Our story begins in 1939 in La Lorraine, France before the German Occupation of WWII. Simone moves to live with her Aunt Louise, while, German soldiers take possession of the Cannets’ home in the small village of Saint Germain. His home now occupied, Papa is forced to leave his wife, young daughters, and newborn sons to avoid death.
Marie and the German Cadet
Marie had been coming to Mama’s house almost every morning for the past year now, and she and Jean-Luc had become a part of the Cannet family. She helped around the house. The boys Ricard and Alexandre were growing very fond of her and Jean-Luc. Maurice was grateful to the Cannet family. Marie’s letters to Maurice were always full of life, happiness and stories about Jean-Luc and the boys. Mama appreciated her company and help, especially with Papa gone so much of the time.
In November, the temperature at night had cooled down quite a bit. Mama, out of concern for her children, worried about having ample firewood to heat the house and reduce the dampness when it rained. In order to conserve firewood, she would heat the kitchen using the stove.
The window panes had neither been repaired nor replaced after the explosion, although the Germans had requested it. Glass was difficult to find. Mama and Marie did their best to keep the house warm. They hung blankets over the windows to block the wind and shield them from the cold and rain.
Snow would be coming soon, and Papa was away most of the time now. Jeanne and Angelique would go out very early each morning to collect firewood before the Germans woke up. They kept a box of chopped up pieces of wood hidden in their bedroom.
The German officers showing only care for them, never bothered to ask Mama if she had firewood for her family. They would make a small fire inside Papa’s cave or in Mama’s garden. Sometimes Jeanne would find them cutting branches off Mama’s trees to burn. Mama tried not to get upset about it and pretended not to care about her garden, but everyone knew she did. They could hear her crying at night sometimes, especially when Papa could not make it back to the house.
They used the wood the Germans would give Mama to cook their meals sparingly. They dressed warmly and continued to use the stove to keep the kitchen warm during the day. Mama would place heated water bottles in their beds to keep the children warm. Marie would sneak extra wood for Mama using Jean-Luc’s carriage. Jean-Luc would ride to the Cannet house on top of the wood piled into his carriage covered with a blanket.
One of the young German soldiers staying at Mama’s house became completely infatuated with Marie. Cadet Klaus was always trying to get her to pay attention to him. He would attempt to start up conversations with her, but she would ignore him as much as possible. He made her nervous, though she tried not to show it. She avoided being around him alone and tried not to upset him.
It was a little game he played, and up until recently, had just been that. However, he was becoming more and more engaging. His advances towards Marie became a regular daily routine with him. The other younger soldier Bruns would encourage him to go after her for entertainment. The two of them would make sexual comments about her which only served to arouse Klaus further. After drinking especially, they would become vulgar, insulting and belligerent. Captain Hahn noticed their little games and did nothing to stop them. He was bored too and found their little games entertaining.
Cadet Bruns continued to encourage Klaus to pursue her.
“What are you waiting for Klaus __ an invitation?”
“Yes. I want her to like me.”
“I am sure that she does care for you because I can tell. You never know Klaus, one day she might just say yes to you.”
Klaus now smiling, “Do you think she does Bruns?”
“Sure. Why not. You’re a great catch Klaus.”
Feeling more confident, Klaus would become hopeful that Marie would change her mind about him, and that one day she would accept his advances.
It was beginning to make Marie extremely nervous. Mama would remind her to stay away from him and not bring attention to herself. Mama made sure that Marie was never left alone with the young cadets. Jeanne and Mama were always nearby for support in case something should happen.
Marie always dressed appropriately careful not to show her skin so that she did not increase or create more of an attraction than there already was. Papa tried to keep an eye on them when he was home and around town, but that became increasingly more difficult. His brother, Pierre, would check in on them from time to time when Papa could not make it home. It appeared to keep the situation under control, for the time being, and the next few months came and went without any conflict.
Winter and heavy snow came early that year, and Cadets Bruns and Klaus were now house bound and extremely bored. With nowhere to go, they remained stuck in the house through the Christmas holidays.
January 1942 came, and Papa had not been home in almost three months. The Germans had become restless and started drinking alcohol earlier in the day now, adding whisky to their coffee in the morning. By evening, they were loud, rude and easily agitated. Thankfully, usually by dinner time, they would be drunk and passed out in their chairs until morning or until Captain Hahn woke them up and told them to make their rounds.
Mama mentioned the drinking and their behavior to Lieutenant Adler several times, but he did nothing to stop it.
“What can I do Mrs. Cannet?” He told her. “They are young men. It is harmless entertainment I assure you.” He was also frustrated and bored with nothing to do.
One late afternoon in February, Cadet Klaus suddenly snapped. He grabbed Marie around to face him and screamed at her in German. Mama did not understand what he said, but she knew he was infuriated. He pulled Marie closer and tried to kiss her on the lips, but she fought him off. He slapped her down on the floor. Marie feared for her life and began to cry. Mama told Jeanne to take the children to safety into the bedroom.
“Why are you crying?” He demanded to know. “Why don’t you like me?” He was growing angrier now.
“Do you think you are better than I?” He screamed at her.
Mama now panicked and fearful did not know what to do. She called out for help.
“Lieutenant Adler. You must do something, please.” Mama pleaded with him. “He is scaring her. Marie cares for my children so that I am able to cook for all of you.”
Hearing Marie’s screams, and fearing someone might get hurt, Field Marshall Nans came out to see what was going on. He overheard Mama’s pleas to Lieutenant Adler. The Cadets came instantly to the attention when Field Marshall Nans entered the room.
“Was hier vor sich geht.” (in German) “What is going on here?
“Verschwinden Sie drauBen kuhl.” (in German) “You two, get the hell out of here and go and cool off outside.” Field Marshall Nans shouted at them.
“Yes sir Commandant.” They both answered. They quickly grabbed their coats and scarves and left the house rather disgruntled. They talked about getting back at Marie, Cadet Bruns even more so. Later, as they walked back to the house, they noticed the baby carriage still parked in front of Mama’s house.
“I have an idea.” Bruns said.
Klaus watched as Bruns took a grenade from his bag and slightly loosened the pin then he placed it inside the carriage under the blanket.
Klaus, though still quite intoxicated realized what he was doing and said “Wait. Bruns what do you think you are doing?
Bruns just shrugged and laughed. “What she deserves.”
When Marie saw them come back in, she could not wait to go home. She quickly packed her things, said goodnight to Mama and the children and grabbed Jean-Luc. In her haste to leave, she placed Jean-Luc in the carriage without covering him up with a blanket until she was almost home. It was cold outside and had started to snow. She stopped the carriage and had Jean-Luc in her arms as she bent down to grab the blanket just as the grenade went off.
They all heard the sounds of the grenade going off and wondered what it was. Just the two German Cadets knew what had happened, and that Marie would not be coming back in the morning.
Papa and his brother Pierre found them in the street later that night. Marie and Jean-Luc never had a chance. It took all he had to stop the tears Papa felt inside his heart. His brother Pierre beside him becoming sick to his stomach vomited in the street.
Papa’s concern for the safety of his family, and the people of France grew as well as his hatred for the enemy.
Simone came home from working late at the shirt factory. The factory had been taken over by Germany recently out of necessity. Old and new German uniforms were mended, re-sized and sewn, and new ones made for newly appointed officers. Not a piece of article wasted. Every button and remnants were reused to make new uniforms. Simone was tired of working on the same fabrics and colors of Germany day after day.
After work, she met Maurice and her friends for drinks. Raymond, Lucie and her cousins had also shown up. They all suggested going dancing, and Simone, of course, could not refuse. She returned to Aunt Louise’s house about 1:00 am. As she approached the front of the house, she noticed candlelight faintly through the parlor room window.
“Who was still up at this hour.” Simone wondered. It was very unusual. She quietly entered through the front door and heard voices faintly coming from the living room parlor and went in to investigate.
Simone heard Aunt Louise speaking, and she immediately recognized the other voice as her Papa. She rushed into the parlor calling “Papa, Papa… Is it you?”
Simone suddenly froze and stared at her father sitting in the parlor; a sick feeling stirred inside her. She could see the look on their faces and sense that something terrible had happened.
“Papa, what is it?” Simone cried, almost afraid to ask. “Is it Mama?”
Papa rushed up and wrapped his arms around his daughter, so thankful that no harm had come to his children. He told her what had happened to Marie and Jean-Luc. He wanted to take her home to help take care of Mama and the children. He did not want to leave Mama alone with the Germans. He was concerned for Mama’s safety now more than ever before.
“Come on Simone.” Papa told her. “Pack a bag quickly. We must go now before daylight.”
Simone was not at all prepared to see what she saw when they arrived at Saint-Germain. She looked around in horror as even in the dark of the night, she could sense the war around her more so than she had in Nancy. Suddenly, fear took over. With urgency, she hurried to get there. She wanted to get home. She started to run. Papa was right behind her calling her name. She stopped just in front of the house absorbing what she saw. She saw the devastation. The roof was partially gone, and Mama’s beautiful garden was destroyed.
Papa caught up to her and put his arms on her shoulders. He could feel her shivering. As he held her, she began to cry.
Papa took her to the barn so that they could talk. “We must be very quiet Simone so that we do not wake up the German soldiers.”
“What do you mean Papa?” Simone asked. “Are the Germans here in our house?”
Papa nodded and began to explain to her how Commandants had taken their home as their local headquarters. He told her that they were living upstairs in the attic and had also taken the cave for their use so that they could store their food and other supplies to control the rations for troops in the area. They had been here since a year ago early in February.
Simone was angry and scared, but she understood now why Papa had wanted her to come home. While Papa had not planned to, he told her that he and others had joined the French resistance.
Simone wanted to go out and help Papa, but of course his answer was “No”.
“No, it is much too dangerous. You would be more useful here with Mama than with us right now.”
Simone hated the thought of the war and the German soldiers coming to their home. She preferred to daydream of happier times and prayed for the day when the war would be over. Papa did lift her spirits when he surprised her with a special treat, an American chocolate bar, and told her to share with her sisters.
Papa spent most of the night with Simone in Saint-Germain. They talked quietly for hours. Simone told Papa about Raymond. He asked her where they had met and what he did for a living. He asked all the questions that a father would ask a daughter about the man she was becoming involved.
“Do you care for this young man Simone?” Papa asked.
“Yes, Papa. I guess I do, very much. He is a kind man.” Simone answered.
Papa decided to tell Simone that there was no need to be suspicious of Lucie. He explained that she was part of one of the most important members of the French Resistance. The group in the Alsace region had located the concentration camp where Jews and fighters for the cause were kept prisoner. The prisoners were then either beaten, tortured or killed. Natzweiler-Struthof camp was located in the Alsace region approximately thirty miles from Strasbourg. She and Maurice worked closely networking and sharing vital information between both the two regions. He told her that Lucie, Maurice, Alfred and the rest of his team helped to free 5,000 Jews so that they could escape to Southern France.
“Simone… Do you know if anyone in your group of friends ever mentioned a ‘Doc’ person in any conversations? Papa asked.
“I don’t think that I do Papa…But..wait…Yes. I do remember that night we met at a dance hall, I thought I heard Conrad call Raymond ‘Doc’ when he first came up and joined us at the table. Do you think one of them is a spy?”
“I am not sure Simone. We will find out I promise you that. In the meantime, do not let Raymond think that we suspect him of anything. We must not make him nervous and feel threatened that you know. He may have been one of the saboteurs to a recent mission. If that is true, he will be dangerous.” Papa said.
“Oh Papa.” She told him. “It cannot be true. We have been getting closer. I think I care for him very much. We have spent time together, and I don’t think he could be that person. Raymond is a good person Papa, and I cannot believe that I misread him.” Simone went on as she began to feel the full weight of what Papa was saying to her. She wanted to cry.
Before they could continue the conversation, they heard the creaking of the barn door and looked up to see Mama. She had heard voices coming from the barn and came out to find out who it was. She found Simone and Papa sitting together on a pile of hay drinking a glass of beer. Upon seeing Simone, Mama rushed over to hug her daughter. Both of them were now crying. The tears started again. They sat together and talked for another hour.
Papa realized he needed to get going. He hated to leave them, but he was nearing the rendezvous time with Maurice. Papa got up to tell them both goodbye.
“It is getting late. The sun will be up soon. I must go.”
He and Maurice’s team had a planned mission early in the morning. He did not mention it to Mama, but he just asked her to be careful. She nodded and confirmed to Papa that they would not stay out long and would go to bed directly.
Papa kissed his daughter and whispered to her. “Please be careful.”
“I will let you know what we find out, and please look out for your mother and the children for me Simone when I am gone. I will return when I can.”
“Yes, of course, Papa. How will I find you if we need you?”
“My brother Pierre will know where to find me Simone.”
Simone hugged her father again near tears now and fearful for his safety as well as her family. “Take care Papa.”
Papa was not sure, but in his mind, he knew that either Conrad or Raymond –‘Doc’ was a traitor to France and cause to liberate its people. He hoped that Simone was correct and that Raymond was not a traitor. The thought of Conrad or Raymond using his daughter to get to the information about Maurice and the others did not sit well with him, and someone would pay for what they were attempting to do.
Before leaving to meet up with his team, Andre kissed Simone and Georgette goodbye once more. They must always be very careful of whom they spoke to and allowed into their group. They had all agreed not to allow anyone else into their small team for fear of being caught or betrayed. He was going to share with the group his concern about Simone’s possible connections with Raymond and Conrad.
Andre wondered about Raymond too. He was a friend of Conrad, and he was a dentist. Could he be the one they called Doc? Could he be part of a plan to infiltrate their team using Simone? The coincidence was too great not to tell the team. There were those that would betray their comrades to the Gestapo. Cowards that would trade information for what they thought would bring them freedom. Instead, they and those that they informed on would be shot and killed.