Descen­dants of French­men forced to fight for Germany seek recog­ni­tion

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It is 80 years since a Nazi decree forced 130,000 men from Alsace-Moselle to join the German army during WW2

A decree publi­shed on August 25, 1942, orde­red the conscrip­tion of young men from the annexed part of eastern France into the Wehr­macht and Waffen-SS.

Refer­red to as malgré-nous (despite ourselves), 130,000 men were draf­ted. Around 32,000 died and 9,000 more went missing. About 15,000 young women, dubbed malgré-elles, were conscrip­ted into forced labour.

A number of cere­mo­nies were held across Alsace for the 80th anni­ver­sary of the decree in August. In Ober­nai and Schir­meck, a 36 metre-long banner with the names and photos of 12,000 malgré-nous origi­nally listed as missing was displayed.

Amateur histo­rian Claude Herold, 66, traw­led through photos of 1.3 million missing soldiers from the German army made avai­lable by the German Red Cross, and copied each one with an E next to it, for Elsaß–Lo­thrin­gen (Alsace-Lorraine).

Three of Mr Herold’s uncles were forci­bly conscrip­ted – one died in Russia, another in Italy, and the third was decla­red missing in Poland – while his father’s cousin and three of his mother’s uncles also died.

“One of my uncles was first in the French army in 1940, and was draf­ted into the German army in 1943. Those who had been in the French army felt asha­med to wear the German uniform.

These young men had no choi­ce’

“These young men had no choice. If they refu­sed, their family was depor­ted and their property confis­ca­ted.”

Gérard Michel, president of Les Orphe­lins de Pères Malgré-Nous d’Al­sace-Moselle (OPMNAM), an asso­cia­tion for descen­dants of malgré-nous, never knew his father.

He was draf­ted in Novem­ber 1944, a month before the birth of his son: “My mother was heavily pregnant so he could not escape with her.”

OPMNAM was one of four asso­cia­tions to pay for the ‘wall of names’.

“When I was little, my grand­mo­ther would visit the Jardin de la Résis­tance in Schil­ti­gheim, where there were the names of those who died in the Résis­tance. My dad’s name was writ­ten nowhere. It’s like they never exis­ted.”


Wall of honour

There had been plans for a wall of names honou­ring all those from the region who died during the war to be built at the Alsace-Moselle Memo­rial museum in Schir­meck.

Follo­wing contro­versy over grou­ping the names of forced conscripts along­side those of Résis­tance figh­ters and depor­tees, the plans were shel­ved in favour of a digi­tal monu­ment which will provide more histo­ri­cal context. (……………….)

Article complet consul­table ici : https://www.connexion­­dants-of-French­men-forced-to-fight-for-Germany-seek-recog­ni­tion

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