The Street of Horrors

On Monday, 22 March 1944, the crumpled and broken body of Pierre Brossolette (1903-1944) lay on the ground outside the building located at 84, avenue Foch in an upscale Parisian neighborhood of the 16th arrondissement (district).

After two and a half days of torture by the Gestapo, Brossolette recovered enough consciousness to determine he was about to divulge information about his colleagues in the French Resistance. He stood up in his cell and flung himself out the sixth floor window. His last words were “all will be fine Tuesday.”

THE STREET OF HORRORS

11, rue des Saussaies à Paris. One of the Gestapo headquarters. Photo by Erwmat (2013). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

11, rue des Saussaies à Paris. One of the Gestapo headquarters. Photo by Erwmat (2013). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Upon entering Paris on 14 June 1940, the Germans and the various military and civilian units began to immediately appropriate hotels, vacated buildings (many by Jewish citizens), French government buildings, vacant embassies, or just kicked out the existing residents of a building they wanted to occupy.

The different departments of the Nazi police system (commonly grouped under one name: Gestapo) annexed many of the buildings on Avenue Foch. It didn’t take long for the Germans to settle into Paris. The Abwehr (German Intelligence Service) had been operating in Paris during the 1930s and it was clear they had “mapped” out the entire city and identified all potential sites for the Germans to occupy.

The building at 84, avenue Foch became the main headquarters for the Gestapo. The sixth floor was converted to torture rooms and cells. Throughout the Nazi Occupation, the neighbors could hear the screams from the victims of Gestapo torture. Parisians quickly determined this street was not a place you wanted to visit.

Avenue Foch became known to the French as The Street of Horrors.

POLICE

Over time, the Gestapo and its various units expanded throughout the city. They developed satellite offices, branches, and substations where torture rooms and cells were established. Gestapo agents dressed in suits, wore black trench coats, and drove black cars (presumably Citroëns). Parisians (especially Jewish citizens) learned quickly that a night time knock on their door might lead to bad things happening to members of the family.

Paris, German Police Headquarters, 1 May 1943. Pierre Laval (left) and Carl Oberg (right). Photo by unknown (1943). German Federal Archives. PD-CCA Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Paris, German Police Headquarters, 1 May 1943. Pierre Laval (left) and Carl Oberg (right). Photo by unknown (1943). German Federal Archives. PD-CCA Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

By the time Karl Oberg (1897-1965) arrived in Paris in May 1942 as the new HöbererSS and Polizeiführer (chief of all Nazi police activities), approximately 2,400 men served under his command. Despite the need for more men, Oberg was not able to obtain additional forces from Berlin. He didn’t have to. The Vichy government supplemented his forces with several Fascist and anti-Semitic organizations.

FRENCH COLLABORATION

One of the unpleasant facts of the Occupation was the collaboration of certain segments of French society. There were three primary groups that assisted the Germans in rounding up and deporting the Jews (and other “undesirable” groups), fighting the French Resistance, and overall policing in the Occupied Zone, including Paris. A discussion of the collaborationist French media is a subject for another day and blog.

FRENCH POLICE

The French police in Paris carried out much of the heavy lifting for the Germans in regards to arresting and transporting Jews to a deportation camp in Paris known as Drancy (basically this was a holding area prior to boarding the trains to Auschwitz). Their support of German policies and the implementation dwindled as time went on. Because of the police support during the liberation, most of them did not suffer retribution. The police headquarters was (and still is) located on the Île de la Cité at 1, rue de Lutèce.

MILICE FRANÇAISE (FRENCH MILITIA) AKA MILICE

This was a paramilitary organization created by Pierre Laval (Prime Minister of Vichy France) in 1943. Its purpose was to fight the French Resistance and arrest Resistance members. The primary tactic of the Milice was torture, executions, and the roundups of Jews for deportation. Miliciens were considered more dangerous than the Gestapo and the SS since Milice members were French and it was difficult to identify them. Joseph Darnand (1897-1945), the French leader of the Milice, was granted membership in the SS as an Obersturmführer. The Milice were hated by most of the French and more than 1,500 were executed when liberation took place in August 1944. The rest fled to monasteries and convents in France and Quebec. Headquarters for the Milice was located at 44, rue Peletier.

THE CARLINGUE (FRENCH GESTAPO)

Plaque put up at 93, rue de la Lauriston, Paris. Former headquarters of the Bonny-Lafont gang. Photo by Wikimedia Commons/MU (2010). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Plaque put up at 93, rue de la Lauriston, Paris. Former headquarters of the Bonny-Lafont gang. Photo by Wikimedia Commons/MU (2010). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Also known as the Bonny-Lafont Gang, the Carlingue was called the French Gestapo. Pierre Bonny was a corrupt ex-policeman who teamed up with Henri Lafont, a professional criminal. The Carlingue’s members were criminals recruited from French prisons. The Gestapo formed the organization in 1941 and its primary purpose was to fight the Maquis. Members of the Maquis were young French men who fled to the countryside to evade the forced labor laws. The Carlingue was heavily involved in the black market during the Occupation. The Bonny-Lafont gang/Carlingue operated out of the building located at 93, rue Lauriston. The basement was soundproof with three poles used for the execution of hostages and others. Many of the members of the Carlingue were rounded up during and after the Liberation, tried, and executed.

GESTAPO TORTURE KITCHENS

As the Occupation wore on and especially after the Germans invaded Russia, French resistance increased. As resistance activities grew, so did the reprisals by the Germans. If you were arrested for things as menial as a curfew violation, you’d be held in prison as a hostage. When there were actions against the Germans, especially assassinations, they would randomly pick hostages to be executed.

However, many of the arrested foreign agents (e.g., SOE agents), resistance members (e.g., Jean Moulin, Pierre Brossolette), and others deemed as enemies of the Third Reich underwent excruciating torture.

The methods of torture included near drowning, breaking of limbs with a spiked ball, merciless beatings until one fell unconscious, or having fingernails removed with hot irons or other sharp instruments. If the victim didn’t talk (which was rare), they would be shipped off to one of the death camps – survival was rare.

The Gestapo called their torture rooms “kitchens.”

A GESTAPO KITCHEN

PIERRE BROSSOLETTE

After Liberation, Brossolette was considered to be the leader of the French Resistance until Charles de Gaulle decided to elevate Jean Moulin to that top spot. After his death, Brossolette’s remains were cremated and his ashes placed in the columbarium at Père Lachaise cemetery. Pierre Brossolette has now been recognized for his role in the French Resistance and given the honor of a final burial spot in the Pantheon – joining Jean Moulin.

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Please tell your friends about our blog site and encourage them to visit and subscribe. Sandy and I are trying to increase our audience and we need your help through your friends and social media followers.

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What’s New With Sandy and Stew?

We hope you notice our new logo Stew Ross Discovers. Habib and his team at Locomotion Creative created this for us when we realized that the brand had to target Stew Ross and not Yooper Publications. We really like it because it says “Go out and discover, even if it’s raining.” That is what we’re trying to do with the walking tour books based on historical events and periods of time.Stew_Ross_Logo_CMYK

Let us know if you like the logo.

We have a lot of stories and we’re looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our blog site and perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on our blog posts, past and current.


GUIDRR GUIDES

The Guidrr app can be downloaded for free. Individual Guides can be purchased on an in-app basis. At this time, Guidrr is only supported by Apple iPhone.

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Twenty Years After the End of World War II: Dutch Memories

Twenty Years After the End of World War II: Dutch Memories

Posting this blog on the fifth of each May has become a tradition for me.

Today is Liberation Day (also known as Freedom Day) for Holland. It was 5 May 1945 that Canadian forces along with other Allied forces were able to obtain the surrender of German forces in the small Dutch town of Wageningen. This led to the complete surrender and liberation of the country.

NETHERLANDS AMERICAN CEMETERY (MARGRATEN)

American World War II Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands. Photo by Kees Verburg (2014). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

American World War II Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands. Photo by Kees Verburg (2014). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

There is a cemetery near Maastricht. It is the final resting spot for 8,301 American soldiers and a memorial for the 1,722 men missing in action. They were casualties of Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944) and other battles aimed at liberating Holland. Operation Market Garden was a failed Allied attempt to liberate Holland.  There are other military cemeteries nearby for the British and Canadian men who did not survive the battle.

John J. Lister killed in action on 7 April 1945 – 48 Infantry Batalion – 7th Armored Division – C Company. Photo by Erfgoed in Beeld (2006). PD-CCA-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

John J. Lister killed in action on 7 April 1945 – 48 Infantry Batalion – 7th Armored Division – C Company. Photo by Erfgoed in Beeld (2006). PD-CCA-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Individual Dutch families have adopted every man who perished in the battle. Each man’s grave is kept up and decorated by their adopted family. Even a portrait of their adopted soldier sits in their respective homes.

HONGERWINTER

The Dutch railway workers called a strike during the battle. They felt it would increase the chances of success by the Allied forces. The battle failed and Holland would have to wait another 7 months to be liberated. In the meantime, the Nazi regime under Arthur Seyss-Inquart retaliated by not allowing any food into the country. Holland was literally being starved to death during the Hongerwinter (winter of hunger). More than 20,000 people died that winter of starvation. If you read any biography of Audrey Hepburn, you will hear about her experience during that time.

Tribute to Dutch Women of the Winter of Hunger. Photo by Peter de Wit (2008). Tile made by ‘De Porceleyne Fles’ in Delft, Netherlands. PD-CCA 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Tribute to Dutch Women of the Winter of Hunger. Photo by Peter de Wit (2008). Tile made by ‘De Porceleyne Fles’ in Delft, Netherlands. PD-CCA 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

LIBERATION DAY

Every May on the fifth, Liberation Day is celebrated in Holland. For two minutes, everything and everybody stops while the church bells ring. At the end of the day, a concert is held. Beginning in 1965 (the 20th anniversary of the liberation), Nino Rossi’s taps called “Il Silenzio” is played as the final piece of the concert.

I will never forget as a 10-year old living in Wassenaar Holland beginning in 1965, stopping on the street wherever we were at the time, we stopped talking, and listened to the church bells ring for 2 minutes—every year on 5 May.

I invite you to click on the following link and listen to a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, play “Il Silenzio” during the 2008 concert celebrating the liberation of Holland. The Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands backs her up. It is very moving—at least for the former 10-year old, now 60.

Grab a tissue before you listen to this. I do.

PRESIDENT’S SPEECH

“On this peaceful May morning we commemorate a great victory for liberty, and the thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David underscore the terrible price we pay for that victory. For the Americans who rest here, Dutch soil provides a fitting home. It was from a Dutch port that many of our pilgrim fathers first sailed to America. It was a Dutch port that gave the American flag its first gun salute. It was the Dutch who became one of the first foreign nations to recognize the independence of the new United States of America. And when American soldiers returned to this continent to fight for freedom, they were led by a President (Roosevelt) who owed his family name to this great land.”

George W. Bush
President of the United States
28 May 2005
Netherlands American Cemetery

Featured Image:  Unknown Soldier Cross. Photo by Visserp (2013). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

We need your help

Please tell your friends about our blog site and encourage them to visit and subscribe. Sandy and I are trying to increase our audience and we need your help through your friends and social media followers.

Thank You

Sandy and I appreciate you visiting with us. We have some exciting things on the horizon and we’ll keep you updated as we go along.

We have a lot of stories and we’re looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our blog site and perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on our blog posts, past and current.

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Please note that we do not and will not take compensation from individuals or companies mentioned or promoted in the blogs.

Copyright © 2016 Stew Ross

 

They Listened to What I Said

The United States government finally listened to what I had to say.

Worth $100,000 in mint condition!

Inverted Jenny – 1918. Photo by SabreCEO (2006). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.

Effective 10 April 2016, the Post Office reduced its rate on first class mail from 49 cents to 47 cents. This was the first time they lowered the cost of a stamp in 100 years. Why? I have no clue. Seems stupid to me considering their financial condition. But hey, I’ll take a 4% cut in any of our expenses.

MY CONVERSATIONS WITH THE GREEN HILLS POST OFFICE

I have a lot of interaction with the Post Office. I have a P.O. Box there to collect mail for Southeast Business Forums and Yooper Publications. One at a time and when requested, I mail my books to Amazon from the Green Hills post office (presumably someone has put an order in for a book). After Amazon conducts their quarterly inventory count and finds too many of my books are taking up shelf space, I receive the extra ones back. Happy Face!! Oh, I also buy my stamps from the nice folks behind the counter. Read More

Killed in the Service of Her Country

One of my friends, Rhea Seddon, was one of the original six women astronauts selected in 1978 for the space program. She and the other five women were pioneers. One of those five women, Judy Resnik, lost her life on one of the Challenger missions.

I’m writing for a mobile travel app called Guidrr. The Guides I create specialize on historical events and people. One of the new Guides is “Amazing Women of Historic Nashville.” As I began my research, I found someone from Nashville who was another pioneer and like Rhea, she was an aviator. And like Judy, Cornelia was killed in the line of duty.

DEBUTANTE TO WARTIME PILOT

Cornelia Fort (with a PT-19A). Photo by Unknown (c. 1942). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.

Cornelia Fort (with a PT-19A). Photo by Unknown (c. 1942). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.

Cornelia Fort (1919–1943) was the daughter of Rufus Fort, the founder of National Life and Accident Insurance Company. She grew up in a privileged Nashville home with a future of cotillions, marriage to a prominent Nashville man, and the quiet country club life.

Cornelia didn’t want to become a debutante—she wanted to fly. She became the first female pilot instructor in Nashville. By 1941, Cornelia had signed up as a flight instructor with the Civilian Pilots Training Program. Shortly after that, she was sent to Honolulu and hired to teach flying to defense workers, soldiers, and sailors based at Pearl Harbor. Read More

Hallucination Caused by Fear?

Sandy and I recently shared cocktail hour with some good friends of ours. Joe grew up in upper New York in a town (Malone) twelve miles from the Canadian border and 58 miles south of Montreal. After World War II had ended, Joe’s father told him about the German U-boat activity in the St. Lawrence River and the effect it had on the Canadians.

Daniel Gallery, Commanding Officer of the Guadalcanal on the Conning Tower of the captured U-505. Photo by USN (June 1944). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

Daniel Gallery, Commanding Officer of the Guadalcanal on the Conning Tower of the captured U-505. Photo by USN (June 1944). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

According to Joe’s father, the French Canadians weren’t too worried about the German occupation of France and the collaborationist government known as Vichy. That is until a U-boat was discovered in Montreal Harbor and stories of German spies being off loaded onto Canadian soil. That woke them up.

The Battle of the St. Lawrence

This is the term used today to describe the periods of time when the U-boats actively hunted down convoy boats in the St. Lawrence River. There were two primary periods of activity: May 1942 to September 1943 and then a resumption of activity in the fall of 1944 (due to a new technology on the submarines that allowed them to stay submerged longer). Read More

Wallace Fountains

 

Personnes se désaltèrant à une fontaine Wallace à Paris. Photo by unknown (1911). Bibliothèque nationale de France. PD: Domaine Public. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Personnes se désaltèrant à une fontaine Wallace à Paris. Photo by unknown (1911). Bibliothèque nationale de France. PD: Domaine Public. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout the centuries clean and drinkable water in Paris was very difficult to find. Running water didn’t come to certain parts of Paris (e.g., Village of Saint-Paul) until the early 1970s. Well, one person saw to it that the citizens of Paris, in particular the poor, had potable drinking water available to them shortly after the Paris Commune of 1871.

British Assistance

Immediately after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, a little-known charity called the British Charitable Fund (BCF) was established for the purpose of assisting British citizens who had moved to France and became destitute. In other words, they needed financial assistance for food and shelter. One of the largest benefactors (and later, a BCF trustee) was Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890).

Wallace was a British expat living in Paris who had inherited a large sum of money from his father in 1870. Among his other philanthropic endeavors, he founded a hospital. However, Sir Richard’s legacy to modern day Paris is the Wallace Fountain found throughout Paris (and other parts of the world). Read More

The French Lucrezia Borgia

La Voisin. Engraving by unknown (c. 17th century). Author’s collection

La Voisin. Engraving by unknown (c. 17th century). Author’s collection

When I think of famous poisoners throughout history, Lucrezia Borgia (1480–1519) and her poison ring come to mind. However, Lucrezia was small potatoes to Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin (1640–1680). Known as La Voisin, Catherine was a fortuneteller, palm (and face) reader, astrologist, seer, herbalist, sorceress, a reader of Tarot, and accused of being a witch. She also practiced midwifery and performed abortions. However, her most lucrative enterprise was being the poisoner to “the stars.”

Portrait of Louis XIV. Oil on canvas by Charles Le Brun (1661). Palace of Versailles. PD-100+. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait of Louis XIV. Oil on canvas by Charles Le Brun (1661). Palace of Versailles. PD-100+. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Catherine provided her services to many of the well-known aristocracy of Paris during a period of King Louis XIV’s reign (1643–1715). In fact, her clients were so well heeled that once Louis became aware of the situation, he had all the evidence sealed or destroyed so no one would ever know the true facts. You see, one of Catherine’s best customers was Louis’s mistress, Madame de Montespan (1640–1707) and he couldn’t afford to have a scandal of this magnitude. Read More

The Lioness of Brittany

One of my favorite historical blog sites is written by my friend, Susan Abernethy (“The Freelance History Writer”). She primarily writes about medieval Europe and in particular, England. Her blogs are professionally written, interesting, and well researched. She recently wrote a blog entitled Swashbuckling Personalities in History.

Susan’s Blog Site

Her blog reminded me of a woman I highlighted in my recent book, Where Did They Burn the Last Grand Master of the Knights Templar?—A Walking Tour of Medieval Paris.

“The Lioness of Brittany” was Jeanne de Clisson (1300–1359).

Model pirate ship. Photo by Tony Hisgett (2010). PD-CCA 2.0 Generic. Wikimedia Commons.

Model pirate ship. Photo by Tony Hisgett (2010). PD-CCA 2.0 Generic. Wikimedia Commons.

The lords of Clisson came from Brittany dating to the 10th century. Olivier IV de Clisson (1264–1343) was married to Jeanne when he was beheaded on orders from King Philippe VI the Fortunate (I suppose Olivier wasn’t as fortunate as the king).

De Clisson had secretly sided with the English monarch, Edward III, after vowing his loyalty to Philippe. The French king discovered the treachery and invited Olivier to a jousting tournament whereupon Olivier was arrested and imprisoned in the Grand Châtelet in Paris. Read More

Adelicia’s Tour of Paris

Shortly after the Civil War ended and up to the beginning of World War I, it was common for wealthy Americans to take their families over to Europe for a grand tour lasting at least one year. Adelicia Acklen (1817–1887) was no different.

Adelicia Acklen, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, was one of the wealthiest women in the United States. Her first husband died after seven years of marriage.

Stereocard of Belmont Mansion in Nashville. Photo by Carl Giers (c. 1870). Tennessee State Library and Archives. PD-100+; PD-1923; Wikimedia Commons.

Stereocard of Belmont Mansion in Nashville. Photo by Carl Giers (c. 1870). Tennessee State Library and Archives. PD-100+; PD-1923; Wikimedia Commons.

He was one of the most notorious slave traders and owned nine plantations. After his death, Adelicia inherited Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, Tennessee as well as cotton plantations in Louisiana, undeveloped land in Texas, and stocks and bonds.

Meet Adelicia Acklen

Commemorative plaque located in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Photo by Thomas R. Machnitzki (2013). PD-GNU Free Documentation License. Wikimedia Commons.

Commemorative plaque located in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Photo by Thomas R. Machnitzki (2013). PD-GNU Free Documentation License. Wikimedia Commons.

Adelicia remarried and along with her husband, Joseph Acklen, built the Belmont Mansion in Nashville. They had six children of whom three reached adulthood. Adelicia ultimately married for a third time and shortly before her death, the mansion was sold. Today, it is part of Belmont University. She’s buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville. It is similar to the Parisian cemeteries that are so cool to walk around. Read More

Comfort Women

There were many painful and disturbing legacies that countries had to face after the end of World War II. The most obvious is Germany. France had its own demons to deal with concerning Vichy France and its collaboration with the Nazis (France was the only Allied country to collaborate with the Germans). It wasn’t until 16 July 1995 that the French President Jacques Chirac publically acknowledged and accepted responsibility for France’s collaborationist role.

Comfort Women, rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Photo by Claire Solery (2012). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Comfort Women, rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Photo by Claire Solery (2012). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, Japan has apologized to Korea for its role in “recruiting” women to serve in brothels set up for its soldiers during World War II. These women have been called “Comfort Women” and no agreement has ever been reached as to whether they were kidnapped or volunteered. One thing most historians agree on is that once in the brothels, the women were not allowed to leave. I suppose that in the strictest sense, this meant these women were sex slaves. Read More