, it mentioned mobilisation. H. Göring declared that the document spoke of nothing of the kind, since it involved simple “Those were general preparations for mobilization, such as every country makes” (IMT, IX-507). R. Jackson thought it well and good to retort: “"But of a character which had to be kept entirely secret from foreign powers?” (Id.) Which received the following ironic reply:
GÖRING. — "I do not believe I can recall the publication of the preparations of the United States for mobilization'' [IMT IX-507].
Just common sense. No country is going to publicize its offensive or defensive mobilisation plans. But this greatly angered Jackson, who accused as follows: " this witness, it seems to me, is adopting, and has adopted, in the witness box and in the dock, an arrogant and contemptuous attitude toward the Tribunal which is giving him the trial which & never gave a living soul, nor dead ones either Göring OF showing “an arrogant and contemptuous attitude” toward the Tribunal which is giving him the trial which & never gave a living soul, nor dead ones either [IMT IX-508] Not surprisingly, he was upheld by the President of the Tribunal who declared:
“Any reference to the United States' secrecy with reference to mobilization is entirely irrelevant, and that the answer ought not to have been made, [IMT IX-509]
“ … As far as this particular answer goes, I think it is entirely irrelevant” [Ibid].
This method of action was denounced very early on by Maurice Bardèche. In his work, Nuremberg ou la terre promise, he wrote:
"[…] here is where the bad faith begins. On one side, one digs through all the
files, one probes the walls, one scans the councils, one uses things supposedly said in
secret: all is up-to-date, the most secret conversations of the German statesmen are exposed on the evidence table, one did not even forget the phone-tappings. On the other
side, silence. One reproaches the German general-staff for studies of operations which were found in their files: you were preparing for war, one tells them. Whom will
they make believe that, during the same time, the other European general-staffs were not making a plan, were not preparing to face a strategic crisis? Whom will they make
believe that the European statesmen did not act in concert? Whom will they make believe that the drawers of London and Paris were empty and that the German preparations
surprised some lambs who thought only of peace? When the defense attorney asked the court to place into evidence similar documents on the French policy for extension of the
war, on the English policy for extension of the war, on the maps of the French staff, on the Allies’ war crimes, on the instructions given by the English general-staff to their
commandos, on the partisans’ war in Russia, he was told that that does not interest the court and that the issue raised “is absolutely irrelevant.” It is not the United Nations
which is on trial, they told them. This answer is quite correct: but then why call history what is only a skilful bit of scene lighting? In this case, there is still only half of the
earth which has been illuminated. It is on the basis of such appearances that it was formerly denied that the earth was round. History starts when light is spread evenly
around, when each one deposits his documents on the table and says: judge. Apart from that, there are only propaganda campaigns."
(Internet translation, pp 24-25, http://vho.org/aaargh/fran/livres7/BARDÈCHEnureng.pdf originally published in Franch in 1948), pp. 62-4] [ XXX, “Mobilisation”]
In practising “aggravated interrogations”, the police of the Third Reich invented nothing
In authorising "aggravated" (or "severe”) interrogations, Hitler’s Germany was only imitating most foreign police forces. This truth must be recognised even if the judges at Nuremberg preferred not to.
Did “aggravated interrogations” turn into torture sessions?
Having made the above remark, let us return to the Gestapo. In occupied territories, “strict interrogations” were naturally practised. For Denmark, thus, the witness Hoffmann declared:
"HOFFMANN: Yes, third degree was carried out during inter- rogations. To explain this I have to point out that the resistance organizations occupied themselves with the following: First, attacks on German soldiers; secondly, attacks on trains, means of transport, and Armed Forces' installations, in the course of which soldiers were also killed; thirdly, elimination of all so-called informers and people collaborating with the German Police or other German authorities.
In order to forestall those dangers and to save the lives of Germans, third-degree interrogation was ordered and carried out, but only in these particular cases" [IMT XX-164].
Some people will reply by quoting Marshall von Rundstedt. Interrogated at Nuremberg as a witness, he declared that faced with the Resistance, it was necessary to “My point of view is the following, based on quite understandable patriotic feeling: Disorderly, irregular warfare behind the front of the enemy army must bring very great misery to the population of the country affected. No army in the world can tolerate such conditions for any length of time, and in the interests of the security and protection of its own troops, it must take sharp, energetic measures. But this should, of course, be done in a correct and soldierly manner [ IMT XXI XXI-28].
Now, we will be told, “Nazis” did not content themselves with practising " strict” interrogations in conformity with the two directives of 1937 and 1942; they were not content with sentencing snipers to death and executing them as permitted by international law, either. But because of their monstruous doctrine, they tortured horribly all those who fell in their hands…
As the question of torture is very important, I will stop for a moment.
The official story born at Nuremberg
At Nuremberg, the prosecution naturally claimed that, wherever they dominated, the “Nazis” never ceased torturing their adversaries. On 22 November 1945, the correspondent for the daily Le Monde wrote:
"[…] this summation for the prosecution against Göring and his accomplices, thsi monunmental document, is the history of the terrorization and torture of Europe for more than ten years […]; a history of assassination attempts, murders, tortures […]. Everywhere the Nazi reign prevailed, deportations, tortures camps, and gas chambers were the result" [source: Le Monde, 22 November 1945, p. 1]. [XXX, “Monde22XI45”]
On 17 January 1946, in his opening summation, the French prosecutor F. de Menton spoke of “so many of whose sons were tortured and murdered in the jails of the Gestapo or in concentration camps IMT V-368]). Shortly afterwards, he said:
"We are, in fact, faced by systematic criminality, which derives directly and of necessity from a monstrous doctrine put into practice with deliberate intent by the masters of Nazi Germany" [IMT V-379].
The defence witnesses disputed the existence of superior orders having authorised recourse to torture
Except, “systematic criminality” put in place for four years on a European scale would have required general orders. But during their interrogations, the (defence) witnesses and defendants were adamant: between 1933 and 1945, no order was ever received by the police services authorizing recourse to torture against Resistance members. On 16 April 1946, the Tribunal interrogated Rudolf Bilfinger. Starting in 1943, this former member of the RSHA had been expert on legal questions, and legal questions in connection with the police [ IMT XII-46]. Under questioning by Dr. Merkel, he declared:
"No ill-treatment or torture of any kind was per-mitted; and, as far as I know, nothing of the kind did happen, still less as it known generally or to a larger circle of persons. I knew nothing about it" [ IMT XII, 51].
Four days beforehand, the defendant E. Kaltenbrunner had spoken in the same sense, as witness the following:
"DR. MERKEL: The Prosecution have put in evidence a consider-able amount about ill-treatment and torture during the questionings which took place in occupied Western countries, especially France, Holland, Belgium, Norway. Were there any instructions from the RSHA in this connection to use torture?,
KALTENBRUNNER: No, certainly not.
DR. MERKEL: How do you explain the fact of this ill-treatment?
KALTENBRUNNER: I have heard nothing about such ill-treat-ment with which the State Police is charged. In my opinion it concerns only excesses of individuals. A decree to that effect certainly was never issued" [ IMT XI, 313]
The defendant then explained that for the police guilty of mistreatment, there was a “particular jurisdiction” .
"DR. HAENSEL: According to your knowledge were there regulations prohibiting the physical ill-treatment of concentration camp inmates and were these regulations known in the SS?
KALTENBRUNNER: They were issued in print: that is, contained in nearly every gazette of the Reichsfuhrer SS and the Chief of the German Police. Every SS man knew these regulations were laws, and they were punished heavily if ill-treatment was reported or became evident. They had their own SS and Police courts. In one sentence I may characterize this system by stating that the penalties were much more severe than in a civil court. I do not know to what extent and in what state the SS Punishment Camp Danzig-Matzgau fell into the hands of the enemy, but I am convinced that all those who underwent a term of imprisonment there will give information about this severe punish- ment in connection with any ill-treatment which may have occurred" [ IMT XI, 316]
Three months later, the witness K. Hoffmann confirmed:
"DR. MERKEL: What happened to the members of the State Police who at interrogations committed excesses or trespassed on foreign property?
KALTENBRUNNER: The same rules were followed which applied to all organizations subordinate to Himmler. They had their own SS and Police courts. In one sentence I may characterize this system by stating that the penalties were much more severe than in a civil court.
DR. MERKEL: A certain man has asserted that for an offense of taking away a few unimportant things from a prisoner, lie had to serve a long period in the penitentiary. Was that the ordinarily normal and just punishment?
KALTENBRUNNER: Yes [ IMT XI, 312]
DR. MERKEL: Was there a uniform order to use physical cruelty or torture during interrogations?
HOFFMANN: Brutal treatment and torture were strictly prohib- ited and were condemned by the courts.
DR. MERKEL: Do you know of any cases in which interrogation officers were sentenced by courts?
HOFFMANN: I remember two Gestapo officials in Diisseldorf who were sentenced by a regular court for maltreatment of prisoners" [IMT XX, 164].
The prosecution was unable to produce one single German order
Naturally, it might be possible to say that these individuals were lying to save their necks, either at the time or in some future trial. But it was up to the prosecution to demonstrate the existence of such orders, the existence of which was disputed, by producing them. During the morning session of 17 January 1946, the French prosecutor took up the challenge by saying (emphasis added):
They deliberately willed, premeditated, and ordered these crimes, or knowingly associated themselves with this policy of organized criminality [IMT V, 391].
But a few hours later, during the afternoon session, the pretense was abandoned. Concerning the “crimes of the Police”, F. de Menton conceded:
"Those who carried out these measures had every latitude for unleashing their instinct of cruelty and of sadism towards their victims" [IMT V, 400]
True, no definite order, no detailed directive emanating directly from one of the defendants or from one of their immediate sub- ordinates and valid for all the German police or for the police of the occupied territories of the West, has been found. IMT V-400]
Eight hours later, his assistant, Charles Dubost, confirmed the documentary vacuum in which the prosecution was floundering. Addressing the Tribunal, which was beginning to become impatient, he declared (emphasis added):
"I said that I was going to demonstrate how through the uniformity of ill-treatment inflicted by all branches of the German Police upon prisoners under interrogation, we are able to trace a common will for which we cannot give you direct proof" [IMT VI, 165].
"M. DUBOST: I must bring proof that the crimes committed individually by the leaders of the German police in each city and in each region of the occupied countries of the West, were committea in execution of the will of a central authority, the will of the German Government, which permits us to charge all the defendants one by one. I shall not be able to prove this by submitting German documents. That you may consider it a fact, it is necessary that you accept as valid the evidence which I am about to read" IMT VI, 159].
And yet again:
"…we cannot give you direct proof-as we did yesterday, regarding hostages, by bringing you papers signed in particular by Keitel" [IMT VI, 165-166].
Or as French prosecutor Fauré put it, "As I indicated to the Tribunal this morning, I wish to say that the Prosecution has no proof that such crimes were due to a German governmental order" [IMT VI, 448].
The prosecution had therefore found nothing: not the slightest trace of a directive from the authorities, not the slightest instruction from the most insignificant subordinate. Nothing. A complete vacuum.
The dishonesty of the prosecution in attempting to make up for the absence of orders
To palliate this absence, the French delegation cited a few dozen scattered testimonies — some of them not even sworn — of” Nazi atrocities” . Most of these stories concerned mistreatment in the prisons under the occupation. After the discussion, the Tribunal accepted them based on Article 21 of the Statutes, which authorised them as follows:
The Tribunal shall also take judicial notice of official governmental documents and reports of the United Nations, including the acts and documents of the com mittees set up in the various Allied countries for the investigation of war crimes [IMT I, 14].
On the fact that the Tribunal accepted “testimonies” produced by the French by virtue of this article, see IMT, VI, 173:
“THE PRESIDENT. —
The Tribunal has considered the arguments which have been addressed to it and is of the opinion that the document offered by counsel for France is a document of a committee set up for the investigation of War Crimes within the meaning of Article 21 of the Charter. The fact that it is not upon oath does not prevent it being such a document within Article 21, of which the Tribunal is directed to take judicial notice" [IMT VI, 164].
Nevertheless, in the absence of precise inquiries, all these declarations were completely unverifiable and therefore without any probative value. Likewise, even supposing that they describe the reality, how could a sampling of scattered testimonies, relating individual occurrences in troubled times, prove the existence of superior orders? They could not, of course. Starting in 1948, M. Bardèche wrote:
"The second dishonesty of the French delegation consisted in replacing the
evidence that they did not have and the orders that they did not have (and about which it
was incorrect to say in front of a court that they existed since they were not provided) by an enumeration. I will not provide evidence, said the French delegate, but I will make
appear so many witnesses, I will deposit so many reports, that it will be the same thing as a proof, for one will see that everything happened in the same way everywhere, all of
which presupposes orders".
“We are merely trying to show that the torturers every where used the same methods. This could have been done only in execution of orders given by their chiefs [IMT V-169].
"Beautiful thing to say in the country of Descartes! The fourteen years old boys, in our high schools, are told that the first rule of the scientific method is indeed to be based on complete enumerations. This small adjective is essential, for in this small adjective lies honesty. However, the French delegation (in this it acted like French courts of justice) detests complete enumerations. The French delegation confuses enumeration and sample. It picks out some police reports which talk of massacres, and it concludes: one massacred everywhere; Mr. Keitel, within your general district on the Dnieper, you gave the order to massacre in Annevoye, in Rodez, in Tavaux, and in Montpezat de Quercy. It makes appear three or four deportees who describe their concentration camps, and it concludes: things were similar in all the concentration camps, and that well proves, that there was everywhere in all of you, in you Speer, in you Dönitz, in you Hess, and in you Rosenberg, a systematic will to exterminate. I expose, therefore I prove. I show photographs: it is as if you had been everywhere. I complain, I ask for revenge, and this complaint must have for you the same value as a legal proof: all the more so as these are “resistants” whom you have the honor to hear. The French delegation believes itself to be before the Court of Justice of the Seine, and it does not understand when the president interrupts rather coldly. However, the documents with which the French delegation replaces evidence are due to the same optical error, and it is that which is so embarrassing for this whole part of the trial. Sometimes the French delegation harps on particular incidents which, however painful they are in themselves, have no general significance at all: thus the arrest of General Giraud’s family, about which there would be much to say, by no means proves that the families of Resistance members were systematically deported to Germany, and we all know that that is nonsense. Good statistics would have made the point better. Sometimes, they brandish small pieces of paper that they sniff, examine, hold up to the light and look over and through, all the while seeming very suspicious: there is the senior police officer of Saint-Gingolf (Var) who certifies something about the administrative internments, there is the Military Security of Vaucluse which assures us that life was unpleasant in prison, there is the chief of staff of the F.F.I. who found an instrument with balls. For those which know that the majority of the impromptu police officers at the time of the liberation had to be demoted later, that a certain number of the members of the Military Security are now incarcerated, and that the chiefs of staff of the F.F.I. had often gained their stripes only the day before, these over-stuffed “reports” are not very impressive. A serious investigation would have revealed that the staff varied from prison to prison, that one could be locked up in Fresnes and not be tortured, that certain police forces behaved correctly and that others were composed of torturers, that even the methods of the Gestapo in France varied according to the subordinates who were in charge" [ibid, pp. 41-42].
In producing these documents, the prosecution wished, at most, to show that, under the occupation, the German police forces or other police working with the Germans, had committed certain excesses. But in troubled times, who doesn’t? There again, everything must be placed in context; one impute to an ideology acts committed under the pressure of the moment, in the midst of a life and death struggle.
The tortures recorded were in the end performed by lone auxiliaries
In his final summation, Dr. Merkel openly recognised that, particularly towards the end, cases of torture had been noted:
"Apart from certain legally admitted types of more severe interrogations which were subject to the strictest rules and regulations, ill-treatment, torture, and the inflicting of pain were not only not permitted, but expressly prohibited under the threat of the severest penalties. If they have nevertheless occurred, and even in comparatively large numbers, then we are here concerned with excesses on the part of individuals, in which connection it must be taken into consideration that towards the end of the war there were more non-policemen serving in the German Police than policemen. Numerous sentences passed by SS and Police Courts, which have been confirmed by witnesses, prove that strictest proceedings were instituted against any such excesses [IMT XXI-529].
He also mentioned ill-treatment by groups of Frenchmen who acted on behalf of some German agency in carrying out some task” IMT XXI-529].
The fanatics of "memory” will smile at my naivete and will thank me for supplying them with an important argument: “Of course, they will say, the Nazi authorities no doubt never published a public written directive authorizing recourse to torture. Of course, the occupant himself perhaps did not torture on a large scale. But he had his auxiliaries perform this dirty job in his place…”
This argument may impress the neophyte; but it will not destabilise those who have been curious enough to read the records of the trials held in France after the Liberation, of these auxiliaries having worked for the Germans.
The four main trials were:
- the “Bonny-Lafon gang” trial (December 1944);
- the “Georgia Gestapo” trial (July 1945);
- the “Neuilly Gestapo Trial” (November 1945);
- the“French Gestapo auxiliaries " trial (February-March 1947).
The stenotyped records are available for consultation at the Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine (BDIC), at Nanterre. I have read them [XXX “Lafon”].
The statements heard during these post-war trials reduce the official thesis to a nullity
Before entering into the living flesh of the subject and responding to the argument concerning torture, I will report two very surprising facts which I discovered in studying these documents. They place in question the black and white official thesis, particularly when it involves “Nazi” racism” .
The no. 2 man in the “Georgia Gestapo” was … a Jew
The first fact concerns the “Georgia Gestapo”, the chief of which was named Chalva (or Chaliko) Odicharia, usually described as a troubled adventurer, born on 10 November 1903 at Kloni, Georgia, a refugee in France since the 1920s. The fact which is usuall ignore dis that the principal subordinate of this Odicharia was… a Jew. Born 4 March 1902 at Kertch (Crimea), his name was Henri Oberschmuckler [“Oberschmuckler is in fact, an Israelite and his father was deported to Silesia” (PGG, 1, 75 and 151)]. His story deserves to be told: in 1939, while he resided in France, he volunteered, and was accepted, into the 21 infantry regiment [ regiment de marche]. Taken prisoner in 1940, he was interned in Stalag VI D. Although he was a Jew, not only was he not deported to a concentration camp, but, also, he succeeded in becoming the “general interpreter” of the Stalag. At the end of 1941, he was freed as a war wounded. In April 1942, he returned to Paris. Far from going to ground, he worked for four months in an Opel factory as an interpreter under the name of Obermucker (proof that the Germans were not very observant). Having apparently given satisfaction, he was sent in the same capacity to Buc, in a factory of the… Luftwaffe. But there, he was denounced as a Jew. Did he then suffer deportation? No. He returned quietly to Paris and, unemployed, he joined Odicharia, that is, in the service of the German police. Having become head of the searches and confiscations office, he remained there until the end, that is, until August 1944, when he left with the Germans, taking 800,000 F with him.
[For all this information and more, see PGG, dossier 1, pp. 151-2. We will quote the French original:
“A volunteer in 1939, he served with the 21st infantry regiment, was taken prisoner in 1940, [interned at Stalag VI D, he acted as general intepreter (PGG, dossier 2, p. 41)] and was freed as a male nurse towards the end of 1941 [in reality, he was repatriated because he had been wounded in the war: “I was repatriated, since I had been wounded, and not as a nurse” (Ibid., p. 40).] and returned to Paris in April 1942 after a stay of several months at Avignon.
“He then stayed 4 months as interpreter at Opel, a German manufacturer [under the name of Obermucker (Ibid., p. 41).], after which he was sent to Buc, with the Luftwaffe, where he served in the same capacity.
“Denounced as Jew, he was compelled to leave his post and accept a position with Odicharia, whom he did not previously know, as an interpreter at 10,000 Frs per month.”
“He rapidly became head of the requisitions office […].
“He left his domicile on 24 August , transported by German trucks. He had managed to save 800,000 Frs (sic) in their service” .]
A Jew as the no. 2 man in the “Georgia Gestapo” in France, that’s not what we expected.
I add that H. Oberschmuckler was not the only Israelite who worked for the German police. At his trial, he asked the prosecutor: “Have you seen a lot of Jews among Gestapo agents?” [“Avez-vous [vu] beaucoup de juifs être agents de la Gestapo?”]; to which the answer was as follows: “Here, I saw another one just before you, I sentenced him to twenty one years hard labour” [“Ici, j’en ai vu un avant vous, qui a été condamné à vingt ans de travaux forcés”] (PGG, dossier 2, p. 55) [ XXX “2 juifs…”] The other Jew was no doubt Jacques Lazareff, who, after being interned at Drancy, had later worked for the occupant in denouncing his fellow Jews. Arrested upon the “Liberation”, in the beginning of July 1945, he was sentenced to forced labour [source: Le Monde, 17 July 1945, p. 7.] [XXX, “Lazareff”].
Mohamed El Maadi: a National Socialist Moslem protected by the " Neuilly Gestapo”
Who was El Maadi?
Another very surprising fact and which is hardly compatible with the official claims of the “Nazi racist madness” concerns the “Bonny-Lafon gang” . We know the story of the Grand Muphti of Jerusalem who supported Hitlerian Germany. But it is not generally known that France also had its Moslem “collaborator” . His name was Mohamed El Maadi. In his Dictionnaire commenté de la Collaboration française, Philippe Randa mentions El Maadi, but only three times, in little more than a single sentence [source: P. Randa, Dictionnaire commenté de la Collaboration française (ed. jean Picollec, 1997), pp. 199, 649 et 651]. The following is a little more information on this very interesting person: his views and his relations with the “French Gestapo” [ XXX “El Maadi-1”]
Born at La Sefia (Constantine), to an Arab-Berber family of ancient nobility, convinced Moslem, M. El Maadi was a knight of the Legion d’Honneur, holder of the Médaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre. On 10 April 1941, he founded the Comité Musulman de l’Afrique du Nord and the Cercle d’Etudes Nord-Africaine. Although he had loyally served France, he was dissatisfied with the style of French colonisation in North Africa. His principal objective was to combine Marocco, Algeria and Tunisia in a federation enjoying total administrative autonomy and guaranteeing absolute equality between colonisers and natives ( [particularly in the recruitment of high officials) [XXX “Souscription”].
M. El Maadi joins the German service
Then came the Allied disembarkation in North Africa on 8 November 1942. The events which followed allowed him to observe the manner in which the “Liberators” behaved towards the natives, in comparison with the Germans. The latter were much less racist. In January 1943, at Paris, M. El Maadi founded a monthly newspaper, Er Rachid (the Messenger). From the first issue, he clearly announced his objective: the struggle for the liberation of North Africa alongside the Germans. Thus, one article read:
"Our duty is to free ourselves from the Judeo-Anglo-Saxon ascendency. No force will be able to prohibit us from doing so. Alongside the European armies, we must undertake the struggle for liberation of our territory" [source: Er Rachid, n° 1, January 1943] [ XXX “Er Rachid-6”].
M. El Maadi requests assistance from the “Neuilly Gestapo”
After a few issues, M. El Maadi had serious problems in obtaining enough paper to print his monthly. What did he do? He went to Neuilly, headquarters of the “French Gestapo”. There, he asked H. Chamberlin (aka Lafon) to intervene on his behalf to obtain the paper [“LAFON. — He asked me if it was possible to ask for paper for him for his newspaper” (PBL, 3, 104)]. Did Lafon tell the “sand nigger” not to bother him? Not at all. On the contrary. He intervened before the three largest newspapers of the time and M. El Maadi received “substantial assistance” [“Towards mid-1943, an Arab, El Maadi, head of the Moslem group in France, came to see Lafon in the Rue Lauriston to interest him in the publication of a newspaper in the Arabic language [this is incorrect: it was published in French] which he edited and which was called Er Rachid.
“Thanks to Lafon’s intervention before the newspapers Paris-Soir, L’Echo de la France and the Nouveaux Temps […], El Maadi received substantial assistance.
Er Rachid received the paper delivery and printed his newspaper on the presses of Paris-Soir.” (PBL, 1, p. 58-9)]. Er Rachid was thus able to continue publishing until August 1944, using the presses of the collaborationist newspaper Paris-Soir [XXX “Er Rachid-1”].
These are a few extracts from Mr El Maadi’s monthly newspaper (in the absence of indication to the contrary, the extracts are from editorials written by Mr. El Maadi, which always appeared on the first page).
El Maadi goes further than Le Pen on the occupation of France
On the occupation of France (5 November 1943):
"For over three years now, France has experienced the occupation of its territory by a foreign conqueror. Whatever the self-proclaimed patriots may argue, this occupation is the most benign possible. It could have been draconian, but National Socialist Germany and its leader, who were under attack from France, thought otherwise, considering it wiser to leave France its sovereignty and its heritage"
An occupation “as benign as possible” : Jean-Marie Le Pen never went as far as this in in Rivarol in January 2005.
“Liberators” more racist than the occupant
On the behaviour of the “Liberators” and the " Crusaders for Civilization” compared to that of the Germans:
5 August 43
"The Germans had hardly disembarked in Tunisia when they hired a native work force, employed by their various services, a salaries identical to those paid to workers of the same category in France, Germany and Norway, while on the other hand the “Liberators”, when they deigned not to pay in 'monkey money', offered 10 to 18 francs for 12 hours work.
"German racism, the great bugaboo of the conscience of the world, OK, let’s talk about it. Soldiers and officer maintained the most cordial and correct relations with the natives. Over the course of two months in Tunisia, I never heard any objections or complaints. On the contrary, on the attitude and conduct of the “Liberators”, I heard a whole load […]. While in Tunis [under the German occupation] the public transports were open to everyone, on the other side, the natives travelled in special coaches" [XXX “Er Rachid-9]
5 November 1943
"And while I advocate and accept racism when it signifies selection and protection against the mongrelisation of a given race in order to preserve its virtues, I reject the camouflaged racism of the democracies, which, under the cover of civilization, murders and plunders the weak" [XXX “Er Rachid-2”].
This text should be compared with a totally forgotten article by Georges Suarez (political director of Gringoire) published by Er Rachid on 3 May1944. Entitled “Racism and Xnophobia”, its author (who was shot upon the “Liberation” ) wrote:
"Racism, like all doctrines, has its false prophets. While for Gobineau it was simply a means of defending one’s race, for some of his interpreters, it is an instrument of hatred against others […].
"That which is called racism at the top becomes vulgar xenophobia at the bottom. Then, the petty rivalry of life, the elbow-rubbing of peoples, and low-down back-alley quarrels escape break away from remarks of the street stall and the sidewalk, in which skin colour, race and religion are reflected in grievances and insults […].
That which racism really demands, it that the race preserves intact the characteristics of its history, its relationship with human progress. It does not destroy, rather, it restores to each person his share, so that he may increase it and enable it to contribute more effectively to the needs of humanity. Racism does not imply hate between the races, but rather, it stimulates the efforts of all. It does not catalogue the species, but it selects it. It gives biological laws back all their force, to nature a logic too long thwarted" […] [source: Er Rachid, 3 May1944, p. 1; see also XXX “Er Rachid-5”]
The primitive racists who, today, fill the ranks of the “Nationalist Right” would do well to meditate upon these lessons.
Let us however continue with the editorials of M. El Maadi.
German victory, ardently desired
"Our intellectual and racial affinities bring us close to Europe. Our ideals, compared with the National Socialist ideals of the New Europe, prove – disturbing fact – to be identical. Over the course of a recent trip to Tunisia, we were able to estimate at its true value this reality in observing German-Moslem relations. At no time in our existence, did we observe between two peoples unaware of each other the day before and of different cultures, such a current of sympathy or understanding."
26 April 1944:
"While we espouse the cause of Europe and that of Germany in particular, it is after having examined, meditated upon and compared its ideology with that of its adversaries. This examination convinces us that it alone does not nourish any criminal dream of subjugating us and exploiting us to the maximum."
10 October 1943
"Our sympathy has been won over forever to National Socialist Germany which has always preached its disinterested friendship with Islam, shamelessly oppressed and exploited by the democracies. Our attachment remains unfailingly with revolutionary Europe, which will elevate human dignity. Here, not only we take our vows for a German victory but we are determined to assist by all means, including by arms."
25 October 1943
"The victory of National Socialist Germany is the end of the exploitation of one people by another; it is the end of iniquities, it is the light at last […].
[…] the event we are waiting for: the instauration in North Africa of a National Socialism permitting us to be born and die with dignity, without these school masters who whack us on the fingers with a ruler of iron."
Arabs in the LVF [Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism, collaborationist French militia]
20 August 1943
"Our duty and our interest are those at the sides of Europe, which has opened unsuspected and unhoped-for horizons to us, and not to listen to treacherous voices of propagandists, the judeo-cracies preaching a "go-slow”-ism which will aggravate our slavery.
"I know this attitude requires bravura, and self-sacrifice; one must be animated y patriotism and stoicism without equal, one must free oneself from all terrestrial links. It is necessary, in a word, to have both the land of one’s birth and one’s birth “in one’s skin” ; it is necessary to be soldiers. You are these things, Arabo-Berbers, my brothers" […] [pp. 1 and 8].
Answering this call, North Africans joined the LVF. In its editorial of 20 December 1943, M. El Maadi wrote:
"As to the new Europe which Germany and its allies will build, the Arabs venerate it and place their hopes of emancipation in its victory. As a pledge, they have formed, them, a minuscule emigration, a magnificent Legion, this is a confidence, the effective members of which are perceptibly equal to those of the LVF formed by France, which has freely given hundreds of thousands of men to the “judeocratic” armies.
"All of Islam is on the side of Germany; as one whole, it prays for its victory, despite the agitation of a few statesmen [XXX “Er Rachid-7”]
"Among the volunteers was the Afro-Frenchman Louis Joachim-Eugene, who became attached to the German headquarters of the LVF before occupying himself with Arab manpower in the Organisation Todt" (see below).
On “Nazi racism”
2 February 1944, p. 4. Article entitled: “Returning from the Reich, an Algerian speaks to us of Germany at war” [XXX “Er Rachid-3”]
"Having left voluntarily to work in Germany, our comrade Amitouche has just returned from being invalided out.
"We were very well treated by the German workers and even friends. Really, I had to change my ideas a little bit while spending time with such great people who felt no hatred for the French in general and who respected North Africans.
"Our relations with the population were excellent. Everywhere we went, we were treated politely and even kindly; they said we must feel said being so far from our warm climate, they always used friendly phrases when speaking of our country.
"Note that we were not unhappy. For the Aïd-el-Kebir, the Germans and French of Bitterfeld did everything they could to help us hold a celebration. We received cakes, tea, sugar. We were able to do quite a respectable job of cooking a few of our little dishes. We had everything we needed, we even had a perfectly successful Franco-Arab party and concert."
At this time, the Organisation Todt employed Arabs and had set up an antenna [a radio broadcasting station] at 26 Rue Bayard, Paris, which managed any problems. The person responsible was an Afro-Frenchman named M. Louis Joachim-Eugene, ex-attaché to the German headquarters of the LVF, having become general manpower manager of the Organisation Todt (see Er Rachid, 16 February 1944, p. 4).
In the issue for 16 February 1944, L. Joachim-Eugene published an article entitled:
“The situation of French blacks has long been settled with the occupant” . The author began by recalling that at the beginning of 1943, following a decision by one of the French administrations, coloured musicians were no longer authorised to play in the cabarets and night clubs of occupied France. He continued as follows:
“It was an excellent chance to talk frankly about the matter with the superior German authorities, who, I must admit, had quite a benevolent attitude towards me, and attitude of understanding. Men of our race had, in fact, fought hard on the Eastern front to ensure the triumph of the Euro-African cause; others were still there; some of them had even lost their lives. In the National Socialist Reich, I had seen, with my own eyes, blacks [i.e., North-Africans] decorated with the Iron Cross or wearing the Party insignia; others still occupying auxiliary linguistic positions at the Institute pour la Connaissance de l’Etranger. I was always treated with consideration and respect. I could not therefore bring myself to believe in an alleged anti-black racism 'made in Berlin' . I also easily obtained everything I needed.
“In fact, by letter dated 12 June 1943, the occupation authorities gave me an assurance that, from that time onward, citizens of the French colonies would be considered truly French by the occupation authorities, and that, as a result, there would be no impediments to their practicing any their professions, whatever it might be" (p. 4)
Call to the Moslems of France not to join the Resistance (5 November 43).
p. 8 PHOTO National Socialist Arabs [XXX “Arabs NS”]
PHOTO BBt of Paris, p. 1 [XXX “Er Rachid-4”]
In France, Arabs join in the struggle against the Resistance
Little by little, as a result of the relations between M. El Maadi and the occupant, some people thought of recruiting North Africans to help Germany. According to Lafon, the first idea came from the German services in the Avenue Foch, headed, at the time, by M. Boemelburg, who “knew El Maadi and his secretary” (PBL, 3, p. 105, statement by Lafon). “Boemelburg, he said, wished to recruit North Africans the way he had recruited Georgians” (Id.). He wished to use them solely “for guard duty” at German premises.
“LAFON. — For guard duty, to relieve the service. For example avenue Foch… THE PRESIDENT. — He intended to use these North Africans in the struggle against the Resistance. LAFON. — No: for guard duty.” (PBL, 3, p. 105)]. Finally, after several interviews, “about 300 Arabs” were recruited and lodged in a house at 21 Avenue de Madrid, Neuilly (PBL, 3, 107).
“The Germans […] were rather evasive at first and only authorised the recruitment of 300 Arabs in the end, after several interviews, who, trained by the French, were to be divided into groups at Toulouse, Limoges, Perigueux etc” (PBL, 1, p. 59)].
After the rejection of about one hundred recruits who had failed to give satisfaction, five sections of thirty to fifty men were set up (PBL, 1, p. 59-60). The Arabs enrolled were “given special uniforms” (supplied by… the Jew Joseph Joinovici) and armed by the German services of the Avenue Foch (PBL, 1, p. 60). Their wages were approximately 5,000 F per month, “paid by the Germans along with all equipment expenses” (PBL, 1, p. 60 et 3, p. 110), [XXX, “Joinovici” ].
In February 1944, the sections were allocated to Limoges, Perigueux, Tulle and Montbeliard in order to … combat the Resistance, which they did with varying success [XXX “Er Rachid-8”].
All these facts demolish the official thesis in black and white. One must never forget: the true history of National Socialism and the Second World War remains to be written…
The alleged “arbitrariness” of the Gestapo
The official claim
Having stated the above, let us return to the Gestapo. For 60 years, we have been told all about the “ arbitrary” actions of the German police, who, in the occupied territories, are said to have arrested people at random on mere presumption of guilt or for no reason. In his opening summation on 17 January 1946, the French prosecutor at Nuremberg, François de Menthon, said:
“On a simple, unverified denunciation, without previous investigation, and often on charges brought by persons not qualified to bring them, masses of arbitrary arrests took place in every occupied country” [IMT V-401].
This allegation is, however, incorrect. The remarks heard during the trials brought against French and other auxiliaries of the Germans clearly contradict it, as do certain testimonies which appeared shortly after the “Liberation” .
Some denunciations were never followed up
The first thing we find is that certain denunciations never gave rise to any police action. In February 1944, for example, a member of the " Georgia Gestapo” reported rumours concerning the existence of a group of Resistants in the middle of Paris, in the Latin Quarter. One of them was named Frepin. There was no folowup to these statements (PGG, dossier 1, pp. 33-4).
Three months later, an auxiliary belonging to this same service said that, in the city of Saint-Remy-lès-Chevreuses, luminous signals had been given from the ground for Allied airplanes flying over the country and dropping pamphlets. There, again, in the absence of more precise information on these alleged signals, the case was closed without follow-up.
Now, in both cases, it would not have been difficult to strike arbitrarily and make several arrests.
Let us also mention the so-called “Prévoyance affair” (from the name of an insurance company). During the “Georgia Gestapo” trial, the youngest of the defendants (a certain Renato Gamma, of Brazilian origin, aged 18), said that, as he had supplied no information for a long time, his superior, Terrile, had asked him to act. The fact that his mother worked for La Prévoyance gave him an idea. He claimed that there was a Resistance network in the midst of this company and he gave names at random. At the hearing, this is what he said:
"GAMMA. — My mother worked at La Prévoyance [.]. I supplied some names.
THE PRESIDENT. — That could be rather serious.
GAMMA. — Terrile took note. He told me: 'I’m counting on you to follow the matter up' .
There was nothing to follow. A few days afterwards, I told him: 'I can’t do anything. I’m burnt out. I can’t find anything' . He answered, 'OK, case closed' [PGG, dossier 6, pp.77-8].
Shortly afterwards, THE PRESIDENT OF THE TRIBUNAL conceded:
"THE PRESIDENT. — It seems from the dossier that no member of the Prevoyance staff was ever bothered.
Reboul. — Terrile was really in bad shape!
THE PRESIDENT. — He must have been drinking those days" [Ibid., p. 79].
An action didn’t always lead to an arrest
When action was nevertheless taken, it did not necessarily result in any arrests. For example, within the framework of the struggle against the Resistance in the region of Romorantin, an initial expedition was carried out by the German police in a neighbouring village of this city. “Armed with submachine guns, the Germans and their French auxiliaries searched all the houses in the village, one by one. All the young people were assembled in the village square and their identity was controlled. No arrests were made” (PAFG, dossier 1, p. 21).
Let us also recall two incidents which occurred at Paris, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, at the Fathers of Zion [Pères de Sion]. In July 1940, the Gestapo searched their premises:
In the room of a nun who was absent, the searchers discovered a sealed envelope containing a large sum in dollars and pounds, last resources put aside by a wanted Jew. Since they had no orders in this regard, they ostensibly put the banknotes back in the desk. But five days later they come back to get it. The sum has disappeared. The Father refused to explain himself on the disappearance and they did not insist [source: la Documentation catholique, n° 939, 27 May1945, col. 403].
Three months later, a new search was performed, at the end of which a large sum of documents was taken away. Surreptitiously, one of the priests or monks took a photo of the policemen carrying away the boxes. But he was betrayed:
"The next day, a very angry officer of the Gestapo presented himself and demanded to know who was responsible. The person responsible presented himself. He declared that he was ready to be arrested. However, since the photos had been found at the photographer who was to develop them, the Father was released" [Ibid., col. 403-4].
Let us also state that except in case of emergency, when several persons met the description of a wanted suspect, the Gestapo took care to ensure that they were arresting the right person. Thus, in an affair known as the “de Giverny Affair”, an anonymous informant gave a description of a man who, he said, possessed weapons. At the Bonny-Lafon trial, the same informant described the matter as follows:
“Escorted by a non-commissioned officer and four German soldiers, Lafon carried out an initial inquiry which was said to have produced no results, since several people answered the same description [of the person who possessed the weapons]” [PBL, 1, p. 47].
Finally, the German commander (who no doubt possessed a more exact description) arrived from Paris to “ identify the guilty party in person. Was he mistaken ? No, because the individual indentified the location where he had hidden 36 parachute cylinders containing 5 tons of weapons” (Id.).
Proof that the inquiry was carried out to the end with the aim of avoiding all form of arbitrary procedure.
Persons arrested against whom nothing could be proven were very often released
Finally, when arrests were made, persons against whom nothing could be proven were finally freed (unless they had been held as hostages). The list of examples which I shall now give is rather long, but the seriousness of the subject prevents me from dealing with it superficially.
In June 1944, H. Oberschmuckler caused — as the result of an error on his part — an incident in a tavern and ordered the arrest of the cashier, Mlle Burgnières. What happened to her? Taken away by the German police, she “was interrogated at Rue des Saussaies, then released” (PGG, statement of the facts, dossier 1, p. 38).
At the same time, in a bar in Toulouse, the owner refused to serve an Armagnac [a good brandy] to a member of the German police (a certain Schweitzer). The conversation got hot and finally, the trouble maker left without having had his drink. Shortly afterwards, the owner was arrested and taken to the “Gestapo” .
Later, an employee of the bar recalled:
“ […] when he came back, he said that he had passed a bad moment. Fortunately he spoke German and he understood what they were saying; he had been arrested for insulting the German army: it was for a question of the armagnac which he had refused to serve [Schweitzer] who was downstairs. Finally he was released just the same, but he had passed a bad moment” [PGG, dossier n° 7, p. 192, deposition of Albert Pelisson].
On 23 July 1945, at the “Georgia Gestapo” trial, Honoré Callas, a Resistance member who, under the Occupation, had been apprehended with several other persons, was interrogated as a witness. Here is what was said:
"D. — When you were arrested, you were not arrested alone?
R. — There were [several names of members of the Resistance] and two other persons who had nothing to do with the matter, named Prouvet and Devaut, who worked at the Maison Tecalemit. These two last persons spent a month in prison at Fresnes" [PGG, dossier 11, p. 26].
Please note: they were released after the inquiry had definitively cleared them.
At this same trial, the Court read the written statement of a man who had been arrested at the same time as other people in a garage in Lyon where Resistance Members repainted vehicles so as to disguise them. The witness recalled:
“These people underwent a tough interrogation for the purpose of finding out the purpose of the activity [at the garage]. Since I didn’t know anything about this activity, I didn’t answer, and I was released 42 days later” [PGG, dossier 8, p. 163; deposition of Marcel Berthel, read at the hearing].
At the Bonny-Lafon trial, a young man, Edmond Bidaud, came to testify. At Paris, he had fallen into a trap organised in a bookstore which served as a meeting place for a clandestine organisation, “Défense de la France” . Although he was a member of the group [“THE WITNESS. — I was a member of this organisation” (PBL, 6, p. 140)], he was able to justify his presence in the store by claiming that he had come to buy a book. Since they found nothing suspicious on his person (no weapon, no false papers, no letters, etc.), the Gestapo agents released him immediately. At the trial of these agents, the witness declared:
“THE WITNESS. - [Lafon] interrogated me. I justified my presence in the “Defense de la France” bookstore, and I said that I had come to the bookstore to buy a book. I actually had bought a book.
He asked me my profession […]. After this interrogation, he seemed satisfied. He released me […]
THE PRESIDENT. – You were not the object of any violence?
THE WITNESS. – None” [PBL, 6, pp. 140-1 et 144. Deposition of Edmond Bidaud.]
At the same trial, another witness, Françoise Thierry, testified that she had been arrested at Montbard as suspected of having cared for some maquisards [members of the rural Resistance] and that her home had been searched, but without finding anything. Taken to the premises of the Feldkommandantur, she was interrogated by P. Bonny. She testified as follows:
“THE WITNESS. – He asked me for an explanation of the receipts I had for registered letters, shipments of packages, things absolutely without any importance. He asked me to think about it.
I went back to the large room of the Feldkommandantur. Then they called me back.They released me saying, Don’t start again, you can go.”
(PLB, 6, pp. 159, deposition of Françoise Thierry).
We should also mention the arrest, during the winter of 42-43, of a certain number of persons” suspected of belonging to “a [Resistance] organisation with headquarters at Paris and Gentilly, the head of which was said to have been M. Paul Appel, former depute from La Manche” . Nevertheless, according to the defendant P. Bonny, the information at the origin of this operation were “recognised to be incorrect and the arrests were not upheld” (PBL, 1, p. 46. For the confirmation of P. Bonny at the hearing, see PBL, 3, pp. 22-23).
At the “Neuilly Gestapo Trial”, a certain M. Caron appeared to testify. “Communist or Communist Party sympathizer” [PGN, 3, p. 66, deposition of officer Roger Sirjean.], he was arrested on 12 November 1942 because he was “suspected of having, in the Oise, committed sabotage against the railway, cutting telephone wires and burning wheat mills in a farm” [PGN, 3, p. 95, deposition of police inspector Police Emile Nouzeilles]. He was interrogated at the headquarters of the “Neuilly Gestapo”, Boulevard Victor Hugo, and:
“After about twelve days, Caron was liberated, since there was no proof against him” […] [PGN, 1, p. 19].
In a written statement read at the “Neuilly Gestapo Trial”, the victim confirmed:
“Five or six days after [my arrest], since I had always said nothing and they had no evidence against me, I was transferred to the third floor of the building, in a small room, and five or six days after that, I was released” [PGN, 4, p. 78].
Here is another example, not very well known, but very revealing. In June 1942, the abbey Louis Foucher, vicar of Montargis, heard the confession of a Czech enrolled in the German army. Shortly afterwards, the Czech deserted. In Documentation catholique, we read:
On Friday, 12 June 1942, at 20 h […], three members of the Gestapo entered the presbytery, searched the chamber of Abbey Foucher and, when he returned, he was subjected to a very short interrogation:
“— You have received a German soldier?
— Excuse me, a Czech soldier.
— There is no Czech soldier, there are only German soldiers. Now, you received him. And then he escaped. What did he come here to do?
— I cannot answer you. I am bound by professional secrecy [the secrecy of the confessional].
— There is no professional secrecy against Reason of State. Speak, or we will arrest you.”
In view of his refusal to speak, the abbey was thrown into the automobile of the Gestapo and taken to Orleans where he was shut up in a cell of the German military prison [which leads one to think that the police who came to arrest him did not belong to the Gestapo, but to the Military Police] and held in the most absolute secrecy for seven weeks.
Insinuations, lies, threats, promises, repeated interrogations to attempt to catch him in contradictions, moral torture, everything was employed to attempt to tear his secret out of him.
Finally, one morning, two officers entered his cell who told him:
“ — Monsieur, we have carried out a very serious inquiry in your case and this inquiry has taught us nothing harmful about you against the German army. You are therefore free. Please excuse us, Monsieur. But know that we are very respectful of the secrecy of confession” [source: la Documentation catholique, new series, n° 14, 31 December 1944, p. 15. Abbey L. Foucher died in August 1944 of two bullets received in combat…].
Let us finally mention a much more serious case which could have turned out badly without the cool disposition of a French agent in the German service. In the village of Eymet (Dordogne), certain inhabitants had been denounced as providing assistance to British parachutists (PBL, 3, p. 139). In his letter, the anonymous informant had given several names, including those of MM. Reynaud and Lormand. This was in the spring of 1944.
A raid was conducted. The German chief proceeded with the arrest of the persons mentioned by the anonymous informer, then he gave M. Raynaud five minutes in which to speak, in the absence of which he would be shot with other inhabitants and the village would be burnt [PBL, 3, pp. 140-1, declaration of Alexandre Villaplana].
A French auxiliary of “Bonny-Lafon Gang”, Alexandre Villaplana, then intervened and interrogated M. Reynaud. Reynaud protested his innocence and declared that he had been the victim of a machination. The auxiliary succeeded in obtaining a reprieve of execution of a few hours from the German chief [“I was then able at this time to delay the execution by asking the chief adjutant to grant me a few hours to find out if I could find the weapons. He told me, after some hesitation, all right, but this evening at 7 o’clock…” (PBL, 3, p. 141)]. Having continued his interrogation, he learned from a resident of the village, M. Morganti, that the anonymous denunciation might have originated from M. Lormand’s daughter-in-law, who was angry with M. Lormand because and was in the process of divorcing his son. This woman had already sent an initial letter of denunciation (apparently without results) [“I resumed the interrogation of the entire Lormand family. It was a real family drama that which was happening in this village, in which everybody is very small-minded […]. At six o’clock, M. Morganti give me an indication and caused me to understand that this could come from M. Lormand’s beautiful daughter. I asked him why. He said: because she is in the process of divorcing M. Lormans’ son; she already sent a first letter and I saw her take 50,000 F from her father-in-law’s safe; she must have done that for revenge” (PBL, 3, pp. 141-2).] [XXX “stenotyped record”]
A. Villaplana caused the suspect to be searched for immediately:
“ I am informed and I have sought to know the whereabouts of M. Lormand’s beautiful daughter; she was found 500 metres from the mayor’s office, hidden behind a tree: she was waiting to see what would happen. She was taken to the mayor’s office […]. After three quarters of an hour of interrogation, she finished by admitting that it was she who had sent the two anonymous letters against her father-in-law” [PBL, 3, p. 142].
The members of the Reynaud and Lormand families (as well as the other designate victims) were saved. A few days, they came to Périgueux to thank A. Villaplana (PBL, 3, pp. 141-2).
Where is the arbitrariness of the Gestapo?
Some suspects were given the benefit of the doubt and released
Some French people even had the good luck to be released on the benefit of the doubt because, even if there were some clues, there was no tangible proof against them. Let us cite first of all the case of Bernard Humbert: on 2 October 1941, he was arrested as the presumed distributor of Communist tracts and books to the Germans “I was then handed over to the Germans at Montrouge. At Montrouge, they asked who supplied me with the tracts. [...] I gave them his name [Odicharia]. They asked me if I was quite sure that it was really Odicharia. I held firm to the end. They kept me to go look for this famous Odicharia, who lived in the Rue du Cherche-Midi. He was arrested. I did not see him. Then they changed my prison” (PGG, dossier 2, p. 88)]. They carried out an inquiry in proper and correct form. They began to search his house, but did not find anything [“They searched my house; they didn’t find anything” (Id.)]. Finally, the prosecutor acquitted him on the benefit of the doubt.
B. Humbert was nevertheless kept as a hostage after the Communist attentats [bombing or assassination attempts] which had just been committed [“As there were no tracts [at my house], I was acquitted on the benefit of the doubt. They told me: “The prosecutor has acquitted you on the benefit of the doubt, but they’re keeping you as a hostage” (Ibid., p. 89)]. Ten days later, however, he was released. Why? He personally explained the reasons why at the “Georgia Gestapo Trial” :
“This happened on 14 November , my mother and my wife, who was about to give birth to our sixth child, came to Rue Boissy d’Anglas to see me, and they mentioned the birth of my sixth child, which was about to occur; they waited until noon; and seeing that my sixth child was about to be born, they then released me” [PGG, dossier 2, p. 90].
H. Chamberlin, known as Lafon, released “a great many Frenchmen”
In December 1944, Lafon’s lawyer asked commissioner Clot, who had handled the affair, whether his client had not “benefited from the incontestable credit which he enjoyed before the Germans in obtaining the release of a great many Frenchmen” . The commissioner explained:
COMMISSIONER CLOT. – There is no doubt of that. I owe it to the truth to say so, since Lafon, who had betrayed his coutry, released a great many Frenchmen, did good to individual people, without doubt [PBL, 6, p. 22.] [XXX “Lafon saves Frenchmen” ]
Other arrested persons were finally released
Having said that, let us follow the testimony of this teacher arrested at Montbard by the Gestapo on the grounds that he was thought to have supported the local Resistance. At the Bonny-Lafon trial, he recalled:
"I was tried at Auxerre, and no proof was supplied against me. I remained as a suspect and I was sentenced by the military court to one month in prison and then released" [PBL, 6, p. 151, testimony of Leon Theobalt].
Let us also cite the case of Henri Phegnon, an insurance agent at Vernouillet (Seine & Oise) who had been arrested because he was suspected of acts of resistance. The suspicions were justified because he was the head of the local Resistance. Nevertheless, no tangible proof could be produced. After a harrowing interrogation by French agents, he was transferred to the headquarters of the Gestapo, Rue des Saussaies. There he was interrogated in a correct manner by the German judges:
"Those who really interrogated me at Rue des Saussaies were correct. I was pressed with questions, always on the same grounds: they wanted to know the name of the organisation I was responsible to, the names of the people with me. But I was never mistreated at all" [PGN, 5, p. 91].
Finally, he was released and this is what the German judge told him:
"I argued in your favour. I didn’t want to send you to Germany. And then, finally, I had no proof against you. I asked for your release, which was granted" [PGN, 5, p. 92] [ XXX “Phegnon released”, XXX “Perfect correctness”].
Let us mention another case, a more surprising one, that of M. Ouizam. M. Ouizam was a Jew of Moroccan origin in an irregular situation: under the occupation, he “hid in Paris with false papers” (PGN, 1, p. 17). By bad luck. He was arrested within the framework of a minor matter linked to the black market (sale of chronometers). During the search, documents were found attesting to his false identity [“ [The Frenchman] took the “police” to Ouizam. By bad luck, at the same time, Ouizam’s mistress arrived with a letter in her purse establishing that he had false papers.” (PGN,1,p. 18)].
Ouizam and his mistress were then taken to the headquarters of the " Neuilly Gestapo” and interrogated. What happened to them?
Martin interrogated Ouizam and tried to get him to confess that he was a Jew, a spy and a gold trafficker. Ouizam was interrogated for 48 hours and struck […].
Due to lack of evidence, he was released as well as his mistress, not without having received offers to “work” with Martin, offers which he never followed up [PGN, 1, p. 18].
Here is a Jew who was arrested by the “Gestapo” for a minor matter and who was released shortly afterwards because no serious crimes could be attributed to him b based on real proof.
The Gestapo did not act without proof
All these facts tend to confirm that the German police (and the Gestapo in particular) worked like any other police force in the world: they did not act without proof and they released those who had been cleared.
The defense recalls this during the post-war trials
During the “French Gestapo Auxiliaries Trial”, the lawyer for one of the accused, Me Sialelly, had the courage to recall this, concerning the arrest and deportation of MM. Colongelo, Rocca and Vitti (see below), he declared:
"Yes, but again, as ferocious as the Germans were, when we took them somebody who had been arrested, there had to be some evidence against him" [PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, pp. 45-6].
Two years before, during the “Georgia Gestapo trial”, the accused, Renato Gamma, had clearly explained:
"[...] a denunciation of a person who did not belong to a service could bear fruit, but someone belonging to a German service had to provide information accompanied by proof of some kind. I could not just tell Terrile: 'These people are in the Resistance' . Terrile could not arrest them like that. Terrile did not have the authority to arrest anyone without information. He had to have orders from higher up; he needed tangible proof" [PGG, dossier 6, pp. 10-11].
In the present case, these orders to be followed from " higher up” were issued by Dr Schmidt. Schmidt worked for the account of the Gestapo in France. The procedure was as follows: when one of the police services had taken note of a suspect, a report was sent to Rue des Saussaies and Dr Schmidt decided (perhaps after consultation with a superior) on the action to be taken in the matter. At the “Georgia Gestapo trial”, a secretary who had worked in this service, Helene de Tranze, explained:
Cases could not be decided before Dr Schmidt read the report [PGG, dossier 2, p. 18].
Without proof, the occupiers did not waste their time
Knowing that he had relatively restricted manpower, the occupiers did not waste their time ordering actions for not very important cases, particularly if there was not enough proof. Thus, in the case of the alleged false signals at Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuses, the informant had contented himself with bringing a few tracts dropped by airplane (“ [Terrile] asked me for proof, something in support. I gave him some tracts which I had [picked up], and that was all” [PGG, dossier 2, p. 20]. Now, tracts do not constitute proof that signals were sent to this airplane. This is why there was no follow-up to the matter…
Hence the fact, also, that before transmitting any report to Rue des Saussaies, the police services looked for obvious proof. Interrogated during the hearings, H. de Tranze mentioned the case of a young man arrested for traffickinig in weapons:
"Fernandez Parphyre informed us of the matter. Terrile conducted it until there was some proof that this young man was mixed up in arms dealing. The day of the arrest, Odicharia arrived at the office, called a few men including Krammer and the others I named" [PGG, dossier 2, p. 34].
It could not be clearer: Terrile did not content himself with a denunciation. As the matter was relatively important, he ordered the continuation of the inquiry until he obtained proof. It was only when proof was found that the authorities ordered the arrest. Without proof, we believe the case would have been abandoned, like those of La Prévoyance, the Resistence members of the Latin Quarter or the signals at Saint-Remy.
There are abundant examples of in-depth inquiries before any arrest.
In January 1943, a certain Serge Marongin [on S. Marongin, see P. Randa, op. cit., p. 674.], pharmaceutical student, handed over to the Germans on the basis of information relating to an organisation “which was said, according to him, to have committed several attentats in the metro and attacked an escort of prisoners headed for Fresne” (PBL, 1, p. 51). He provided the address of the meeting place, Boulevard du Marechal Lyautey. Did the occupant act without waiting? No. The Germans assigned Français Lafon with the inquiry. Lafon organised “some night time surveillance” in order to note the persons involved. Once the suspects were clearly identified, nine persons were apprehended [“Lafon agreed to take charge of the inquiry and at the head of about a dozen men from Rue Lauriston […] and a few German non-commissioned officers, he proceeded with the arrest of five men for his account, however the Germans assigned as his adjutants arrested three men and a woman for their account. These men were handed over to Kieffer […].” (PBL, 1, p. 51).
Shortly afterwards, Marongin “provided information on Defense de la France, the clandestine organisation concerned. It was a group disposing of a print shop and disseminating clandestine tracts” (PBL, 1, p. 51). There again, the occupier took care to avoid acting precipitously:
"Marongin assisted the preliminary inquiry, which lasted three months […].
The information provided, both by him and by the investigators, was centralised by Bonny, who drew up the card files and reports, a copy of which was transmitted by Lafon to Hess.
After three months, twenty names of Resistance members were revealed and the meeting place and its annexes were known […].
As the inquiry was completed, the Boemelburg criminal council, which, with Kieffer, had concerned itself with the case, gave the order to take action, which took place on 26 July 1943" [PBL, 1, p. 51-2].
144 arrests were made in two days, 15 of them on a definitive basis, while the other persons being finally released after being cleared (PBL, 1, p. 53). Among those arrested was Genevieve De Gaulle, who was finally deported to Ravensbrück (PBL, 1, p. 54).
The occupiers were unhappy when they wasted time over an innocent person
As we see, the Germans did not act arbitrarily. Except in emergencies, they carried out sometimes very lengthy inquiries before arresting suspects.
When, by the way, one or more individuals were arrested who turned out to be innocent, the occupiers were very unhappy at having wasted their time and energy. Let us mention, for example, the case in which a French agent of the “Neuilly Gestapo”, former policeman L. Jouanneteau, had caused the arrest of a Communist sympathizer suspected of illegal acts. After several interrogations, the man was acknowledged to be innocent and was released. Very irritated, L. Jouanneteau’s superiors told him: “Look at this mess!... You, a policeman? He brings us a case that doesn’t hold water” [PGN, 3, p. 99 deposition of police inspector Emile Nouzeilles].
Did the Gestapo spread terror? Four significant anecdotes
People may say that if the Germans did not act arbitrarily, they could not have spread terror everywhere as they did. My response would consist of the following question: did the Germans really spread terror, including among innocent people? Four very revealing short anecdotes show that, there as elsewhere, one must be careful of jumping to conclusion.
A French prefect resolutely refuses to carry an order from the Gestapo
In December 1943, the prefect of Isere, Jacques Henry, was warned by the commander of the Gestapo of Lyon that he was going to receive a sealed bag containing a cadaver. He was to incinerate the bag without opening it. Later he testified:
My indignant refusal was absolute; any bag brought to the prefecture would be opened, any cadaver would be identified in the presence of the public prosecutor and the mayor of Grenoble, and the cause of death investigated.
In view of my refusal, the commander got angry, declared that
“The regional prefect of Lyon never raised similar objections in such cases” .
“I had too great respect for the regional prefect, M. Angeli, to believe such an allegation.
“But to prove that the German was lying; I immediately called M. Angeli on the phone.
“Alerted, he asked me to put the Commander on the phone. I held the receiver and was thus able to hear the regional prefect deny the allegation and call the German a 'liar' . The Gestapo made repeated requests for 48 hours, while I repeatedly and firmly refused. Then they gave up and I never found out what happened to the body of their unfortunate victim” [source: deposition of Jacques Henry filed at the Hoover Fondation and published in La vie de la France sous l’occupation, 1940-1944 (ed. Plon, 1957), p. 497].
A tavern owner files a complaint against the Gestapo for theft
On 29 July 1944, the French auxiliaries mounted an expedition in a tavern at Cours-Cheverny where, according to the information received (which proved exact), resistance mambers were being sheltered [PAFG, statement of facts, p. 18]. After surrounding the house, they penetrated the interior. The clients were taken out into the courtyard to check their identify papers. The patron, M. Pointard, who was coming home, was arrested in turn.
The auxiliaries searched for two hours. Not long afterwards, M. Pointard (who had not been taken away) noted the disappearance of jewelry and 15 000 F (p. 19). According to the official thesis, he should have been relieved to get off so easily and and should have said to himself: “I’m alive and free, that’s the main thing. Better forget about the theft” . But far from acting this way, the owner… filed a complaint (p. 21). Yes, the next day, he filed a complaint against the “Gestapo” for theft.
This same day, the auxiliaries came back for another search and to check the identity of all clients on the premises. Did they spread terror? No; the statement of the facts says: “Nevertheless, the conversation was held in a calmer tone than the day before and they all drank several bottles of wine together” (pp. 20-21). They all had a drink, then.
On 31 July, finally, the auxiliaries came back one last time and asked M. Pointard to withdraw his complaint. The tavern owner agreed and the case was dropped (p. 21).
Two women file complaints against the Gestapo for theft
M. Pointard was not the only one to take such action. After a search of her premises (at Montbard), Françoise Thierry, who had just been released by the Gestapo after being interrogated (see above), noticed that some jewelry had disappeared. Did he thank his lucky stars to escape the clutches of the horrid Germans? No, she hastened to … file a complaint against the Gestapo. She stated as follows at the Bonny-Lafon trial:
“ […] I filed a complaint. I went to the prefecture at Dijon. I went to the Gestapo. They sent me to the Gestapo of Dijon. I got the impression that they wanted to send me all over France. I never got any results” [PBL, 6, p. 159, deposition of Françoise Thierry].
At Montbard, jewelry also disappeared in the home of a family named Plait, while the father, mother and son were being interrogated in the offices of the Feld Kommandantur. When Mme Plait returned home, she noticed the theft. Far from being intimidated by the arrest of her son and her husband (who were finally deported), she went straight to the Feldgendarmerie to complain.
Did the German officer tell her to get lost, since she came from guilty family anyway? No, he sent a telegram to Paris. At his trial, P. Bonny recalled:
"BONNY. – […] Lafon gathered all the men in his service together in his office. I was present. He said: 'I have received a telegram [ ?] from the Feldgendarmerie at Montbar, a theft has been committed, I want to know who did it. Nobody leaves here until we find out'. After a few minutes, the thief admitted his guilt. His name was Ferrando.
THE PRESIDENT. – He was from the Corsican gang?
BONNY. – Not exactly. But he was part of it just the same. He wasn’t Corsican; that’s why I say “not exactly” .
Lafon asked him where the jewelry was. He gave an address. Some of the jewelry was found. Lafon asked me to draw up a letter to Mme Plait, which I did immediately. A certain time later, Mme Plait came to take possession of the jewelry that had been found.
THE PRESIDENT. – She came back to Rue Lauriston?
BONNY. – Yes, she came back to take possession of the jewelry that had been stolen from her. Everytime there was a theft, and, unfortunately, there were a few, Lafon did not hesitate to punish the guilty party very severely. Only, obviously, in these surroundings, it was a little bit difficult [PBL, 3, pp. 102-3. There can be no doubt that Lafon did what he could to combat thievery. For example, at Tulle, two of his men stole somethings in a grocery store. At his trial, he recalled, without being contradicted ‘The grocer came to tell me about it; I struck them in front of her and I gave them six months in prison’” (PBL, 3, 134).
The witness was asked whether Lafon had kept for himself this which his men might have stolen. He answered:
“COMMISSIONER CLOT. – In a precise way, I don’t believe so. I know that on several occasions, Lafon had sums of money returned. One can cite the case of the jewelry store […] which had been assaulted by a team of Corsicans from Rue Lauriston […]. This woman had had jewels stolen. Lafon learned about it. He summoned a certain Suizoui in particular […] he told him to bring back the jewels and he returned them, or at least in large part” (PBL, 4, p. 20).]
A Commander of the Gestapo who was called a liar over the phone, a prefect who obstinately refuses to carry out an order, a tavern owner and two women who file complaints against the French auxiliaries of the Germans for theft… When one reads all that, it is hard to believe that the German police spread terror everywhere due to their arbitrary actions.
A complete list permits a revision of history
Having arrived at this stage of my demonstration, some people will accuse me of acting like the French delegation at Nuremberg, that is, “cherry picking” a few incidents here and there to arrive at general conclusions, but without drawing up a complete list.
Arbitrary action on the part of the Gestapo? A myth contradicted by the figures
The 63 cases selected by the prosecution
The complete list has been drawn up for us by the prosecution. At their trials held between 1944 and 1947, the auxiliaries of the Germans were principally tried for their actions against the Resistance. At the end of rather detailed investigations (except as regards the “Bonny-Lafon gang”, in which the prosecution, too hasty, was spotty [the trial of the Bonny-Lafon gang” was held in December 1944, or only two months after the complete “Liberation” of France. After the serious excesses of August-October 1944, its objective was to show the country that (legal) Justice was going to concern itself with condemning all the “traitors” and “collaborators” , therefore, that it was useless to pursue savage acts of private vengeance or possessing only a simply appearance of legality. In this climate, the investigation was carried out in such a way as to establish facts justifying the condemnation of the accused. But it went no further. Hence its very rapid and spotty character, which the Court did not even try to deny:
“THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — We are obliged to acknowledge that the investigation has been extremely rapid […].
THE PRESIDENT. — I admit it given the circumstances…
Me DELAUNEY. — […] It must be admitted that there are gaps in the dossier.
THE PRESIDENT. — There is no doubt.” (PBL, 3, pp. 10-11).
One could hardly hope for a more explicit admission].
63 cases were discovered and selected concerning the struggle against the maquisards: 18 against the “Bonny-Lafon gang”, 10 against the “Neuilly Gestapo”, 21 against the “French auxiliaries of the Gestapo” and 14 against the " Georgia Gestapo” . These 63 cases permit us to make a complete list.
Guilty or not guilty?
Before going any further, allow me one short remark: I will consider as a victim of arbitrary action any person who:
- was arrested without any solid grounds for the arrest (no evidence, no denunciation, etc);
- was sentenced to prison, held as hostage or, worse, deported, despite an obvious absence of evidence;
- was violently beaten when no tangible evidence had been discovered against him.
Four cases very probably involved innocent people
The principal conclusion that one can draw from the 63 cases examined, is that the “Gestapo” did not act arbitrarily. In fact, if it had acted blindly, arresting just anybody on just any vague denunciation, very many innocent people would have been affected. Well, it’s not the case, far from it. Of these 63 cases, four very probably involved innocent people. One is charged to the “French auxiliaries of the Gestapo”, two to members of the “Neuilly Gestapo” and the last to the “Bonny-Lafon gang” . These cases may be briefly summarised as follows:
1°) Case attributable to the “French auxiliaries of the Gestapo” : at the end of 1943, in a cafe in a suburb of Paris, three persons, Benoit Colangelo, M. Rocca and Tino Vitti, were fortuitously arrested by French auxiliaries.
In 1947, B. Colangelo declared: “My arrest, and that of my comrades, was not premeditated. It was an accident” [source: PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, p. 45)]. Taken to Fresnes, all were finally deported to Buchenwald. And while the first two came back, Tino Vitti, died, probably in deportation
“THE PRESIDENT. — So you were sent to Fresnes, then deported to Buchenwald. And your two comrades, who were arrested at the same time as yourself, only yourself came back? M. COLANGELO. — Yes, Tino Vitti certainly died” (Ibid., p. 35).
Now it appears from the hearings that, of these three young men, only B. Colangelo had committed an offence (he was as escaped prisoner). The two others had apparently done nothing illegal. The only thing they did wrong was to be accompanied by the “wrong” people, in the wrong place at the wrong time…
2°) First case attributable to the “Neuilly Gestapo” : the arrest, on 12 November 1942, of a man with Communist party associations, Caron, suspected of attentats. Interrogated and badly beaten, he provided no information. And for a good reason, he was perfectly innocent. He was moreover released after a few days, as nothing had been proven against him. At the hearing, police inspector E. Nouzeilles declared:
Fortunately, Caron was not a Resistance member; otherwise, with the beating he took, he could have denounced his comrades and this could have led to the arrests of about ten good patriots, maybe more [PGN, 3, p. 99].
3°) Second case attributable to the “Neuilly Gestapo” : a regrettable incident during which a member of the Neuilly team, Pierre Lahaye, whose wife had obtained a divorce and custody of the children, took the children away by force, with the help of police colleagues. Lahaye succeeded in procuring the arrest and holding as hostage of M. Chain, the police commissioner who had carried out the order concerning custody of the children (perhaps with a bailiff). Then he visited his ex-wife “with an agent of the Gestapo and a German officer” (PGN, 1, p. 20). There he declared that the hostage (or perhaps both of them) would only be released when his children were returned to him. The ex-wife had to comply…
Commissioner Chain was perfectly innocent in this matter.
4°) Case attributable to the “Bonny-Lafon gang” : I have long hesitated to cite this one, since it is not entirely clear what happened. The case occurred at Montbeliard (Doubs) where Arabs recruited by Lafon and responsible for the surveillance of factories having raped “several women”, which were said to have resulted in " measures of repression by the Germans” against the guilty parties and their accomplices (PBL, 1, p. 65).
Nevertheless, while, at the trial of the “Bonny-Lafon gang”, this story of the rapes was confirmed by one of the defendants, he only repeated things "told him in confidence”, by another person:
"THE PRESIDENT. – It appears from the remarks made in confidence made by Maillebuau to Deleheye mentioned in the dossier, that these excesses, committed by Arab guards and particularly the rape of several women, had led to measures of repression by the Germans against the brigade. Deleheye, is that correct?
[Edmond] DELEHEYE. – That is correct" [PBL, 3, p. 137].
I add that none of the victims was called to testify during the trial and to my knowledge, no guilty Arab was ever found. In short, the facts of the case are far from established. I had chosen to mention it after all so as to avoid being accused of distorting my case.
52 out of 56, or 93 % of the cases concerned people who were undeniably guilty
If an exception be made for these four cases (and seven others which permit no conclusion [seven cases involving persons who, due to insufficient information, cannot be considered either innocent or guilty. For a summary of these cases, please see the annex. These cases are: case I.4, the “Georgia Gestapo Trial; case IX, in the dans the “Neuilly Gestapo Trial”; cases II, IV.1, IV.2, VII.1 and VIII.4 in the “Bonny-Lafon Gang Trial". I add that an unsuccessful search was conducted at the premises of a suspect does not always imply the innocence of the person involved.
On 23 March 1944, for example, in Dordogne, members of the Bonny-Lafon gang visited the home of a married couple named Marceron, who were suspected of possessing explosives. During the trial, The President of the Tribunal declared:
“This woman and her husband were suspected of possessing cases of explosives; she responded at the same time as her husband that she had no explosives and did not know what that meant. A search was conducted, with the participation of North-Africans. There were in fact six cases of explosives belonging to the Resistance hidden on the property, but quite luckily, they were not discovered” (PBL, 3, pp. 152-3).]) All the dossiers mentioned during the trials of the Neuilly Gestapo involved persons who were obviously guilty of illegal acts (manufacture of false papers, giving information to the enemy, contacts with the armed Resistance, weapons dealing, attempted murder of police agents, etc.).
All of them! That is, 52 out of 56, that is, 93 %. During a troubled period of history like the years 1940-1944, such a high proportion shows that the German police did not act arbitrarily, but rather on the contrary: they acted with discernment, for which they deserve respect.
Did the Gestapo practice torture in France?
But the defenders of the official version of history have not exhausted their arguments. “We are not going to praise the Gestapo”, they say”, for sparing the innocent in the vast majority of their cases. For a police force, not striking arbitrarily is the least of our worries. What we reproach them for, it having mistreated the " guilty” persons whom they had arrested. Since even if the persons arrested had violated the Fourth Hague Convention and could be executed for so doing under international law, no law permitted the Germans to practice torture.
What we accuse the Germans of, is beatings, torture, deportations, summary executions. The " the heroic martyrs of the Resistance, who are among the greatest heroes of our national legend [IMT V, 368] heroic martyrs of the Resistance who were some of the greatest heroes of our national epic” [according to the French prosecutor at Nuremberg, François de Menthon (IMT, V, 372).] “numbered thousands of persons” .
Some people will consider this argument impossible to answer. Not me.
Facts presented out of context
Initially I would like to call for caution in dealing with all these tales of violence, torture or summary execution with which we have been force fed for 60 years.
Case of the suicide of a Jew under arrest
One of the first examples, a very precise one, will illustrate my remarks: on 7 August 1944, a Jew arrested by French auxiliaries was violently interrogated at the Gestapo headquarters in Rue des Saussaies. Taking advantage of a moment of distraction on the part of his guards, he jumped from the fourth floor window into the courtyard and was killed instantly.
Presented this way, everyone will believe in the martyrdom of a poor innocent Jew arrested for some futile motive and having preferred death to the abominable tortures to which he had been subjected (out of pure sadism, of course). The truth is, however, as follows: the Jew formed part of a group of three Resistance members who had set a trap for the Gestapo (yes, the Resistance set traps for members of the Gestapo, too). Passing themselves off as black marketeers, they took obvious actions in order to be noticed. The objective was to kill the agents who came to arrest them. But the operation failed and the three accomplices were arrested without killing anyone.
I’m not making this up. During the “French Gestapo Auxiliaries Trial", the statement of facts declared:
"They were, in reality, […] agents of the Resistance who had unmasked Combier and his acolytes and had set a trap for them. In fact, on of the 'street vendors' fired shots upon the arrival of the agents [of the Gestapo]. A gun battle immediately broke out on both side. Combier arrested the Jew while the other agents arrested the two other individuals" [PAFG, statement of facts, p. 26].
Taken to Rue des Saussaies, the three accomplices were subjected to severe interrogation. The Jew succeeded in jumping from the window and killed himself.
The other two were shot the next day at the Fort de Vincennnes (Id.).
In this case, one easily understands the severity of the interrogation: an attempt had just been made to murder several French auxiliaries of the Gestapo. It was absolutely necessary to attempt to discover the network for which the three guilty parties were working. Any police force in the world would have acted in a similar way to protect its own agents.
The death of a Resistance member, Mlle Muller: a flagrant example of bad faith
Now, here is a second, even more obvious, example: in June 1944, in Paris, a young nurse in the Resistance, Mademoiselle Muller, was shot at point blank range by two members of the " Georgia Gestapo” named Solina and Fontini [borna at Tunis in 1911, of Italian nationality, Sebastien Solina had been sentenced to one year in prison in 1943 “for practicing the profession of pimp” (PGG, dossier 1, p. 153).
Having become a surveyor’s assistant, he worked in the Organisation Todt and later entered the “Georgia Gestapo” (Id.). In short, it would be mistaken to consider this individual a “fanatical Nazi” ; he was small time hoodlum whom circumstances had taken along a twisted path…]. Summarized without these details, this would be described as the brutal murder and Mlle Muller would be included among the “heroic martyrs of the Resistance” .
Before, however, judging, one should interest oneself in the circumstances of the death. Now, the circumstances are as follows: with another Resistance member, Roger Boulet, Mlle Muller had fallen into a trap. As R. Boulet himself later described it:
M. BOULET. — […] [Sebastien Solina] asked me for my papers; I gave them to him and he searched me. I had a revolver in my belt; he did not draw my revolver and that’s when I said to myself: with some luck, I can get out of this; but just when I was about to draw my revolver, Solina shot at me, together with Fontini. Solina was to my left and he shot first [PGG, dossier 10, p. 121].
It’s clear: the two agents of the “Georgia Gestapo” acted in self-defence: they fired their weapons because the Resistance member whom they had arrested had tried to draw a gun on them which they had not noticed before. The gun fight was such that the bullets went in all directions, riddling the room [PGG, dossier 1, statement of facts, pp. 57-8]. M. Boulet got off with superficial wounds. But Mlle Muller, who was also armed
“THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — Did Mlle Muller have a revolver? M. BOULET. — Yes, but she didn’t use it” (PGG, dossier 10, p. 124).], was mortally wounded and died two days later.
Knowing that it was absolutely necessary to present the case as a “Gestapo crime, the government commissioner showed incredible bad faith. Interrogated during the trial of the agents, Solina and Fontini, R. Boulet declared that he had not had the time to draw because he had not been able to undo the safety catch on his weapon
“M. BOULET. — No, I didn’t fire; since my pistol had the safety catch on, the weapon didn’t fire” (Id.). The commissioner deduced:
“THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — Consequently, they fired without the necessity for self-defence. You drew your pistol and they could not know whether or not the safety catch was on or not, but it’s as if you had no weapon at all, since you had not had the time to release the safety catch; and Mlle Muller did not draw her weapon?
M. BOULET. — No.
THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — The testimony is of exceptional seriousness for Solina [Id].
This is how an act of legitimate self defence becomes a “crime” ; just because, before firing, the French auxiliaries forgot to ask R. Boulet: “Just a minute, now. Does your weapon have a safety catch? It does? OK, would you be so kind as to release it so we can shoot you?” Naturally, any person of good faith can only reject the Jesuitical hair-splitting of the government commissioner. Mlle Muller was not a “victim of the Gestapo” or of “Nazi barbarism” . She had chosen to combat the occupation government in violation of international law; she died because her accomplice had inconsiderately drawn his pistol in the presence of two men armed with firearms. Things would have turned out the same way with any police force in the world.
Both these examples show the necessity of caution when we hear of the “crimes of the Gestapo” . People have a tendency to “forget” that France was at war from 1941 to a 1944, an illegal war carried on by illegal combatants, but war just the same…
The wounded were not finished off
I must add that if the auxiliaries of the Germans had shot with an intention to kill, they would have finished off the wounded. Now, during the trials which I have consulted, there was never any question of the murder of any wounded person. Quite the contrary, all individuals wounded in a gunfight were immediately taken to hospital. In July 1944, for example, a young man was apprehended with a hand towel filled with papers in Russian hostile to the German army. Taken by car, he escaped from the vehicle during a traffic accident. While he was running along the sidewalk, Odicharia and Blanchet shot at him and wounded him. At his trial, G. Collignon, who had witnessed the scene, testified:
“COLLIGNON. — […] At this time, Odicharia and Blanchet […] told me: get out of here, it’s not going any further. I had hardly had time to take a step backwards, when two shots were fired. The young man fell to the ground. I immediately […] took the necessary steps, that is, I got busy trying to call an ambulance […].
THE PRESIDENT. — You took him to the Hôpital de la Pitié.
COLLIGNON. — It wasn’t me who took him. I returned to Rue de Varenne on foot, since I was injured myself [in the car accident] [PGG, dossier 2, pp. 22-23].
The wounded man was actually taken to the Hôpital de la Pitié [PGG, dossier 1, statement of facts, p. 35].
One month previously, a Resistance member, Dr Birau (or Biro), had been wounded by R. Collignon, who arrested him. In July 1945, a witness, Mme Memain, testified:
Mme MEMAIN. — […] M. Biro was therefore taken to the lodge in a wounded condition; he had a pistol bullet at the top of the waist, and the wound was bleeding rather seriously. We asked for a doctor. There was a doctor in the house; he came and said that the bullet was lodged in the spinal cord. Dr Biro was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
THE PRESIDENT. — Who called the doctor?
Mme MEMAIN. — Blanchet [a member of the “Georgia Gestapo”] asked for him […] [PGG, dossier 10, p. 114].
Proof that the auxiliaries of the Germans did not shoot to kill, but to defend themselves or arrest fugitives…
The myth of the “torture chamber”
The so-called “cold room” in the Rue de Londres
Having said this, let us get to the “refined tortures” properly speaking. There as well, caution is required. During the trial of the “Georgia Gestapo”, for example, this service was accused of possessing a “cold room” in which prisoners were confined. The prosecution based on the statements of H. de Tranze during the investigation. But at the hearing, Tranze explained that the phrase was the result of a misunderstanding:
THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — […] you spoke of a “cold room” .
HELENE DE TRANZE. — It was an office which was not heated; I said that they put [Resistance member] Joël in this office for a certain period of time. That’s why I mentioned a ‘cold room’, I called it that, I was so confused; when I said a ‘cold room’, I meant an unheated office [PGG, dossier 12, p. 27].
If a “cold room” had really been installed at Rue de Londres, it should have been possible to find traces of it in September 1945. Now the prosecution produced no report and the case was quickly forgotten… proof that the story of the cold room was a fairy tale.
The alleged “traces of blood” at Rue Lariston
During the so-called Bonny-Lafon trial, a witness named M. Secq appeared to testify. Upon the " Liberation”, he had been one of the first persons to enter the Gestapo headquarters at 93 Rue Lauriston. At the time, there was talk of traces of blood said to have been discovered there, attesting to abominable tortures. M. Secq was able to see everything, including the arrangement of the cells. This is what he testified:
"THE PRESIDENT. – You saw no inscriptions on the walls, no traces of blood?
M. SECQ. – Traces of blood, no. There were inscriptions on the walls; the unfortunate persons confined there must have been very bored; they kept calendars on the walls. There were names of parachutists: arrested on such and such a date, transferred here in such and such a date. But no traces of blood and no instruments of torture" [PBL, 6, p. 113, deposition of M. Secq.]
To my knowledge, no proof of the existence of any "torture chambers” was ever discovered in the premises occupied by the German police forces.
Dubious tales of violence
The case of the two young Resistance members from Lyon
With regards to violence, finally, let us note the existence of numerous cases in which the versions diverge perceptibly. At Lyon, for example, two young Resistance members, J. Choux and G. Cochet, were apprehended in a cafe in the city. During the “Georgia Gestapo” trial, a witness who had witnessed the scene from outside described it as follows:
THE WITNESS [M. Charles Favreau]. — There [in the cafe], I saw two of my adjutants being kicked and beaten, slapped, and so on, by the whole gang [...] (PGG, p. 117).
Under interrogation, the principal defendant, H. Oberschmuckler, disputed this:
"THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — Oberschmuckler, do you admit that you had Jean Choux subjected to an interrogation and that you beat him with your fists and kicked him?
Oberschmuckler — No, I just gave him a few slaps" [PGG, dossier 3, p. 94].
The case of M. Rio aka Lenoir
Let us also mention the case of M. Rio (aka Lenoir), a Resistance member who fell into a trap. The statement of facts presented at trial affirmed:
He ws immediately identified by Collignon, who possessed his photograph. He asked him if he was M. Lenoir. He denied it. Collignon slapped him a number of times and hit him with his fists, this time in the stomach, after putting him in handcuffs and threatening him with his revolver [PGG, dossier 1, pp. 55-6].
At the hearing, Collignon denied hitting him with his fists:
"COLLIGNON. — I gave him one or two slaps […].
THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — And you hit him in the stomach with your fists.
COLLIGNON. — I gave him one or two slaps […]. I only slapped him" [PGG, dossier 3, p. 17].
The hatred of the accusers in 1944-47
For 60 years, this type of denial has invariably been disbelieved on the grounds that the accused were lying to diminish their responsibility. It is true that they had obvious reasons to lie. But let’s not forget that, for their part, the accusers could also blacken the facts in order to crush those for who they felt an avowed, inextinguishable hatred [XXX “Defendants beaten”].
Since this hatred really existed. On 1 March 1947, at the so-called “French auxiliaries of the Gestapo” trial, the wife of the deported Resistance member, Mme Memely, got carried away and, in the midst of the hearing, called the defendant Duquesnoy a “salaud” [bastard] and had to be called to order by the The President of the Tribunal [PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, p. 24; see also [XXX “Mamely”]. At the “Georgia Gestapo “trial, a witness for the prosecution, Roger Foucher, addressed the defendants in general and H. Oberschmuckler in particular as follows:
"[The witness]. — The death penalty, that what you deserve, the whole gang of you here in court, including the women. All traitors to France should be executed. From the moment they betrayed the country, the moment they did harm, delivered families the way you did, there is one thing to do: that’s pay for it with your life… The guillotine is too good for you… There are enough people in court to lynch you right here and now" [PGG, dossier 10, p. 29].
Far from calling the witness to order, the President of the High Court added to the verbal violence:
"THE PRESIDENT. — They will never have suffered the torments of Buchenwald…" [Id.]
Who can believe that in such a climate these hateful witnesses would not have suffered from a tendency to "forget” facts favourable to the defendants, either adding to the accusations or lying to increase the responsibilities of the accused and thus obtain the death penalty they so wished to see inflicted?
Two witnesses “forget” to report a good action by the Gestapo
A small example of a "forgotten” fact might be noted in the Bonny-Lafon trial. In the Kellner case (a Resistance member from Boulogne-Billancourt), several totally innocent persons were arrested (and then quickly released) because they had been in the company of the suspect when the Gestapo arrived to arrest him.
Summoned later as a witness, one of them, Jacques Cardeillac, had the frankness to reveal, that initially, the agents were very friendly and that they went so far as to offer them coffee: “At Avenue Foch, they put us in a very luxurious cell and told us to wait, they were very friendly […], they offered us coffee, they told us to wait” (PBL, 7, p. 4).
But the next two witnesses “forgot” to mention these facts. Georgette Paget contented himself with saying: “We went into a room which must have been the lunchroom, we waited there until our brother arrived” (PBL, 7, p. 20). Monique Paget then appeared, and decalred: “We were taken up to a dining room, with drinks, we remained there and then a policeman came to tell us that my uncle had returned home” (PBL, 7, p. 27). Exit the friendliness of the agents and the offer of coffee…
The witnesses contradict each other in their stories
Sometimes, the divergent versions between the witnesses give rise to doubt. During the “Neuilly Gestapo Trial”, Henri Phegnon and his daughter appeared to testify. They had been arrested because M Phegnon was the head of the local Resistance. At the hearing, his daughter declared that she had been severely beaten during her interrogation:
THE PRESIDENT. – You were beaten? He [the defendant Rudy Martin] beat you with a rubber truncheon perhaps?
THE WITNESS – No, with his fists. He pulled my hair.
THE PRESIDENT. – You, a young girl, he didn’t hesitate to hit you! [PGN, 5, p. 96.]
Shortly beforehand, however, her father had testified that his daughter was able to find out what had been said (since before making her deposition, a witness does not participate in the hearings). Now this is what he had stated at that time:
I heard that my daughter had been beaten, they brought her to me a little bit tired, although she was very peppy and was acting normally [PGN, 5, p. 89, deposition of Henri Phegnon].
Supposing that his daughter had really been beaten, she would not have appeared full of pep and acting normally, even if she was a little bit tired” ; she would have appeared stumbling, depressed, with her face swollen up. Everything leads us to believe that the young lady was exaggerating. Maybe she received a few slaps, but nothing else…
More seriously, on two occasions, during the trials held after the “Liberation”, the lies of the accusers appeared in broad daylight.
Marcel Memain was not beaten up
In the case already mentioned in which a trap was set permitting the arrest of a certain number of persons in the Rue Margueritte, the indictment stated that a Resistance member who had been arrested, Marcel Memain, was “beaten up in the presence of his mother and financee” [PGG, dossier 1, p. 52]. " Beaten up” means receiving numerous blows, with the fists, feet, elbows, etc. During the hearing, R. Collignon denied this:
“THE PRESIDENT. — You did not notice that one of the men had beaten Marcel Memain?
COLLIGNON. — That’s just it, that’s something that astonishes me, because at first everybody was very calm. For Marcel Memain, I didn’t see that anything like brutality had happened at all. Maybe there was a slap [PGG, dossier 3, p. 11].
Called as a witness, Marcel Memain’s mother confirmed the statements of the accused:
“THE PRESIDENT. — He [your son] was said to have been mistreated immediately, I believe?
Mme MEMAIN. — Yes, at first. They gave him a rather violent slap, they put handcuffs on him and searched him [PGG, dossier 10, p. 113].
Proof that R. Collignon was telling the truth at not the prosecution, which had lied by turning a slap, even a " rather violent one” into a " beating” ( he was “beaten up” ).
All this may appear hair-splitting. But in wartime, when feeling in running high and death is everywhere, a simple slap or blow with a fist is not synonymous with torture. In the case of the Lyon garage which was repainting cars for the Resistance, the organiser, Jean Bergognio, was arrested in February 1944. Taken to the German police headquarters, he was interrogated. During the “Georgia Gestapo” trial, he gave this significant reply:
"THE PRESIDENT. — Were you brutally beaten?
THE WITNESS. — I got two blows with the fist. They didn’t beat me, in sum. I got a few blows with the fist, that’s all" [PGG, dossier 8, pp. 170-1].
These remarks must surprise a young person born after 1960. Because in peacetime, when everything is calm and authority is hardly contested, a simple slap given to an opponent who has gotten himself arrested appears an unacceptable level of violence. But in wartime, when the enemy has already penetrated the territory, when the winds of revolt are blowing, and, behind the front, civilians have unleashed an illegal war, a blow with a fist to an arrested enemy becomes, unfortunately, something normal… Here again, everything is a question of context. We should not that in its “Report on German Atrocities Committed during the Occupation”, Prof. H. Paucot has admitted:
“Slaps and blows with the fist were rarely missing at the beginning, but these were minor forms of mistreatment which are unfortunately quite common in most police services” [Voy., IMT, XXXVII, document F-571, p. 263].
Resistance member Dr. Biro lied knowingly
But let us return to our subject. This distortion of the facts (turning a slap into a serious beating) is not the only one. In this same entrapment case, another Resistance member, Jean Bireau (or Biro), received a bullet wound which left him with a paralyzed leg. During the trial of the French Gestapo auxiliaries, the statement of facts stated as follows:
"[J. Biro] understood that he had fallen into a trap and attempted to escape. It was at this moment that Blanchet jumped him and a violent struggle began. Dr Biro was stronger. He flattened Blanchet and struck Collignon violently [emphasis added], who unfortunately for him managed to free himself, and, drawing his weapon, opened fired on Dr Biro."
At the hearing, R. Collignon confirmed that he had opened fire after being struck by his adversary:
"I found myself assaulted by Dr Bireau; I received a violent blow on the temple, a struggle began and my jacket was torn. We both succeeded in freeing ourselves; I tried to draw my pistol but it got caught on the hammer, since it was a revolver; I told him: “Hands up” . He no doubt saw that I no longer had my glasses, he made a move and I fired. We was struck in the right side" [PGG, dossier 3, p. 14].
Now, called as a witness, Jean Biro told a different story. In contradiction not only with the defendant as well as the statement of facts, he claimed that R. Collignon had fired on him without warning and without being struck violently:
"One of the two individuals [Blanchet] came towards me and grabbed me by the jacket. I understood that I had fallen into a trap and I began to fight with him. I got him down and half knocked him out. Unfortunately, he continued to hold me by y clothing and I didn’t have time to approach the second person at the end of the room. He drew a pistol from his inside pocket and shot at me from a distance of approximately two metres, while I was trying to get close to him. I collapsed, my legs paralyzed and I remained on the floor of the lodge" [PGG, dossier 9, p. 43].
If he had “not have time to approach the second person at the end of the room”, this means he couldn’t have hit him; therefore, the individual had not been directly threatened and he had drawn without warning.
Shortly afterwards, however, R. Collignon corrected this and recalled that they had fought and he personally had not fired his weapon (“after a short struggle I fired at him”, Ibid., p. 45). While the witness should have protested that this was a lie, he did nothing of the kind:
"THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — Doctor, you had already knocked your first adversary down and you attacked the second one. Were you the strongest? M. BIREAU. — Yes. Unfortunately, the first one was still holding onto me" (Id.).
This absence of protest and this method of remaining vague are significant: obviously, the witness was the one who was lying, not the accused, who contested the witness’s version of what happened… And if the witness was lying, it was to get revenge on the accused.
Conclusion as to the story of tortures
This is why it is necessary to be very cautious about all theses stories of Gestapo violence: beatings, tortures, shooting without provocation, cold-blooded executions, etc. The fact that the accused could have been interested in diminishing their responsibilities is not enough to reject their denials without examination. Because the " good guys” could have lied — and did lie — too, out of hatred or resentment.
Of course, the existence of two lies does not discredit all the testimony presented during the trials. Many witnesses were sincere in describing violent treatment suffered at the hands of German police. But far from bothering me, these honest testimonies reinforce my thesis. Let us now see wh.
Why did the Gestapo sometimes use violence?
The purpose of interrogation is to obtain information
Above, we saw that Gestapo interrogations were all intended to obtain information. The trials held after the “Liberation” confirm this fact.
A significant dialogue
The following is some significant dialogue heard during one of the hearings in the trial of the “Georgia Gestapo” (testimony of Roger Boulet, Resistance member arrested during the Occupation):
"THE PRESIDENT. — They interrogated you several times.
M. BOULET. — Yes, to find out where my chief was, and my men…
THE PRESIDENT. — They seemed to consider it very important, obviously…
M. BOULET. — Particularly my chief, Liuetenant Georges Lefee, who was arrested at la Santé" [PGG, dossier 10, pp. 122-3].
This example is far from the only one.
The information obtained permitted the capture of the head of a network
In the so-called “PTT” case, a Resistance network was detected in a Paris suburb. “The group was very active, with a budget and relatively large quantities of weapons” [PGG, statement of facts, p. 44]. As the network could have been infiltrated by a double agent, the first arrests occurred in June1944, at the cemetery of Thiais, during a trap held in the form of a meeting with Resistance members. The prisoners were interrogated. For fun ? No, to obtain information. At the end of these interrogations, the Gestapo learned that the members of the organisation had a mail drop in a concierge’s lodge at 4, rue Margueritte, Paris. The concierge was named Mme Memain, wife of Rene Memain.
On 13 June1944, a search of the lodge was held: “Tracts, address lists, documents, 2 typewriters were seized and taken away.—- A sum of 50,000 F was discovered in an envelope [...]” (Ibid., p. 52). In a maid’s room on the 6th floor, the agents “found a rather large quantity of weapons (grenades, submachine guns, incendiary bombs, etc.) placed there for storage by Marcel Memain, and which was the weapons cache of his Resistance group” (Ibid., p. 57). A trap was then held, permitting the capture of the head of the network.
Thus; the initial interrogations provided one essential piece of information, the address of the mail drop. This information was later exploited.
Unexpected confirmation from a Resistance member
Another example: on 5 February 1944, at Lyon, four vehicles used by the Resistance were found in a garage. The German police immediately looked for the name of the garage owner. At the “Georgia Gestapo” trial, the following testimony was heard:
The [French Gestapo auxiliaries] surrounded the adjacent cafe and arrested four young people who were handed over to the Germans, who had to find out, after an interrogation conducted in their style, the name of the garage owner, M. Buffet, who was absent during the search [PGG, dossier 1, p. 73.]
Here again, therefore, the interrogations were conducted so as to obtain necessary information.
Among the people arrested were Jean Choux and Georges Cochet: “these two little guys were liaison agents for Colonel Descoures” [PGG, dossier 8, p. 121, deposition of Charles Favreau]. At the hearing, H. Oberschmuckler confirmed that their interrogation was violent: “I hit […] them several times”, he admitted.
“I was present at this interrogation. I admit that I was very nervous. I was not very correct. I even hit them a few times” (PGG, dossier 3, p. 80). See also the statement of facts, p. 83: “M. Choux, agent of the Resistance, under the orders of M. Buffet [network of Lyon], was arrested on 5 February  between the cafe and the garage. Choux was subjected to a very hard interrogation and was beaten with punches and kicks. M. Choux was then taken to the Gestapo headquarters in the company of his friend Cochet, was was arrested with him. Both were hit again. Oberschmuckler got mad, then Choux and Cochet were deported to Buchenwald and have just come back”.
Sadism? No, just because G. Cochet was found to be carrying “small sheets of paper with the indication of a maquis near Valence, with all the useful details: the comings and goings, weapons, resistance locations.” [PGG, dossier 3, p. 81].
“I understood that it was a very big case” H. Oberschmuckler (Id.) explained. Hence his determination to obtain information at any cost to capture the leaders.
It should be noted that elsewhere during the trial, Choux and Cochet’s “superior” in the Resistance admitted that the Germans had used violence to extort information:
"There [in the cafe], I saw two of my aides who were being beaten, with fists, kicks, slaps, and so on, by the whole gang [.]. They had obviously found papers on these two little guys. They wanted to know where the papers came from, what their connections were" [PGG, dossier 8, pp. 117 and 120].
Unexpectedly, the President of the Tribunal intervened and upped the ante:
"THE PRESIDENT. — Maybe that’s what motivated these brutalities, because they had found important papers on them?
THE WITNESS [C. Favreau]. — Obviously.
THE PRESIDENT. — And on you, they found nothing?
THE WITNESS. — Nothing at all" (PGG, dossier 8, p. 121).
Hence the fact that, contrary to Choux and Cochet, he was not beaten. On the contrary, he was rapidly released.
A severe interrogation reveals the location of a clandestine radio transmitter
In another case, six American intelligence agents (“parachutists” ) were arrested in the Boulevard Suchet and taken to police headquarters. The Germans wished to seize their radio transmitter at any price. They interrogated them until they obtained the desired information. During the “French Gestapo auxliary” trial, the statement of facts declared:
“By Combier’s own admission, the tortures were extremely violent. Under their effect, one of the Americans indicated the location of a radio transmitter in the Bd Suchet. Berger [a German police officer] and Combier visited the premises [...] Berger visited the basement and came back with the transmitter” [PAFG, statement of facts,p. 25].
All these facts show that the Germans interrogated people in order to obtain useful information in their struggle against the enemy.
Violence does not include just talk
In this climate, a person who agreed to talk was not seriously harmed (he might receive a few blows). A flagrant example was that of Armand Crahes. On 29 July 1944 towards 23 hours, the man was apprehended in passing the cafe in which Resistance members were meeting. At the “French auxiliaries of the Gestapo” trial, he was questioned by the President of the Tribunal:
“THE PRESIDENT. — They arrested you, then took you to Blois. They interrogated you at Blois?
M. CRAHES. — At Blois, Combier interrogate me with Jouaire.
THE PRESIDENT. — How were you interrogated? Did they beat you?
M. CRAHES. — Yes, they beat me.
THE PRESIDENT. — On what part of the body
M. CRAHES. — I got hit in the face with a fist [...]" [PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, p. 212].
This blow was enough to break the witness, who betrayed a maquisard: the nephew of the gardener for whom he worked (see below). From this time onwards, not only was A. Crahes no longer beaten, but he was finally released:
“M. CRAHES — I was arrested on 29 [July 1944] and I got out on 7 August [...] The Gestapo got me out of jail and released me” [Ibid., pp. 212-3].
No violence in minor matters
Case of the editor in chief of a clandestine newspaper
Let us also state that in minor affairs (local sabotage, dissemination of anti-German leaflets), the persons interrogated were not generally tortured, even if they gave no information. Under the occupation, in Paris, the Russian editor of an anti-German newspaper was arrested with three of his collaborators. He was interrogated during the “Georgia Gestapo trial” by the President of the Tribunal:
“THE PRESIDENT. — […] Were you violenty mistreated during you stay [in German hands] or were you treated appropriately?
M. BORISSOF. — Not too well. I was beaten at the time of my arrest and when I got taken to the Rue de Varenne, they stuck a gun hard in my ribs, I could feel it for several weeks” [PGG, dossier 9, p. 125].
Of course, it is painful to be struck upon justified arrest and to have a gun jammed in your ribs, but this is not what most people imagine when they think or " torture” .
Case of the depot at Vaize (Lyon)
In another case, at Lyon, attentats and sabotages had been committed at the depot at Vaize, damaging several locomotives. H. Oberschmuckler was assigned to interrogate the workers. At his trial, he testified as follows;
“THE WITNESS [Marcel Renni]. — Yes, he conducted the interrogation.
THE PRESIDENT. — According to what you said, he was very hard and arrogant?
[Government commissioner] Reboul. — You didn’t see any brutalities?
THE WITNESS. — No.
[...] THE PRESIDENT. — And you did not see him commit any brutalities?
THE WITNESS. — No [PGG, dossier 8, pp. 149 et 151].
“THE PRESIDENT. — What happened? Did he commit any brutalities against you?
THE WITNESS [Paul Chivre]. — No. He didn’t touch me. He interrogated me very had. I was the head of service when the bomb explosion occurred. He tried to make me confess, but without touching me. He wanted to know whether I knew who might have done it [.]. He tried to make me confess by the force of words [Ibid., pp. 152 et 154).
Another Resistance member interrogated without violence
Sometimes, even Resistance members arrested in more serious cases were not tortured, either. Xavier Alessandrini resisted with his two sons. A search conducted after a denunciation permitted the discovery on his premises of “stamps used to make fake ID cards” (PLB, 7, p. 65). The men was arrested and sent for interrogation. He later declared:
“ […] I was interrogated by Dr Sam, a German. I have no complaints about my interrogation at the hands of this person” [Id].
Finally, no one was arrested.
Brutalities committed when the person under arrest refused to talk
On the other hand, those who obstinately refused to talk in more serious affairs were beaten, sometimes very seriously.
This is confirmed by an arrested person
During the investigation stage of the “Neuilly Gestapo Trial”, the young man under arrest, Jacques Labussiere (born in 1923), declared:
“The arrested patriots were taken to 93 Rue Lauriston, where they were interrogated. They only remained at the service a day at most […].
When the suspects refused to answer, they were hit, and I often saw men with swollen faces as a result of blows received [PBL, 1, 38. It should be noted that at the hearing, J. Labussiere only spoke of one peson he saw in this condition” (“M. LABUSSIERE – I saw one person, frankly” (PBL, 2, p. 98). Nevertheless, this minimisation at the hearing does not appear very credible to me].
Case of the Bisson couple
It is indisputably true. Thus, after A. Crahes betrayed the nephew of the gardener for whom he worked, auxiliaries de la German police visited the gardener concerned. He was M. Bisson. At the trial held in 1947, we learn the following (emphasis added):
Bisson and his wife were badly mistreated because they refused to reveal their nephew’s hiding place. Bisson was taken away by the Gestapo of Blois, where he was interrogated and beaten by Jouaire, was incarcerated at the jail in Blois, where he was released on 10 August by the Resistance [PAFG, statement of facts, p. 20].
It is clear: M. Bisson was subjected to far harder treatment than A. Crahes because he refused to talk…
Abundance of examples
There are many examples of this kind, which show that people were beaten because they obstinately refused to talk. The following are a few examples (emphasis added):
Charles Caron, arrested for suspected acts of resistance:
Caron was interrogated for five days by Martin and his agents under the accusation of being a Communist, and, as he refused to answer, he was struck violently each time [PGN, 1, p. 19. Confirmation at the hearing by the witness himself:
“THE PRESIDENT. – Was it because they failed to obtain the desired information from you? THE WITNESS. – Not at all [ ?]: I didn’t speak” . (PGN, 4, p. 75).]
Alfred Sirot, arrested on 20 July 1943:
“I was interrogated on 23 July 1943. Since I wouldn’t answer their questions, they tortured me. They broke a rib and my lower jaw” [IMT, XXXVII, 273.]
Francisser Guilbert, arrested on 23 September 1943 for weapons trafficking (a search of his premises found nothing):
“Since I wouldn’t confess anything, they beat me with a rubber truncheon and a whip, they broke two of my teeth. They even went so far as to give me the bathtub treatment fully dressed, brought me back all wet and left in that condition for three days and three nights” [Ibid., p. 277].
Marcel Remy, arrested on 2 May1944 for acts of resistance:
“Since I woudn’t tell them anything, they undressed me and gave me the bathtub treatment […]. Since I still wouldn’t say anything, they untied me and I was placed on my stomach again” [Ibid., p. 285].
Henri Phegnon, an insurance agent at Vernouillet (Seine & Oise) and heat of the local resistance group, arrested on 1 December 1943:
“THE WITNESS – […] Since I was the head of the Resistance at Vernouillet, they wanted to know the names of my comrades. Since I wouldn’t answer, they beat me with whips on the head, and they held my head under water five or six times in a row” [PGN, 5, p. 90].
Joguer, member of the Mithridate resistance network, was arrested at his home:
The Gestapo agents proceeded with my interrogation and beat me violently because he refused to talk [PAFG, statement of facts, p. 11].
Above, I spoke of a young Russian arrested with a hand towel containing tracts hostile to the German army, who was wounded when he attempted to flee, and was transported to the Hôpital de la Pitié. Summoned as a witness at the “Georgia Gestapo Trial”, he testified:
“M. NOVO BOROWSKY. — […] At the entry of la Pitie, the man who had arrested me and beaten me while asking me the same questions over and over again from the very beginning, that is, to try to obtain information. Obviously, I refused to give them the information they wanted. I gave them one or two absolutely invented phrases; that is was somebody called Jacquot who gave me the papers (Jacquot did not exist, of course).
After a quarter of an hour, they quit hitting me. He spat in my face. He told me I wasn’t telling the truth, they would leave me without medical treatment, etc [PGG; dossier 12, p. 45/3.]
Another case: Joël, a Jew, aka Henri Boucher, aka The Boxer, was a Resistance member in Paris. He “manufactured fake German stamps for the Resistance” [PGG, statement of facts, p. 126bis]. Agents set a trap for him by pretending to be Resistance members wanting a stamp. Joël was arrested.
“Taken to Rue de Londres, [he] was interrogated, struck and even tortured, then handed over to the Germans” (Ibid., p. 126). “Terrile and Sautet subjected Joël to all kinds of torture for two hours” (Ibid., p. 131). “Joël ended up with a very bad cut on the scalp” [Id. See also PGG, dossier 6, p. 32:
“THE PRESIDENT. — When you saw him, did you think he had been mistreated? GAMMA. — His face was a little bit swollen.” ; PGG, dossier 12, p. 26:
“THE GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER. — For the Joël case to make such an impression on you, the tortures to which he was subjected must have been horrible, isn’t that it?
HELENE DE TRANZE. — He was a boy who had been beaten”.]
Interrogated at the “Georgia Gestapo Trial”, the former secretary H. de Tranze explained the reasons for his mistreatment as follows:
“THE PRESIDENT. — [...] Was he savagely tortured and beaten ? Was he savagely brutalised?
Helene de TRANZE [who had been in the next office]. — He was beaten […]. I heard the questions they were asking him. Joël refused to answer.
THE PRESIDENT. — And when he refused to answer, what did you hear?
Helene de TRANZE. — He was beaten [PGG, dossier 6, p. 48-9].
Another interesting case: the Resistance members of the Lelong chateau
Let us now mention the case of a château owned by a Mlle Lelong, in which French auxiliaries of the German police apprehended an entire Resistance group. Among them was a certain M. Vernazobres, arrested while speaking for the maquis [“they gave us the impression that they knew perfectly well that we were there for the purpose of joining the maquis” (PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, p. 54)]. He later declared:
“M. VERNAZOBRES. — He tried to make us say that we were really in the maquis, or that we we were going to join the maquis. He interrogated on this more than anything else, that’s what interested him most.
THE PRESIDENT. — And he hit you because you wouldn’t answer.
M. VERNAZOBRES. — Exactly” [Ibid., p. 56].
M. Vernazobres was then taken to Rue des Saussaies:
“There were two people in uniform there, two Germans, who interrogated me when my turn case before going into another room. Obviously, they asked me all sorts of questions to try to find out if were in the maquis, what we were doing, they tried to make us confess and, later, seeing that he wasn’t getting anywhere, they told me: ‘Old boy, you’re going to do like your friends, you’re going to go over to the other side, to the other interrogation’.
“There were two civilians, two Germans, one of them took his jacket off and started hitting me with a whip [...] asking me to tell him the exact day of our arrival and what we intended to do, what we were doing, and what we were going to do. Obviously, I told him we were there on holiday, we were going camping, in the end, just any story, but he kept after us, me and my cousin [.]. We fell down, we got up, etc.” [Ibid., p. 57].
Proof that Gestapo agents did not hit people for fun, but to make them talk. Before proceeding with an interrogation, they warned the person that it would be better to talk. Mlle Olga Ramette was arrested or assisting the departure of young people for the maquis. In her cell was another arrested Resistance member, M. Faucon:
“Mlle RAMETTE. — At a given moment, I saw someone from the Gestapo come and tell M. Faucon: 'You have to admit what you know. If you don’t talk, you’ll find out what it will cost you. I have one piece of advice to give you, talk'” [PGG, dossier 12, p. 18].
Similar advice was given to Mlle Lelong. Once arrested with her companions from the Resistance, this young person was locked up in a room with her friend Paul Porestin. She later testified as follows:
“Mlle LELONG. — .. [ Beller told me] in a gentle tone: 'If you talk, I promise you will not be beaten, but if you don’t talk, he will be beaten in front of you and then he’ll be shot'.. Obviously, I had nothing to say. Then, we were insulted in the grossest terms: “Slut”, “trash”, everything you can imagine, and very badly beaten with fists, kicks to the stomach, slaps.
THE PRESIDENT. — You personally were beaten, with kicks in the stomach, by Beller.
Mlle LELONG. — By Beller. And then he turned to my comrade Paul Morestin and told him the same things: 'I really don’t like hitting you, and I promise I will stop if you tell the truth' . This lasted two hours. And seeing that Paul Morestin had nothing to say, any more than I did, he hit him very hard, knocking him down, with fists and kicks to the face, in a really atrocious way” [PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, deposition of Jacqueline Lelong, p. 4].
The nature of the Resistance required the use of violence
I admire the courage of those persons who, through an action which they believed to be right, kept silent under blows. But at the same time, I refuse to blame those who dished out those same blows. The reason is simple: at Nuremberg, the prosecution itself did not dispute the fact that the Resistance members could be sentenced to death and executed as francs-tireurs [snipers, illegal combatants]. What they criticized the Germans for was for “torturing” them before — sometimes — shooting them. In his opening address before the Tribunal, the French prosecutor declared:
“To be sure, the members of the Resistance rarely complied with the conditions laid down by the Hague Conventions, which would qualify them to be considered as regular combat forces; they could be sentenced to death as francs-tireurs and executed. But they were assassinated without trial in most cases, often after having been terribly tortured” [IMT V, 405].
The message was therefore as follows: “You can execute them, but you mustn’t torture them”. But this is forgetting that, faced with the Resistance, the Germans were confronted with what tacticians call “asymmetrical warfare”; that is, a war in which the weapons used on the two sides are of a radically different nature: a well-equipped, well-disciplined army, therefore enjoying great striking power, opposed to small groups compensating for their poor weaponry with extreme mobility, fighting in the shade (no uniforms, clandestinity) and, above all, the initiative in action. Under the Occupation, the need for secrecy was such that Article 3 of Circular Letter no. 2 published by the Resistance declared:
“Any person requesting admission into the maquis de la Résistance […] will maintain the most absolute secrecy as to the situation of the hiding places, the identity of the leaders and his or her comrades. He knows that any violation of this prohibition will be punished by death” [source: P. Henriot, Et s’ils debarquaient? (Editions du Centre d’etudes de l’Agence Inter-France, 1943), p. 268].
It follows that, for the regular army, the only possible response consists of gathering sufficient information in order to: a) prevent surprise attacks; b) dismantle the secret networks. To accomplish this aim requires infiltration, and, when the chance arises to arrest a member of these clandestine organisations, to get the maximum amount of information out of him or her (names of accomplices and leaders, meeting places, weapons cache locations, forthcoming plans of action…). In this case, if "normal interrogation” proves unsuccessful, it will be necessary to use more "severe” methods of interrogation”.
And when the combat is transformed into a desperate struggle for survival, when a person fighting the Resistance is also, at the same time, surrounded on all sides, attacked simultaneously on two (and even three fronts) and threatened indeed promised with total destruction and degradation in the event of military defeat, then "third degree” methods of interrogation may rapidly degenerate into torture sessions if the person under questioning refuses to talk. Putting it crudely, those are the rules of the game... If this is not what you want, you must not reject those rules by triggering an illegal war, a life and death struggle.
It should be recalled that on 20 July 1944, in answer to D. Eisenhower who, in a unilateral declaration, had described the Resistance members as regular soldiers, the German commander-in-chief for the West warned:
“If the Allied Supreme Command wishes this barbarous kind of warfare, so be it. But it should be borne in mind that in this case, the combat will be carried on with the same means on both sides” [source: Otto Abetz, Histoire d’un politique franco-allemande, 1930-1950. Memoires d’un Ambassadeur (ed. Stock, 1953), p. 312.]
It is therefore absolutely dishonest to attribute the violence suffered by Resistance members to "Nazi sadism”. Most of the time, German agents did not act out of sadism; they acted to extract information required for the supreme struggle.
Gestapo behaviour towards women and young girls
False nature of the official claims
Despite the evidence, the French prosecutor at Nuremberg dared to declare:
“Those who carried out these measures had every latitude for unleashing their instinct of cruelty and of sadism towards their victims” [IMT V, 401]. Supposing this to be true, these agents are said to have exploited women who fell into their hands. This is untrue.
Of course, in his report, cited above, H. Paucot wrote that, during the interrogations, "The women and young girls were… almost always completely undressed, out of pure sadism” [“Les femmes et les jeunes filles étaient traitées de la même façon [que les hommes] et sadiquement étaient presque toujours complètement dévetues” (doc. F-571, IMT XXXVII, 263) [XXX, same document].
But this is untrue: in the thousands of pages which I had taken the trouble to read, there is no question of undressing [except for one case involving a common-place theft perpetrated by two members of the “Bonny-Lafon gang”. The thieves totured and undressed an old woman and her nurse to force them to reveal the hiding place of their savings. The two victims were then murdered. In this lamentable affair, the individuals were not acting, not as agents in the German service, but as common criminals in search of material gain, etc.] Otherwise, there is no question of rape or even improper gestures or touching.
Mlle Phegnon suffered no humilation
At the “Neuilly Gestapo Trial”, Colette Phegnon, the daughter of the local Resistance leader, described her interrogation; while she claimed to have been beaten or struck (see above), she mentions no undressing, no torture. In this regard, she contented herself with saying: “ [R. Martin] threatened me with the bathtub treatment. But they didn’t go through with it.” (PGN, 5, 96).
No “inappropriate gestures” with regards to Mlle Lelong
Even more clearly, the following is the deposition of Mlle Lelong, who recalled her treatment (fully dressed), but tied to a chair and beaten by Gestapo agent M. Beller:
"THE PRESIDENT. — No inappropriate touching?
Mlle LELONG. — No.
THE PRESIDENT. — I like that better" [PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, deposition of Jacqueline Lelong, p. 24].
Mme Memain spoke of "rather correct” police agents …
Two years before, another Resistance member, Mme Memain, was asked a similar question and gave a similar response:
“THE PRESIDENT. — […] Did those in the lodge acted appropriately towards yourself, Mlle Genet and others?
Mme MEMAIN. — They were rather correct” [PGG, dossier 10, p. 117.]
Mme Thierry speaks of “correct” agents as well
At the Bonny-Lafon trial, a woman whom he had already questioned, F. Thierry, was also questioned as to the manner in which she had been interrogated:
“Me DELAUNEY. – […] you were released, after an interrogation, which was courteous, I believe?
THE WITNESS. – It was correct“ [PLB, 6, p. 167, deposition of Françoise Thierry].
Treatment of pregnant women
The prosecution spoke of pregnant women beaten until they suffered miscarriages…
At Nuremberg, the French prosecution produced a terrible written declaration by Major Pierre Loranger. After investigating the acts of the German police services in France under the occupation, he wrote:
“To the physical torments, the sadism of their torturers added the particularly painful moral torment for a woman or young girl of being undressed and stripped naked by her torturers. The condition of pregnancy did not protect them from blows and when the brutalities entailed the expulsion of the product of conception, they were left without care, exposed to all the accidents and complications of this criminal abortion.”
[“Aux supplices physiques, le sadisme de leurs tortionnaires ajoutait le supplice moral particulièrement pénible pour une femme ou une jeune fille d’être dévetue et mise a nu par ses bourreaux: L’état de grossesse ne les présérvait pas des coups et lorsque les brutalités entrainaient l’expulsion du produit de conception, elles étaient laissées sans soins, exposées à tous les accidents et toutes les complications de ce criminel avortement” [IMT, XXXVII, 297]; [see also IMT XXX, same document]:
These accusations are not confirmed by any testimony whatever
The following are three written testimonies from women and one from a man, but concerning his wife. One expects to find four terrible tales of forced nudity, inhuman torments inflicted upon pregnant women and resulting miscarriages. But we find nothing of the kind: no nudity, no humiliation, no miscarriages due to beatings, etc:
- Lucienne Krasnoploski was not mistreated at all; employed for two months as a cleaning lady at the Kommandantur of Valenciennes, she would have seen people beaten and tortured (Ibid., pp. 299-300).
- Madame Carton, a barmaid who failed to serve the Germans fast enough, received a hard slap which perforated her ear drum (pp. 297-8).
- Madame Hazard, whose husband was "the head of a Resistance group” is said to have been beaten with a whip “with extreme violence” [“avec la dernière violence”], but without causing any fractures, which “stupefied” the physician (p. 298).
It should be noted that these women were not pregnant. The only one who was pregnant, was named Gilberte Sindemans. She was a young Resistance member, aged 22. On 24 February 1944, she was arrested in a hotel in Paris. A search permitted the discovery of the affair of the stamps from the Kommandatur, “laissez-passer” cards [a sort of internal passport], German worker identification cards (stolen the evening before) as well as box of cartridges and three revolvers (IMT, XXXVII, 298). She was obviously a major activist! The following is what she writes:
“They immediately put me in handcuffs and took me away for interrogation. As I did not answer, they slapped me right across the face with such force that I fell off my chair. They whipped with a rubber whip, right across the face […].
I had to tell them I was three months pregnant.
After my first interrogation, I was taken to the prison of Fresnes and I was thrown into a solitary confinement cell without a mattress, without blankets, with my hands handcuffed behind my back at all times, plus I had chains on my ankles. For 4 days, without anything to eat or drink. On the 4th day, they came for me, to interrogate me. I underwent 24 interrogations and I came back with my face more and more swollen up every time. Since I wouldn’t say anything, they threatened to deport me for execution by shooting. Since I still wouldn’t talk, they put me in a cell for six months, in secrecy.
There came the day of the evacuation of the prison. As I was expecting my baby, I expected to be released, but I received a visit from the commissioner and the chaplain. They told me my last [hour] had come and I had to talk […].
I was taken to the Fort de Romainville and from there to the hospital, where I had my little girl, on 25 August” [IMT, XXXVII, 299].
Of course, her story is quite regrettable. But if one does not wish to be beaten and endanger the life of one’s baby, one should not participate in an illegal war; one should not steal official papers and stamps from the enemy, and one should not deal in weapons under a military occupation. In addition, I must stress that G. Sindemans was never undressed, and above all, she never received any blows which could have endangered the life of her baby. On the contrary: in the end, she was allowed to give birth to her little girl, alive and apparently healthy. Proof that, although she was detained in secrecy, she received no other mistreatment.
Consequently, these four testimonies in no way prove the allegations made by Major Loranger. Now, it is obvious that if the French prosecuting authorities in these post-war trials had really been in a position to produce any such testimony, even in one single case, they certainly would have done so.
Today, thus, it is permissible to conclude that Major Loranger’s allegations have no reliable basis in fact.
The dishonesty of the Nuremberg prosecution
It is also interesting to note that, at Nuremberg, the assistant prosecutor C. Dubost read the declaration of Major Loranger’s written statement, and went on to quote the deposition of this same G. Sidemans (since the other three prosecutors offered no evidence). Dubost took great pains, however, to delete the end of that same deposition, reading only the first three lines [IMT VI-171], and stopping just after the words “I must tell you that I was three months pregnant at that time”.
In other words, Dubost concealed the fact that G. Sindemans was permitted to give birth to a little girl in the end (IMT VI, 179-180) -- thus giving the Tribunal – and the world – the impression that this courageous Resistance member had — like so many others — lost her child as a result of German mistreatment… It is hard to be more dishonest than that…
Case of women Resistance members: proof that the Gestapo acted with great restraint, even in serious cases
Having stated the above, let us proceed. Under the Occupation, in visiting people’s homes to arrest suspected members of the Resistance, the Gestapo auxiliaries very often found themselves face to face with the wives of these same, wanted individuals. How did they treat these women? Did they strip them naked? Torture them? Beat them and strike them until they suffered miscarriages?
Not at all.
Case of Mme Lecour
Let us first take the case of Mme Lecour, from Cours-Cheverny. Her husband was a wanted Resistance member. On 30 July 1944, French auxiliaries came to her house. But the man was not there; he had taken refuge elsewhere. At the house, the group found only the wife, then seven months pregnant, with her baby.
What did they do? At their trial, the statement of facts says:
“Mme Lecour, seven months pregnant and alone with a one-year old baby, was at home when Combier and his team appeared. These individuals conducted a search of the house according to the regulations and attempted to obtain information as to Lecour’s whereabouts by threatening her with their weapons. Combier was mean enough to give Mme Lecour a few slaps, despite her condition” [PAFG, statement of facts, p. 20].
At the hearing, the husband appeared as a witness:
“THE PRESIDENT. — What did they do to your wife?
M. LECOUR. — They hit her.
THE PRESIDENT. — They searched the house?
M. LECOUR. — Yes, they did […].
THE PRESIDENT. — Did they hit your wife despite her condition?
M. LECOUR. — Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. — How did they hit her?
M. LECOUR. — They hit her and pulled her hair” [PAFG, hearing of 1 March 1947, deposition of M. Lecour, p. 216].
The wife then testified as follows:
“THE PRESIDENT. — [...] Did one of them enter the house and slap you?
Mme LECOUR. — They hit me and pulled my hair” [Ibid., p. 219].
One must, of course, condemn the violence inflicted on this woman. But, if we were to believe Major Loranger and all the other propagandists, these same individuals – Gestapo auxiliaries -- should have had recourse to much more terrible means of making her talk: they could have taken her baby and said, “Talk, or we’ll cut one ear off, then the other one, etc” ; they could have abducted the child and told the mother "We’ll give her back when you talk”; they could have stripped her naked, placed the woman on her back, and told her: “Talk, or we’ll stomp on your stomach”.
They did nothing of the kind. They abstained from acting in this manner, and they left without even learning the whereabouts of the wanted man, the very same Resistance member they came to arrest…
Search at M. Buffet
From Cours-Cheverny, now let’s look at Lyon. The members of the “Georgia Gestapo” at Lyon were searching for a very important wanted Resistance member, M. Buffet. Having visited his home and having failed to find him, they conducted a search according to the regulations:
“THE WITNESS [Mme Buffet]. — [...] You tipped everything over, my mattresses, everything...
OBERSCHMUCKLER — You are right.
REBOUL — [...] The search was completed?
THE WITNESS. — Yes.
REBOUL — The mattresses were tipped over?
THE WITNESS. — The drawers, everything, on the floor!” [PGG, dossier 8, p. 94]
The agents found nothing capable of revealing the whereabouts of M. Buffet. In the house, however, were his wife and daughter. Not surprisingly, they attempted to extort information from the mother. The statement of facts declares that Oberschmuckler “interrogated her very severely and made numerous threats” (PGG, statment of facts, p. 83).
But did he beat her, torture her? No. The follow-up permits us to answer that question: H. Oberschmuckler, we are informed “backed Mme Buffet up against the wall at pistol point” (Id.). That’s all…
In 1945, moreover, when called as a witness, Mme Buffet never even mentioned any of this inhumane treatment to which she had allegedly been subjected! This is what she declared:
“On 5 February 1944, towards 11 o’clock in the morning, three individuals came to my apartment, produced a pistol, and conducted a search of the premises. They found nothing, of course, and they questioned me about what my husband did, what was going on in his garage. I answered that I didn’t know anything, that I wasn’t aware of any of these things. They then questioned me about a certain Georges, who is now commander Jouneau. I said I didn’t know who this person was, I didn’t know him. Seeing that they weren’t getting anywhere, they remained in the apartment for an hour. They questioned me about my husband’s family, asking me where they lived, and they left. The next day, Sunday morning, three other individuals appeared. They weren’t the same men. They questioned me again. They searched the place again, and then they left” [PGG, dossier 8, p. 86, deposition de Mme Mathilde Vernay, wife of M. Buffet].
Shortly afterwards, the President of the Tribunal interrogated her about any threats made:
“THE PRESIDENT. — You indicate that he [the chief] did not threaten you. Didn’t you indicate that he was the one who threatened you?
THE WITNESS. — He held his pistol against me.
THE PRESIDENT. — He held the pistol?
THE WITNESS. — Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. — It was Oberschmuckler who held the pistol against you and forced you against the wall?
THE WITNESS. — Yes, that’s correct. I didn’t move, by the way. I remained motionless during the entire search and interrogation” [Ibid., p. 88-9].
She was then questioned by Government Commissioner Reboul:
“Reboul. — Weren’t you threatened during the first search?
THE WITNESS. — No. They simply told me to keep calm […] I told them I didn’t know what my husband did. They told me that I could keep silent, but that if they found my husband, his case would be closed” [Ibid., p. 90].
Now, Mme Buffet was perfectly well aware of both her husband’s activities and his whereabouts. During the trial, she mocked Oberschmuckler proudly and openly, right there in the courtroom, saying: “I really took you for a ride!” (Ibid., p. 95).
I think one can safely suppose, however, that if these same of Gestapo agents had undressed her, beaten her severely, burnt the "sensitive” parts of her body, forced splintered matches under her fingernails and set fire to them, or cut her daughter’s ears off, the same woman would have talked. But the point is: they didn’t do it.
It should also be noted that after the search, the members of the "Georgia Gestapo” were actively looking for M. Buffet. They showed photos of him to various people in the neighbourhood asked if they knew him:
“They went walking around the district with enlarged photographs and asked everybody is they knew me” (PGG, dossier 8, p. 66);
“Reboul. — I say that the witness is providing us with a new fact, it is that after this matter, they looked for him everywhere, walking about the area with photographs that they had taken the trouble to enlarge.” (Id.).
In reality, the photos had been enlarged by Mme Buffet eight years before (Ibid., p. 135)].
Now, this Resistance member had a mother and parents-in-law. The Gestapo could therefore have arrested them all and warned M. Buffet that his family would only be released if he turned himself in; they could even have demanded his surrender in the form of an ultimatum. But they didn’t do so; they merely arrested his nephew by mistake, Georges Buffet, because they believed him to be the “Georges” in the Resistance whom they were looking for.
Not only didn’t they torture people, they offered them cash rewards
OK, now let’s talk about “Georges”. This person was really M. Jouneau, “whom Oberschmuckler was actively looking for” (Ibid., p. 84). In accordance with normal procedure, the auxiliaries arrived to search his domicile. Not surprisingly, “Georges” was not there; the search team found only his wife and children. According to the statement of facts read out during the trial on July 1945, H. Oberschmuckler “behaved abominably” (PGG, dossier 1, p. 84).
But what did he do? Did he torture the wife, or torture their children under the mother’s eyes, to make her talk? No. We read:
“He attempted to bribe Mme Jouneau by offering her money and undressed one of the children to be sure which sex it was. He then left after two hours of interrogations and stealing furs and personal effects” [Id].
At the hearing, Oberschmuckler denied this and accused another person:
[Mme Jounaud] is getting me mixed up with Krammer. Krammer, who was present, said to her: if you give me M. Jouneau’s address, I’ll give you a hundred thousand francs; and he showed her a packet of money [...] As regards the act of undressing a little girl — a little girl six months old — I would like to point out that the child was lying in a little bed, on top of a leather jacket [...] A German lifted the child up, took the leather jacket and stole it. The woman then thought that we had looked at the child — a little girl six months old — but she will [also] confirm that if the German really lifted the child up, it was to steal something” [PGG, dossier 3, p. 98].
Nevertheless, when called as a witness, M. Jouneau accused H. Oberschmuckler, and said:
“ […] the children interested him in particular, especially my older daughter, who was two years old at the time, and looked a little bit like a boy. Boys interested him, this character, and he stated that he had what he needed to keep himself busy [il a precisé qu’il avait ce qu’il fallait pour s’en occuper]. I am very happy that he didn’t have to do it [qu’il n’ait pas eu à le faire].
“ [...] This happened at 8 o’clock in the morning, and lasted until 11, when the search was over. Oberschmuckler looked through everything there was, that is, the money, first. He put 100,000 francs on the table, this rascal, as a reward for turning me in. She’s worth more than that, Monsieur Oberschmuckler, you didn’t know the brave spirit that motivates the French Resistance members. You could have offered ten times as much. You would never have mixed them up in your dirty work!” [Applause in the courtroom].
“On the other hand, he had given the order not to move [or remove: enlever] the children. He waited until the search was more nearly complete.
“No need to tell you that my wife is used to this sort of repression: this was the third time. The next day, she moved, without wasting time [PGG, dossier 8, p. 139].
What’s the main point of all this? That to make the woman talk, members of the “Georgia Gestapo” used no violence at all: they didn’t torture the mother; they didn’t strip her naked and beat her; they didn’t torture or molest the children in front of her eyes, to force her to talk. On the contrary. No -- they tried to get her to talk by offering her money…
No brutality against Mme Cléret
Let’s get back to Paris and the case of the PTT. The German police were looking for M. Cléret, one of the leading Resistance members, as well as for his men. Members of the “Georgia Gestapo” went to his home and found only his wife. She had gone to take refuge in Seine-et-Oise pour “to avoid arrest, which she felt to be imminent” [PGG, statement of facts, p. 66].
They interrogated the wife, who refused to talk. What happened then? Was she beaten, tortured, electrocuted, burnt with acid? All these accusations, and more, were made at Nuremberg:
“Special mention must be reserved for the more refined tortures […] incisions between the toes upon which they poured a corrosive liquid, cleverly-dosed electrical shocks which caused all the muscles to convulse…
-- [“Il faut reserver une mention speciale à des supplices plus raffinés: […] incisions entre les orteils sur lesquels on versait un liquide corrosif, les courants éléctriques bien dosés qui convulsaient tous les muscles” (see the above-mentioned report by H. Paucot, IMT XXXVII, p. 264)] --
“or with a lighted cigar applied to her breasts [“I personally saw a young woman who bore on her breasts the scars from burns inflicted with a lighted cigar”]
-- [“J’ai personnellement vu une jeune femme qui portait sur les seins les cicatrices de brûlures faites avec un cigare allumé” (Ibid., p. 265)] --
“given the bathtub treatment…
“immersion in a bath of icy water was a common practice…
-- “l’immersion dans un bain d’eau glacée leur état familière” (Ibid., p. 263).
What did they do, in fact? Let’s let her talk, the victim.
On 23 July 1945, Mme Komarov, whose married name was Cléret, testified as follows before the High Court:
“Mme KOMAROV. — […] They showed me photographs of people who were Resistance members from the PTT [Post, Telegraph and Telephone] and who had been arrested and they asked me to identify them. Since I refused to do so, and said that I didn’t wish to talk, they took me to Rue des Saussaies to make me talk, then Fresnes. At Rue des Saussaies, they showed me photographs. They wanted me to admit that I knew these people, that my husband was a dreadful person, a murderer, a whole load of stuff.
An hour and a half later, I was taken to Fresnes. During this time, these men were busy pillaging everything in our home […].
THE PRESIDENT. — You were not brutalised while these men were in your home?
Mme KOMAROV. — No, I was not brutalised. I was insulted” [PGG, dossier 11, pp. 3-4].
The truth of the matter could not possibly be clearer: although this was a rather serious case, Mme Cléret, who refused to talk, was not mistreated, merely insulted.
I should add that, informed of his wife’s arrest, M. Cléret did "everything possible to get her released. Through friends, he succeeded in contacting one of Odicharia’s lieutenants [...] who asked M. Cléret for 150,000 Frs for obtaining her release. Cléret handed it over and Mme Cléret was released on 7 August 1944” (PGG, dossier 1 p. 67). At the hearing, M. Cléret confirmed: “I believe it was rather because of the 150,000 francs that she was able to get out of prison” [PGG, dossier 11, p. 9].
The simple ruse against Mme Meley
Let’s us remain with Paris. In connection with the dismantling of a Resistance network, the German police were looking for a certain M. Meley, head of the organisation. But he had fled, leaving his wife alone at home. Auxiliaries of the German police attempted to obtain information from the wife.
Again, did they use torture, the whip, acid, electricity? Once again, no. Instead, they merely tried a trick:
1°) On 20 June1944, G. Collignon passed himself off as a Resistance member wishing to see M. Meley. Mme Meley contented herself with saying “My husband is not there” . G. Collignon withdrew (PGG, dossier 1, p. 67).
2°) Eight days later, Gestapo agents came to the apartment at midnight " turned the place upside down, searched everywhere” (Ibid., p. 68). They remained for some time, organising surveillance in relays so as to arrest M. Meley when he came back. But he didn’t show up, so they gave up. Mme Meley was not even arrested (Id.).
Same strategme is used against Mme Viard
In the same case, the Gestapo attempted to arrest Georges Viard but he had fled, as well, leaving only his wife. On 28 June1944, two agents appeared at the home and passed themselves off as Resistance members wishing to know Viard’s whereabouts. Mme Viard maintained a cautious silence.
The intruders did not even attempt to conduct a search. “Then they gave me a telephone number [...] and asked me to notify them if my husband came back. Mme Viard promised, did nothing, and never saw these two individuals again” .
During the “Georgia Gestapo” trial, one of the accused, Solina, admitted that he had conducted a search at Mme Viard’s, but confirmed this version of the facts:
Mme Viard simply said that her husband was away. We said: ‘Please tell your husband to telephone M. Totor’. We didn’t even search the house, while we could have gone in all the rooms and checked anything we wanted (PGG, dossier 3, pp. 59-60.).
The surprising admission of a woman who was not mistreated, either
Let us finish with the case of M. and Mme Marceron, a married couple in the Resistance, who were concealing six cases of explosives in their home. They were betrayed by a woman who talked after being arrested. When agents in the German service arrived, they knew what they ought to find. Not surprisingly, the couple denied everything:
“My husband replied, smiling, that they obviously weren’t the kind of people who kept explosives around the house […]. I answered in the same vein, that I didn’t understand what they were talking about” (PBL, 7, p. 52, deposition of Mme Marceron)].
The woman had her small child with her, aged 2 and ½. The agents, who had no time to waste, could have used either the child or the mother -- or both -- to force the husband to talk (“Talk, or we’ll shoot the lot of them”).
They did nothing of the kind; they never touched any of them. After searching the house and finding nothing, they announced that they were taking the husband in for questioning (very probably to confront him with the person who had betrayed him”). At trial, Mme Marceron recalled:
“ […] I asked him whether they would let him eat a little bit and get dressed. They agreed immediately. My husband then ate breakfast.
These men, accompanied by the Germans, asked if they could eat breakfast with him, telling me they would pay. I said: — If you want to eat, eat with my husband, just help yourselves” [PBL, 7, p. 53].
After eating breakfast, they left with the suspect. A French agent suggested to Mme Marceron that she give him her savings, in return for which, he would arrange to save her husband. ‘If you wish, he said, I’ll take this sum [200,000 F], and leave you with 25,000 F to raise your child. Yes or no?” (Ibid, p. 55, deposition of Mme Marceron). The woman agreed, and kept 30,000 F (p. 56).
A few hours later, M. Merceron returned and declared: “They knew everything. Mme Mesclos told them everything” (p. 57). He was, of course, obliged to reveal the hiding place of the explosives. The Germans deported him to Germany, but they left the mother in liberty and never touched the child…
At trial, moreover, Mme Marceron had the courage to finish her deposition declaring (before being interrupted by the The President of the Tribunal):
“I have nothing against the Germans. Of course, they’re our enemies, that’s obvious. A German defends his country, we defend ours…” [PBL, 7, p. 62., XXX “Merceron confesses”]
Such was the behaviour of the Gestapo towards the wives of Resistance members. This is very far from the image propagated by the official version of these events…
Excerpt from Vincent Reynouard Gestapo Articles
Introduction to Gestapo Articles
Summary of Gestapo Cases