So, last March, I wrote an article about reconciling different sources of information, both from the same person at different times, but also from different people, when they include different, and sometimes contradictory information.
Well, this morning, a historian in France sent me a key piece of information, and it contradicts (slightly) my grandfather's account, and also Dr. Michel Planas's account. Except ... I'm not entirely sure that Dr. Planas's story is about the same event. Perhaps it is? Probably? But how can I be sure?
Note: there are two men called "Dr. Planas" in this article*. They were both medical doctors and were father and son, and served in the same FFI unit:
- Dr. Jean Planas, who was my grandfather's commanding officer in the 4th company. He is referred to as Captain Planas or Captain Sanglier (his code name) in this article.
- Dr. Michel Planas who was the head of the medical/first aid division for the company. I refer to Michel as "Dr. Planas."
Anyway, the historian in France I mentioned above (and true to the historian brand, he has been incredibly helpful and generous with his time and research), found Madame Auvergne and her niece's graves in Beaumont-lès-Valence. So I now have:
- Exact date of death.
- Mme. Auvergne's first name.
- The name of her niece.
- Yet another corroboration of my grandfather's stories.
Élise AUVERGNE, 46 years, died on July 16, 1944, cowardly murderedColette CHAVARAN, 9 years, died on July 16, 1944, cowardly murdered
Sometime in June, while the 4th Company was still on Ourches, J- F-, one of us, went home without any authorization, got drunk and shot to death Mme. Auvergne. The Auvergnes were the owners of the old house in which my wife and child lived. She had a reputation being a friend of Germans. In fact she belonged to a family of collaborators, but the rumors of her having denounced the FFI’s (the home of one FFI has been burned by Germans who gave 5 minutes to this family to leave the house) were probably only gossip. She knew about me being in the Maquis and my wife has not been investigated. J- F-’s self-handed stupid act resulted in a real danger to many families of FFI, mostly to mine. In addition, inadvertently he shot also her niece, the father of which was a POW in Germany since 1940.Captain Sanglier was very angry at J-. He was dispatched, under armed guard to the headquarters of Major Antoine. From now on J- served in a command of desperados, most of whom were killed in extremely dangerous missions, but he survived.
Yes, in our unit, our company was a man whose brain was not fully developed ... we say retarded.And the Germans suspected that someone was in the maquis. And they were right. And they came to Beaumont-lès-Valence and burned the farm. And the whole village, the whole town was trying to guess who denounced them. How the Germans knew it?Well, we lived in a home, you know this seventeenth century peasant home with no floor, with one tiny window. We lived over there. It belonged to the Auvergnes; Mr. and Mrs. Auvergne ... They were people from the right and they were … France was divided and they were for Vichy, for the government. Not for de Gaulle in London, but Vichy government which collaborated with Germans. And she was flirting with German officers, etc. And then came the suspicion that she denounced.And my retarded friend, he came through the mountains, came from the mountains and shot down Mrs. Auvergne with a pistol. Killed her. And she was keeping in her hand, her niece, whose father was a prisoner of war in Germany. And it’s a miracle that this was not Lillian because Lillian was supposed to stay with Madame Auvergne, but at the last moment, Mother left her with someone else. I don’t know what she did.But in any event, almost Lillian was killed and the man returned to the Maquis. He came without permission, he killed someone without permission, and therefore as punishment, he was sent to a company whose duties were dangerous to such an extent that his probability of survival was very remote. And nevertheless he survived.Madame Auvergne did not denounce these people. If she had, she would have denounced me. Roma would have suffered; the child ... It was not she. And after the war – he survived the war – after the war he had to go to a court and was accused of killing someone. And the gendarme – police – came to me, to ask what I knew about it. I said, “Madame Auvergne had wrong political ideas but she did not denounce. I wouldn’t be alive.”
Three tragic episodes disrupted the shaping of our Company: June 12, a member of the 3rd Section stole from Warrant Officer LABROSSE a Colt 45, a US Navy weapon, and went to shoot a milice volunteer in Beaumont. Unfortunately, his lack of composure made him shoot down the wife and daughter of this sinister individual who came between our comrade and his target....
The chief muleteer Farnetti had been killed, two mules killed by incendiary bullets, the rest of the troop had been able to fall back and the two mule-drivers - PINOT and DEFAYSSE - brought back the two remaining mules. DEFAYSSE was slightly injured. One of the mules killed led by FARNETTI carried the box which contained all the archives of the Company held by the Captain and the Radio LUBINSKI.
During the night the cooks of the 4th Company carrying on mules their equipment and supplies have been ordered to follow the Company a few hours later. In the meantime, after the American tanks withdrew and we were asleep in a field, the mule convoy passed by and for some unexplained reason has not been stopped by any patrol. As a result the cooks alone approached the critical highway No 7. Suddenly they found themselves under enemy fire. Two were killed, two others escaped, the mules were killed and some of them burned by a supply of gasoline they carried and which caught fire.
- Location: Beaumont-lès-Valence (a town of about 1200 people).
- A member of the company went AWOL.
- Weapon: pistol (Sten submachine guns were reasonably common, pistols less so).
- A woman and a little girl were murdered.
- Judgement issues (intellectually disabled in my grandfather's account, "lack of composure" in the other man's account).
- Target. Was the target a member of the infamous Milice, or perhaps Mrs. Auvergne's husband, or was it Mrs. Auvergne herself? My grandfather never mentions Mr. Auvergne in any other way in any of his stories. I'm not sure M. Auvergne was even present (or alive at the time).
- Was the child a daughter or a niece? Both accounts agree that the child was a little girl.