During the Second World War, Yves A. lived in the village of St Grégoire in the south of France.
He was 10-years-old when the war broke out and he lived on a small but prosperous farm with his family.
Although he lived in the ‘Free Zone’ governed by the Vichy Government, he vividly remembers several local acts of resistance.
“The son of my school teacher… tried to flee to Spain to avoid the compulsory work service. He was soon caught and shot.”
However, Yves A. explains that the majority of people in occupied France focused on their own survival and did not focus on the country’s politics.
On the 18th June 1940, Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Free Forces, spoke to the French people from London and declared that the war for France was not yet over. He hoped citizens would continue to resist the German occupation. Yves A. remembers his father saying that “it’s better to be German and alive than French and dead”.
However his father, who was the mayor of their village, later joined the ‘petite’ resistance.
Yves A. recalls that French resistance became more obvious by 1943. On one occasion, German soldiers entered his small village with trucks, flags, cars and tanks. It was a demonstration of strength, and Yves A. remembers being naively impressed. He was a young boy and did not understand the threat of such a demonstration.
When asked about D-Day, Yves A. explains: “We knew it would come. We listened to the radio everyday and tried to understand the coded messages. I heard the message myself; ‘Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne bercent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone.’
“It was only at the end of the war that we fully understood the sacrifice of the D-Day landings. We saw it through photos, films and writings… We then understood how many lives, the bravery, devotion, honour and suffering it took to free Europe.”
More to follow…
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