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Remembering World War 2

It’s difficult when admiring the peaceful countryside we see today, to imagine the barbarity which went on in this part of the world around 80 years ago. German forces took over south west France and the reality which had to be faced by the people who lived here was unthinkable. And while the military heroes are deservedly saluted each year on days of commemoration, civilians (whose fathers, sons and brothers fought on the front line) and what they lived through, are often overlooked. Their discreet part in the war effort is largely unsung but their stories are equally, if not more, fascinating than their family members who fought in the armed forces.

Jean-Louis, the man from whom we bought our house in Gaillac, who remains a neighbour and friend, is one such witness to life during the war. His family lived on a farm near Toulouse when war broke out and he has clear memories of that time when he was just a young boy. He remembers the day when his family were visited by SS officers searching for resistance fighters and illegal weapons. They had apparently been tipped off by neighbours (such was the level of distrust at the time) and while walking around their home, one officer noticed a photograph of Jean-Louis’s father, Gaston, dressed in army uniform. The officer spat on the floor in contempt upon which six-year-old Jean-Louis also spat on the floor. His young patriotism was rewarded with a sharp tap on the cheek with the officer’s whip.

France is the most civilized country in the world and doesn’t care who knows it

John Gunther

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