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
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.connexionfrance.com/article/French-news/Descendants-of-Frenchmen-forced-to-fight-for-Germany-seek-recognition