I’ve been in rather sombre mood since our return from France – hardly that surprising in view of our medical news. But now the time has come to tell you a little about our holidays. I thought I would start by telling about the sombre part of our holiday, which gave us cause to stop & think, & still has an impact on our consciousness.
One of our first trips away from Annecy was to the Plateau des Glières, followed on the next day to the Nécropole Nationale des Glières & the Musée de la Résistance en Haute-Savoie. In both cases the activities of the French Resistance were described & commemorated.
The Plateau des Glières is the site of where so many Resistance fighters hid out during the Second World War. It was also the area prepared to receive plane-loads of armaments, medicines etc. from Britain to help them in that resistance. Eventually, in 1944, after Vichy security forces had failed to do so, the Germans sent in a force of 10,000 soldiers to try to wipe out the 465 besieged resistance members. Needless to say, many of the Frenchmen were killed. Now, a huge commemorative monument, a V for victory, stands in their memory.
|The tale of those who resisted|
|V for victory|
The following day we went on to the Nécropole Nationale. Here the bodies of those who had died on that plateau, were brought & buried after the war.
|Necropole National des Glieres|
|Just one young man|
We have never visited any war graves. It is sobering to see so many graves of so many young people. It brings home the cost of war so more graphically than the war memorials we have in this country. We just have names on a list, no doubt these people were important to those who knew them, but now they seem remote. These graves for so many people just teenagers/early 20s made you realise just how many were killed, what a price they’d had to pay.
We then went into the Resistance museum. Here we were shown a film, fortunately subtitled in English, which gave you a fuller context. Life on that plateau must have been harsh. You saw the men disappearing thigh deep in the winter snows, trying to move the weaponry to safer ground, men wearing little more than socks on their feet. Food & medicine was also in short supply, though morale was high. As young men attained manhood they were given the option of joining the Vichy security forces or being sent to Germany to do war work. Many disappeared instead to the plateau to fight the Germans instead. Anyone so much as suspected of helping & abetting the resistance forces were killed – whole families, children as well. Those few who survived the battle of 1944 & were subsequently captured, were sent off to the concentration camps of Belsen etc. to starve to death.
The thing that surprised me, is that it hadn’t occurred to me is that all this had happened so far south in France, in what was then Vichy France. I’ve watched numerous war movies featuring the resistance & yet I somehow placed it happening much further north.
The other thing is that it explains why there still is a lot of anti-German feeling in this area. Is it surprising when so many people must have had their family members - parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins - killed, tortured, sent to concentration camps. It is still within easy living memory. My father was in the Navy during the war. One uncle was in a prisoner of war camp for much of the time. Others fought. Fortunately none were killed, the worst injury being a broken toe. How much harder it would have been if they had been brutally killed as these people were.