French version here

Violette's story

Paris is occupied

Photograph of Violette during the occupation I have not been a war victim as so many have been. But my parents and I did suffer in Paris from 2 September 1939 to 8 May 1945, and being a 'real' Parisian you can be sure that I was present at the delirious celebrations of our deliverence in the 'Champs Elysees'.

We remembered that fateful day, the 14 June 1940, the day of the entry of the German army in Paris...

Even till the day before, Parisians were saying that it was 'a load of manure': the 'boches' at the doors of the capital? Impossible! But it rained, black rain, making even cherries from our own garden uneatable, our clothes and umbrellas stained forever: the tankers of fuel surrounding Paris were on fire.

On the 14 June, 'they' were really there. I will see them marching until my last day, as I first saw them, alone on the sidewalk of the 'Boulevard Haussmann' at 8am, going to my office. 'They' were parading. Neat. Impeccable. Looking straight ahead of them, ignoring all. Again at midday, 'they' were parading. The evening 'they' were parading; and the following day; and two days later, 'they' were parading!!!
With horror, we watched them. And just that evening, two officers came to make contact with my Father because he was Director of water supplies for the town.

The next week, the whole of Paris and its suburbs were occupied and all shops were emptied. They paid, they were correct, but the 'lack of anything and everything' had arrived and settled and lasted more than 5 years... becoming worse each day. Coupons appeared for everything: bread, meat, grocery, clothes, coal... In fact, if you look at my last ration-book(23kb image), you can see that the rationing lasted for about ten years!(until 1949)

We were hungry, we were cold. Parisians went into the public squares to gather chestnuts, dead leaves, branches, any wood that we could burn, in houses built without chimneys, in home-made braziers we made with old tins and flower-pots that radiated a little heat, with the smoke evacuated by a pipe led out of the kitchen window. Soon the fronts of apartments were stuffed with these makeshift chimneys and stained by soot of all colors.

The black market was born. Everything could be bought or sold. I had colleagues who sold their wedding-ring to buy the food for their husband or son, in captivity or taken away.

In addition to these dark days of a lack of everything, there were bombings... Most unforgettable to me was that of the 3 March 1942, aimed at the Renault Factory in Boulogne by the RAF which lasted 2 and a half hours. Eight high explosive bombs of 500kgs (1,000 pounds) each, fell around our shelter built with skilled hands by my Father who had served in the "Military Engineers" in 1914.

In 1944 Boulogne was recovering from its wounds, but the railway complexes, such as La Chapelle, Noisy-le-Sec etc... were the 'target of the day' and especially the target of American flying fortresses 'carpet bombing' which was even more rapid and destructive.

Then came the 6th of June 1944 and the landings in Normandy. But that is another story.

Violette Wassem
July 1997

Violette has written other stories about this period :

This story has been translated by her grand-nephew Alexandre.
You can ask her some question if you click here to write to him.

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