Diving into the past

My parents in 1941
Joseph and Gitta, enjoying Joseph’s release from Surgères prisoners’ camp
My history is hesitant here. The back of the photo says 1941. But as Léo says, the picture must have been taken in 1940. The family story is that the German army were so overwhelmed by their victory and the huge amount of prisoners they had, that anyone who could claim a home in the Surgères area was released. My mother hastily took and passed her driver’s license and drove down to Charente-Maritime, from Deauville where she lived with the rest of the family, to get my father out of the prisoners’ camp. They settled in Niort for a while, where they were sheltered and helped by Jeannette Raiton, a school-teacher whose husband was imprisoned near Toulouse, for being an anarchist.

3 thoughts on “Reunion

  1. Well, the story that I heard from your father’s mouth (my uncle) is slightly different. He told me with many details that he was sent home on parole, not released for good. The Germans were indeed too few to guard all their French prisoners. So they offered those owning a farm or working on one (not any further than 50 km/30 miles away) to return and stay home until they’d be called back. Joseph hesitated but after the Germans had repeated their offer twice, he suddenly… remembered that he must be a farmer. This is how he returned to Deauville.

    *Which means that this photo was more likely taken in 1940.*

    Then some time later when those prisoners “on farming duty” were called back by a public notice (Bekanntmachung) issued by the Kommandantur, your father, who was a legalist, reported to the town hall where the head clerk in attendance asked him to forget all about this and to make himself discreet. This put an end to the military career of “tonton” Joseph 😉 and it would be where Niort clicks into place.

    To spice up this story, at the end of the war the very town clerk who in a way had saved Joseph, was arrested on the charge of collaborating with the enemy. I’m not sure what happened to him next. But this can probably be checked with my father, *your* uncle 🙂



  2. I am pretty sure you are right about the date, only our common aunt, Fanny, wrote 1941 on the back of the photo. As for my mother driving down to Surgères, I got it from her and even though she might have embellished the story, I am sure she did. There are plenty of photos of the whole family in the area. And that particular photo was taken in Niort.
    But I will check with your father.

  3. It’s interesting to look through old photographs. A strong family resemblence there.

    Have a nice week Claude. I’m off to Hawaii day after tomorrow and enjoyed looking through the vintage Hawaii postcards you linked to from Michelle’s site.

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