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Abbeville Massacre - by French Troops 1940

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by scipio, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. scipio

    scipio Member

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    I have been trying to put together all the bits and pieces I can find on this massacre which does not seem to be well documented - probably because it was caused by retreating French Troops.

    On 15 May the prisons of Bruges in Belgium were overflowing with "fifth columnists" and with the approach of the German Army the 79 suspects were despatched to Abbeville in France.


    The convoy included Leon Degrelle - the well known Belgian Fascist. He was lucky; he was recognised and dragged out and beaten-up by French soldiers and handed over to the Sureté.

    Also included was Joris Van Severen, head of a party called Verdinaso, very right wing and advocates of Greater Belgium (based upon Charlemagne's "Frankish -Flemish" Empire of 800ish). This party, however, was very anti-German.

    The remainder were a very mixed bunch:

    14 Germans, 6 Dutch, 3 Luxembourg, 9 Italians, 2 Swiss, 1 French man (from Alsace - with a German accent), 1 Austrian, 1 Czech and 1 Canadian - Robert Bell, Ice-Hockey Coach.

    The remainder were of unknown nationality - in most cases lack of "papers" had been sufficient to get them incarcerated.

    This motley group arrived in Abbeville on night of 19th may 1940 and for want of anything appropriate were locked in the cellar of a large shop. An unfortunate Belgian who had refused to join the French Army was added to the group.

    On the very next day, 20 May Guderian's Panzers arrived.

    Capitan Marcel Digeon (Major rank in the US or British Army) and his 5th Company, 28th Regional Regiment was in charge. He orders Sgt Mollet to dispose of the prisoners.

    Mollet was uncomfortable and returns to Dingeon who this time is more explicit "shoot the lot" is the answer.

    To get it over with a French soldier throws a grenade into the Cellar but it does not explode. Then Lieutenant Rene Caron, whose Platoon is involved and who is believed to be drunk, joins the group.

    The prisoners are taken out and shot in groups of two and four.

    A total of 21 are summarily murdered without even an attempt at a Courts Martial.

    The slaughter is only stopped when another French Officer, Lieutenant Leclabart also of 28th RR comes by - "are you mad" he exclaims and stops the massacre.

    Too late to save the 20 men and one old lady who have already been executed. Those executed included, a Benedictine Brother (but German), four Anti-fascist Italian Refugees, the driver of the transport (shot by mistake) and the Canadian Ice Hockey Team Coach.

    The Germans set up Trial in 1941 but Capitan Dingeon committed suicide immediately prior to its sitting - it is unclear what happened to others involved.


    Obliged if any one can correct anything I have got wrong or omitted.
     
  2. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Citing your sources of information would be helpful for those of us who are unfamiliar with the topic.
     
  3. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Additional information (from a Flemish site:Review of :Het bloedbad van Abbeville ,by Gaby Warris)

    Gaby Warris was the last living survivor of the massacre,and wrote a book about the events in 1994.

    Her father was a Dutch protestant living in Bruges ans had influential enemies in Bruges,which was dominated by a francophone catholic establishment .On 10 may 1940,the police arrived at his house,but he was absent,being in Holland with his sick mother . Were present : 3 women :his wive,his daughter (18) and his mother-in-law;all were arrested and deported .

    79 persons were deported,arriving at Abbeville (21 were murdered),of which a German monk who was dement,and a Canadian !:Arthur Bell,who was the trainer of the German icehockey team,and had left Germany,to return to Canada .,2 spies and some criminals .

    I will look if the names of the 21 victims are available on the net .
     
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  4. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    The whole thing proved the usual incompetence of the Belgian authorities : between (!) 5000 and 10000 people (most innocent) were arrested by the local police,which was acting on own account ,for imaginary reasons (espionitis was ruling).The man who was responsible (Robert de Foy,chief of the Belgian security) was arrested by the Germans after the end of the war in the west,because a lot of German civilians had been deported,and several killed),but,after a few days,he was released on the order of R.Heydrich (chief of the SIPO/SD),because,before the war,he had collaborated with the Germans .
    After the war,de Foy again became chief of the Belgian security,and at his retirement,was given the titleof Baron .
     
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  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The summary executions of suspected fifth columnists by Allied troops is one of the grubbier secrets of the World Wars.

    The stories of fifth columnists substantiated by the German use of troops in Dutch uniform on 10th May resulted in troops being very suspicious of civilians who looked or behaved in an odd way. The British accounts of 1940 include several eye witness accounts by allied soldiers, which are tantamount to confessions. One sniper in the Northamptonshire Regiment became convinced that the farmer was ploughing his field in a way to indicate the position of battalion HQ to German aircraft - so he shot him. One of the Guards Battalions (Welsh?) in Boulogne found a man dressed as a priest with a suspicious list of names in his bible so they threw him in the harbour and left him to drown.

    The same is true of the First World War. There is at least one account of a miller executed as a spy for "signaling to the Germans with the sails of with his windmill". I have seen enough references to spies being rounded up and shot as well as pictures in contemporary magazines to wonder what standard of justice was applied.

    I think some of the fears about fifth columnists and enemy sympathizers may have arisen from the politics of the 1930s which divided many countries. Sometimes this was left v right and sometimes it was along ethnic and linguistic lines, as in Belgium.
     
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  6. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    The best one was that the usual stupid one in Brussels ordered to remove the publicity panels of the chicory Pacha (there were thousands of them),because they were hiding secret messages for the Germans .

    It would be the same if in Britain all publicity for Guinness was removed :,because "Guinness is good for you" is a secret message for German para troopers,disguised as nuns .
     
  7. Belgam45

    Belgam45 New Member

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  8. Belgam45

    Belgam45 New Member

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    This old report is very limited, only partially correct and contains several serious mistakes. Though I have long been an American, I was born in French-speaking Belgium (liège) and possess many rare books in French about WW II. History has always been a key interest throughout my life, especially both World Wars, since my country of origin was a central point in the conflict each time on the Western front.

    One of those French books in particular covers the Abbeville "Kiosk Massacre" in extensive details, based on the surviving witnesses and the thorough records of the two separate trials conducted independently by the German occupation authorities and the French civilian authorities from July 1940 through early 1942. Written by a French historian born in Abbeville, this book tells the story of the first 15 days of German assault against Holland, Belgium and France initiated on May 10, 1940. Its principal focus is on "Operation Sichelschnidt," the southern panzer attack led by Guderian and Rommel that scythed through the Meuse at Sedan, then the along the valley of the Somme all the way to Abbeville and the North Sea just beyond. The Allies were trapped in what became the Dunkirk pocket. One of the book's several focuses is on the fate of Abbeville, and all the multiple tragic events that happened in and around the town between May 19 and May 25. The Kiosk massacre is covered in two extensive chapters with names, ranks, testimonials, movements, everything. It even includes the incomprehensible May 10 decision by the Belgian Government to instantly seize and imprison 80 residents suspected of fascist sympathies or outright espionage, mostly Belgian citizens, but not all; and then two days later, send them by bus from Bruges to be handed over to the French authorities for detention in Paris. The three buses proceeded though the Pas-de-Calais (Lille), then northern Picardy (Béthune), only to en up stuck in Abbeville late in the evening of May 19, the night before the massive German bombing attack on the city on May 20. In the general panic, the massacre occurred that day, all acted out by various local levels of French civilian and military authorities.

    If someone wishes me to publish a fuller account of this incredible but tragic accident of fate and human error, I'll be happy to oblige. Note: this is my first foray into this wonderful site, so I know little about its M.O. Suggestions welcome. December 28, 2017.
     
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  9. Belgam45

    Belgam45 New Member

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    The French book as source form above summary: "Le coup de faux, assassinat d'une ville" by Henri de Wally, Éditions Copernic, France 1980. English translation of French title: "The Scything Strike, Assassination of a Town."
     
  10. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Interesting topic. It brought to mind something I read a long time ago in Robert Crisp's account of his experiences in the Greek Campaign. He wrote that there was some sort of security person(s) in the British forces going around and shooting supposed "fifth columnists". These were people denounced by other local citizens and this security person shot the persons denounced without even an investigation. Crisp wrote that after the war he learned that this security person later committed suicide with the same revolver he used in the war. He had realized that most of the people he shot were innocent and that they had been denounced by personal enemies in order to get them into trouble.
     
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  11. Belgam45

    Belgam45 New Member

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    Thank you for your comment. Similar psychology, different local circumstances and country. It seems that in 1940, when a country was invaded by onrushing Nazi forces; the national army quickly dissolved, as the French army did, and so chaos mixed with lawless panic quickly spread in turn within the local authorities. In the Abbeville case, most of the local civilian authorities had fled by May 19, and on the morning of May 20, whatever local French military forces were left, didn't know what to do with the unfortunate 77 people that had bee imprisoned in the late evening the day before in the dark cellar of a music kiosk (!) in a park near the city center, this without food or water... And at 9 am on May 20, the Luftwaffe, led by waves after waves of Stukas, flattened the center of Abbeville over a period of eight hours... The massacre took place during that morning, between bombing waves. Al least a more self-controlled French officer, alerted to what was going on, stopped the killing after 21 people had already died. Interestingly, as in your story, the French Captain who gave the original verbal order to "kill them all" eventually shot himself with his own gun before facing a French judge for sentencing in 1941. His two main co-conspirators were sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad that same year.
     

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