David P. Boder Interviews Charles Jean; August 21, 1946; Paris, France

var transcription = { interview: [ David Boder

[In English] We are still continuing . . . We are still continuing the charming evening at the home of Admiral Kahn, and we are now inteviewing his present chauffeur who, I am told, was active in the Resistance. Madame Kahn will help us as a translator. Madame Kahn, will you ask him to give us first his name and how old he is?

Charles Jean

[In French] Alors Charles Jean [exact spelling unknown], 31 ans.

David Boder

[In English] Now, Charles, will you ask him to tell us what he remembers from the time the war started where he was? And then what was he doing, gradually, until liberation.

Charles Jean

[In French] Je suis parti le 26 aoÃt 1939, j'Ãtais mobilisà à Dunkerque dans le Maine, et j'Ãtais prisonnier le 4 juin 1940. Je me suis Ãvadà de Dunkerque le 25 juin 1940, et je suis rentrà chez moi à Vichy. Par la suite, j'Ãtais . . . je travaillais, et ensuite j'Ãtais repris par les Allemands au mois d'avril '43, pour aller travailler en Allemagne. Et je me suis Ãvadà une fois de plus de Cravant dans l'Yonne. Et à ce moment-lÃ, je suis rentrà au Maquis, le Maquis d'Auvergne, aux Brugerons à cÃtà d'Olliergues.

David Boder

[In English] Would you ask him . . . [unintelligible aside to interpreter] Will you ask him to tell us, what does the word "Maquis" mean?

Charles Jean

[In French] Alors, un Maquis, le Maquis oà j'Ãtais . . . nous faisions partie des Francs-tireurs et partisans franÃais, nous Ãtions en gÃnÃral de jeunes hommes commandÃs par un Commandant, tout un Ãtat-major. Nous Ãtions commandÃs exactement comme dans l'armÃe. Nous avions des armes qui nous Ãtaient parachutÃes par les Anglais, et celles que nous pouvions rÃcupÃrer sur les Allemands que nous prenions prisonniers. Nous Ãtions commandÃs par un groupement qui se trouvait à Clermont-Ferrand, et dont nous dÃfendions, au Maquis oà j'Ãtais, et nous Ãtions trÃs bien d'ailleurs commandÃs par des chefs compÃtents qui avaient dÃjà fait la guerre et qui prenaient leur travail trÃs au sÃrieux. Nous Ãtions, nous Ãtions environ, dans ce Maquis dont je faisais partie, environ trois cents et moi je me trouvais au poste de commandement. J'avais l'avantage d'Ãtre chauffeur du commandant, ce qui me donnait beaucoup d'avantages par rapport à mes camarades qui, des trois quarts du temps, couchaient dans des bois et n'avaient pas le mÃme confort. Je vais vous parler de la phase finale de notre Maquis, c'est-Ã-dire la prise de Thiers, la capitale de la coutellerie. Nous avons Ãtà attaquÃs au poste de commandement le 23 aoÃt 1944 par un dÃtachement allemand d'SS que nous l'avons su plus tard avait l'ordre de nous exterminer coÃte que coÃte. Nous avons rÃsistà assez bien d'ailleurs, puisque les Allemands n'ont pas pu nous prendre. Et le Commandant par reprÃsailles a dÃcidà à ce jour-là d'attaquer Thiers. Nous sommes partis à 150 environ. Moi, je ne suis venu que par la suite et mes camarades sont partis d'abord, à 150 le 24 aoÃt ou le 23, je ne me rappelle pas exactement, pour attaquer Thiers. Ils Ãtaient environ 150 hommes pour prendre les deux ou trois cents Allemands qui se trouvaient lÃ-bas. Nous avons attaquà Thiers par le nord et l'est. La bataille Ãtait trÃs dure. Elle a durà d'ailleurs une journÃe et demie, et nous avons eu onze morts chez nous et une quarantaine chez les Allemands. Et en fin de compte, leurs chefs se sont rendus sans conditions . . . nous en a fait prisonniers, ainsi que quelques miliciens qui se trouvaient avec eux. Par la suite nous avons pu rÃcupÃrer dans les Allemands qui se trouvaient là cinq d'entre eux qui avaient massacrà des camarades de chez nous et nous les avons fusillÃs, ainsi que les sept miliciens qui se trouvaient lÃ.

David Boder

[In English] [interrupts] All right, now . . . continuez.

Charles Jean

[In French] AprÃs, c'est à ce moment que la garde du MarÃchal sont venus nous rejoindre pour libÃrer le reste du secteur qui se trouvait encore quelques Allemands. Ensuite, la guerre Ãtait finie pour nous. Nous avons Ãtà casernÃs à Clermont-Ferrand, la caserne Desaix et l'armÃe a jugà que notre rÃle Ãtait fini. Je suis retournà dans mon foyer.

David Boder

[In English] Was he taken prisoner by the Germans? [off mic with interpreter] No, afterwards, when he was in the Maquis. Was he never taken prisoner? [off mic with interpreter] He was taken for compulsory . . . [more than one person speaking at once] He went to the Maquis. Can he tell us about some details of the [unintelligible]. You think that's all covered. Uh huh. And where did we find him? Where was he when . . . ? Who came in? The English or the Americans?

Marcelle Kahn

[In French] Quelles Ãtaient les premiÃres troupes alliÃes que vous avez vues?

Charles Jean

Les premiÃres troupes alliÃes, ce sont des AmÃricains et . . . les AmÃricains et les FranÃais. A Thiers.

David Boder

[In English] So how did the French troops from there leave, right there after the . . . . . . Now how did it come out? There were French troops. That I know, where were they during that time? [aside to interpreter] Whose organization in France . . . Who was in the Maquis? [several voices talking at once] And the forces which came after . . . The troops who were landing in south France some weeks before . . . [more than one person talking] Our troops and especially in this town, the first Allied troops, regular troops were from Africa . . . [several voices talking at once]

David Boder

[In English] And they were combined with the troops from Africa.

David Boder

So when the regular troops came in, did the Maquis continue to do partisan work? [unintelligible discussion off mic]

David Boder

Well, what are you doing now?

Charles Jean

[In French] Maintenant, je suis chauffeur d'IngÃnieur GÃnÃral Kahn et je suis trÃs content, je suis trÃs bien.

David Boder

[In English] [to interpreter] Well, that's good. And uh, how old is he?

Charles Jean

[In French] Trente-et-un ans.

David Boder

[In English] Are you married?

Charles Jean

[In French] Oui.

David Boder

[In English] [to interpreter] Was he married before the war?

Charles Jean

[In French] Ah, non, non, pas avant la guerre, je me suis marià que maintenant.

David Boder

[In English] He was alone . . . . Were there many married Maquis?

Charles Jean

[In French] Ah oui, beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup d'hommes mariÃs.

David Boder

[In English] Well, didn't their families get into trouble because of the Maquis?

Charles Jean

[In French] Ah, oui, oui, à Clermont-Ferrand, pas mal de nos camarades trouvaient leurs femmes et leurs enfants ennuyÃs par la Gestapo parce qu'eux-mÃmes s'Ãtaient rendus aux Maquis. Et nous avons organisà d'ailleurs pour les femmes de ces camarades dans un pays à cÃtà de chez nous, nous avons organisà dans un hÃtel un centre d'accueil autrement dit pour les recevoir pour qu'elles ne soient pas inquiÃtÃes et elles Ãtaient sous notre protection. Mais les femmes ne jouaient aucun rÃle effectif avec nous. Il n'y avait pas de femmes dans notre groupement, mais simplement des femmes de ces camarades qui Ãtaient à l'abri, prÃs de nous.

David Boder

[In English] Well, and how did the general population treat the Maquis?

Charles Jean

[In French] Eh bien, en Auvergne, la population Ãtait trÃs gentille avec nous. Nous avions en principe tout ce qu'il nous fallait. Nous allions dans les fermes nous ravitailler. Nous n'avions pas d'argent, nous payions . . . nous donnions des bons. Des bons de rÃquisition qui par la suite ont Ãtà payÃes. Et nous faisions de mÃme pour le tabac, ainsi que pour les automobiles. Dans les automobiles, nous prenions autant que possible des automobiles des collaborateurs. Moi mÃme j'ai pris celle du GÃnÃral Ferrà [?] qui commandait les gardes mobiles à Vichy, puisque c'Ãtait un collaborateur notoire. Je lui ai volà sa voiture, autrement dit "piquer" en termes de Maquisard, lui piquer sa voiture à Vichy et je l'ai ramenÃe au Maquis, oà elle nous a rendu de grands services.

David Boder

[In English] Yes, now, here is another question. Where did the Maquis get their supplies?

Unknown person

[unknown person off mic] He told you. In the town.

David Boder

Yes, but where did they get their military supplies? [unintelligible conversation off mic] Yes, did they have radio service?

Charles Jean

[In French] Ah, oui, nous avions un service radio. Nous avions le code. D'ailleurs, je ne le connaissais pas, moi. C'Ãtait l'Officier qui savait Ãa. Nous communiquions avec Londres pour les parachutages et le gros de nos armes nous parvenait surtout de ce que nous pouvions rÃcupÃrer sur les Allemands. Parce que le mouvement de l'AS [armÃe secrÃte?] c'Ãtait beaucoup mieux ravitaillà en armes que nous mÃmes parce que qu'ils Ãtaient respectÃs et les Mouvements Unis de la RÃsistance c'Ãtait beaucoup mieux approvisionnà en armes que nous. Nous nous dÃbrouillions par nos propres moyens pour ainsi dire.

David Boder

[In English] All right, I thank you very much for this . . . [unintelligible]

David Boder

[In French] Merci beaucoup.

var english_translation = { interview: [ David Boder

[In English] We are still continuing . . . We are still continuing the charming evening at the home of Admiral Kahn, and we are now interviewing his present chauffeur who, I am told, was active in the Resistance. Madame Kahn will help us as a translator. Madame Kahn, will you ask him to give us first his name and how old he is?

Charles Jean

Charles Jean [exact spelling unknown], 31 years old.

David Boder

Now, Charles, will you ask him to tell us what he remembers from the time the war started where he was? And then what was he doing, gradually, until liberation.

Charles Jean

[In French] I left on August 26, 1939. I was stationed at Dunkerque in the Maine and was taken prisoner on June 4, 1940. I escaped from Dunkerque on June 25, 1940 and returned to my home in Vichy. Then I was . . . I was working, and then I was captured again by the Germans during the month of April '43, to go work in Germany. I escaped once again from Cravant in Yonne. That was when I joined the Resistance [Maquis in French], the Auvergne Resistance, at Brugerons, near Olliergues.

David Boder

[In English] Would you ask him . . . [unintelligible aside to interpreter] Will you ask him to tell us, what does the word "Maquis" mean?

Charles Jean

[In French] Well, the Resistance, the "underground" in which I worked . . . we were a part of the Francs-tireurs et Partisans FranÃais. We were mostly young men under the orders of a Commander, with a whole staff. We were commanded exactly as if it were the army. We had arms that were parachuted to us by the English, as well as those arms that we were able to take off of the Germans that we took prisoner. We were commanded by a group from Clermont-Ferrand, which we defended, in the resistance movement to which I belonged, and we were actually very well commanded by competent leaders who had already been in the war and who took their jobs very seriously. We were . . . there were approximately three hundred of us in the resistance to which I belonged. Around three hundred and I was working at the command post. I was fortunate to be the Commander's driver, a job which gave me a lot of advantages over my comrades who, three-quarters of the time, slept in the woods and didn't have the same comforts I had. I'm going to tell you about the final phase of our resistance, when we took Thiers, a city known as the main cutlery producer in France. We were attacked at the command post on August 23, 1944 by a German SS detachment that we later learned had orders to exterminate us at any cost. We actually resisted pretty well, since the Germans were unable to take us. And their Commander, in retaliation, decided on that particular day to attack Thiers. About a hundred and fifty of us went into battle. I arrived later, following my hundred and fifty comrades, on the 24th or 23rd of August, I don't remember exactly, to attack Thiers. We had about a hundred and fifty men to take on the two or three hundred Germans who were there. We attacked Thiers from the north and the east. The battle was very hard. It lasted actually a day and a half and we counted eleven dead on our side and around forty on the German side. In the end, their leaders surrendered unconditionally. We took them prisoner, as well as a few of the militia that were with them. After that, we were able to pick out five men among the Germans who were there, five of them who had slaughtered some of our own comrades, and we shot them, along with the seven militiamen who were with them.

David Boder

[In English] [interrupts] All right, now . . . continuez.

Charles Jean

[In French] Afterwards, that was when the Marshal's Guard joined forces with us to liberate the rest of the sector where there were still a few Germans. After that, the war was over for us. We were assigned to barracks in Clermont-Ferrand, the Desaix barracks and the army determined that our work was done. I went home.

David Boder

[In English] Was he taken prisoner by the Germans? [off mic with interpreter] No, afterwards, when he was in the Maquis. Was he never taken prison? [off mic with interpreter] He was taken for compulsory . . . [more than one person speaking at once] He went to the Maquis. Can he tell us about some details of the [unintelligible]. You think that's all covered. Uh huh. And where did we find him? Where was he when . . . ? Who came in? The English or the Americans?

Marcelle Kahn

[In French] What were the first Allied troops that you saw?

Charles Jean

The first Allied troops were American and . . . American and French. In Thiers.

David Boder

[In English] So how did the French troops from there leave, right there after the . . . . . . Now how did it come out? There were French troops. That I know, where were they during that time? [aside to interpreter] Whose organization in France . . . Who was in the Maquis? [several voices talking at once] And the forces which came after . . . The troops who were landing in south France some weeks before . . . [more than one person talking] Our troops and especially in this town, the first Allied troops, regular troops were from Africa . . . [Boder and one other speaker talking simultaneously]

David Boder

[In English] And they were combined with the troops from Africa.

David Boder

So when the regular troops came in, did the Maquis continue to do partisan work? [unintelligible discussion off mic]

David Boder

Well, what are you doing now?

Charles Jean

[In French] Now, I am Engineer General Kahn's chauffeur and I'm very happy. I'm doing very well.

David Boder

[In English] [to interpreter] Well, that's good. And uh, how old is he?

Charles Jean

[In French] Thirty-one years old.

David Boder

[In English] Are you married?

Charles Jean

[In French] Yes.

David Boder

[In English] [to interpreter] Was he married before the war?

Charles Jean

[In French] Oh, no, no, not before the war. I only got married recently.

David Boder

[In English] He was alone . . . Were there many married Maquis?

Charles Jean

[In French] Oh, yes, many, many, many married men.

David Boder

[In English] Well, didn't their families get into trouble because of the Maquis?

Charles Jean

[In French] Oh, yes, yes, in Clermont-Ferrand, quite a few of our comrades found that their wives and their children had been bothered by the Gestapo because they themselves had joined the resistance. And we actually organized, for our comrades' wives in a place nearby . . . we organized in a hotel a sort of a shelter to take them in so they wouldn't be bothered and were under our protection. But the women had no active role with us. There were no women in our service, only the wives of our comrades who were being sheltered nearby.

David Boder

[In English] Well, and how did the general population treat the Maquis?

Charles Jean

[In French] Well, in Auvergne, the people were really nice to us. We basically had everything we needed. We went to the farms for supplies. We didn't have money, we used to pay . . . we had vouchers. Requisition vouchers that were paid back later. We did the same for tobacco as well as for automobiles. As for automobiles, we tried as often as possible to take cars from collaborators. I myself took General FerrÃ's [?] car, who was the one who commanded the mobile guards in Vichy. And since he was a known collaborator, I took his car. Or as we say in the Resistance, I "ripped off" his car in Vichy, and I turned it in to the Resistance, which was very helpful.

David Boder

[In English] Yes, now, here is another question. Where did the Maquis get their supplies?

Unknown person

[unknown person off mic] He told you. In the town.

David Boder

Yes, but where did they get their military supplies? [conversation off mic] Yes, did they have radio service?

Charles Jean

[In French] Oh, yes, we had radio service. We had a code. Actually, I myself didn't know the code. The Officer knew it. We used to communicate with London for the parachute drops and most of our arms especially came to us from what we could take off of the Germans. Because the AS [armÃe secrÃte: secret army?] was much better equipped with arms than we were ourselves because they were respected and the United Movements of the Resistance were much better armed than we were. We managed on our own, through our own means, you could say.

David Boder

[In English] All right, I thank you very much for this . . . [unintelligible]

David Boder

[In French] Thank you very much.