In this document we present to you testimonys relating to the captain Jean Marie Mercier, major of the strengthened work of Metrich (A17, SF Thionville) in 1940.
These testimonys have as a subject Metrich, the camp of Elzange, (camp of the strengthened works of Metrich, Billig and their intervals) and the city of the officers of Elzange.
It are offered to our consultation by Jacques Mercier, the son of the captain, and cordially let us thank we it.
The not deciphered parts are noted by: [-]
June 1, 1941. I write Whit Sunday today. Time is beautiful. Why sums us still here whereas would our presence be so useful elsewhere? For how long sums us condemned to to live still here? We have well the hope to re-examine France soon! But it is not a certainty. However it is necessary [-] favorably. For my share, I see myself returned before the end of the year; quite front, in August for example, I will be auprès of you for August 28! Why not? Here soon a year that I am here! Time passes and that things have been held for one year. One year ago I was still with the work, trustful in our success in spite of the German advance in North. It is only on June 13 that I started to include/understand. With this date we remained abandoned in our works, alive on the reserves and awaiting surrounding. I had still confidence despite everything. On June 15, on order, of detachments left the works, they were not far. The 17 we were to leave too. The colonel [-], on agreement with its neighbors decided some differently. Our mission was to resist until the exhaustion of the ammunition. There was only to carry out it. With regard to the work about Metrich, we were so to speak not worried by the enemy. However it was around us. The 15 one [-] to be [-] Nancy; I knew since that he had arrived. The 16, German were in Nancy We were blocked, but decided with resistance. Us could hold 3 months. Until the armistice we have drawn. We were also bombarded, but us risked anything with 40 meters under ground. There was thus nothing low register for us. Our only concern was the fate families. On June 17, the TSF taught me that them German had crossed the Seine in Melun and with Fontainebleau. Or were you then? It was the beginning [-] I then remained 13 nights without sleeping. On June 26, after the armistice, I have a glimmer of hope. In close part, I heard the colonel of the conditions armistice: we would not be prisoners. I in cried of joy. Alas! my satisfaction was of short duration. The gun had been keep silent. The sun lit the beautiful one Lorraine countryside but we were always there waiting that our fate was regulated. On June 30 we learned that the commission of Wiesbaden had decided that us let us be interned. It is colonel Marion (?) who was useful of liaison officer, we dedicated it to the hells! It was necessary to yield the place to German. All our efforts, all the work of several years went thus to pass in other hands! However, them German ensured us that our internment would be short. The war was going to finish, English would be beaten before 6 weeks. The general von Liking [-] Cdt. the 45ème army corps thus regulated the conditions of our departure. - To honour firm perseverance with the troops Maginot line the officers would leave the weapon in white (sic). We carried our luggage. The departure was fixed at July 4 morning. The troop ravelled in front of the colonel. Moving moment. We were overcome and it had to be given up the ground that us were to defend. German was then very worthy. A German colonel attended the procession but it was not with him that the honors were returned. He was there only to represent the army which was going to occupy the works. No mortuary in its attitude. For our soldiers [-] they had still the pride not to have been bored. The enemies had been able to pass behind we but the line was intact. We were to embark in Besch (?), small station immediately after P [-] the way was done partly with foot for the troop. Personally I was transported by car because. De Besch (?) a train brought us to Trêves, our stay in this place was of short duration, 5 us it left to go to Mainz, where we did not remain that a few hours on July 6 and the 7 we were in Nienburg which I never left since. The oflag X B, a field of 10 hectares, about square, with some buildings to shelter us a belt of barbed wires supervised by some sentinels. Our life, I have it already summarily exposed. Since July 7 it did not vary. Of Nienburg I know only the way of the station With the camp to have done it once. When I it will remake in the other direction, it will be certainly for to return to France. How it is as quickly as possible! The beginnings were painful. Piled up to 24 in one room in full summer. Like bed a straw mattress on boards. Like food, the morning a cup of glandine (juice of nipple). At midday one mess tin of soup or a dozen apples of ground with a sauce plate. Never of meat. Drink: water. The evening a small piece of sausage (of liver of fish, or roll or of pork rind). It was all. No physical exercises but with this mode there one should not fatten. My grease founded, my weight decreased. That was nothing, it was the lack of news who tortured me over all. I had written on July 6 of Mainz a special chart, but I had not been able to give my address. The 11 I had written a chart with Fontainebleau (it was to arrive only it September 11). We remained then until the 11 August without writing. We could then send one chart in free zone; I wrote in Tonneins with all chance On August 20 even authorization even destination given to my correspondence. I was not fortunately not the only one with being private news. Which joy when I finally received on September 30 a first letter of Clermont. You were unscathed after all the adventures which you have of undergoing. It was the main thing.
Jean Marie Draper.
Born in Fontainebleau (77) on September 14, 1900, he is the son of the captain Pierre Mercier (casualty in Rheims September 1914 and deceased in January 1915) and of Suzanne DUCHESNE.
Married on August 28, 1922 with SMALL Fontainebleau with Mrs. Georgette (1901-1989). Two children: my sister Janine (1924-1985) and myself (born in Fontainebleau in 1931).
Engaged at 18 years, it makes the military academy of Maixent Saint.
After the garrisons of Paris, Quimper and Fontainebleau, in 1936, promoted captain, it is transferred to Thionville with the 168eRIF (Regiment of Infantry of Fortress).
In 1937-1938 it is affected with the strengthened work of Metrich (A17 - SF Thionville) and lives, with its family, with - city of the officers of the camp of Elzange
In 1939 it is transferred to Bitche (SF Rohrbach) then turns over to Metrich to the 167eRIF (the 168eRIF of the time of peace was divided into 167,168 and 169eRIF) in the capacity as Major d' Ouvrage (officer associated with the commander of work).
Following the conditions of armistice of June 1940, it is made prisoner on July 4, 1940. With his comrades it then leaves for Oflag X B Nienburg Oder Weser, (its number: 1145. Room 4. Hut 6) from where it leaves its family without news during 2 or 3 months.
It is released in 1943, for health reason, the Oflag mode having made him lose 30kg!
After 1944 and until 1947, year when it takes its military retirement, always captain he is Major de Garnison with Clermont Ferrand.
During the 15 following years, and until its retirement in 1962, he is inspector with the New Transport of the Parisian (Brittany area), and domiciled Press with Pornichet (44).
He is Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, just like his father the captain Pierre Mercier and his grandfather the captain Jacques Mercier!
In 1936, when my father (the captain Jean Marie Draper) was transferred on the Maginot line, we started from Fontainebleau, for Thionville. I remember any more neither of the apartment (53 Boulevard du Maréchal Foch) nor of the city! I did not preserve precise memories of this time, I were 4 years old, 5 years. My only memory is my school of - good sisters, who learned how to me to knit!
In 1937-1938, we lived it - quoted of the officers of camp of Elzange close to the strengthened work of Metrich (SF Thionville) where my father was affected. I remember very well the house and I could still draw the plan of it. In bottom: entry, living room, dining room, kitchen, toilets; on the floor: room of the parents, room of my sister, my room, bathroom; with the top: attic and room of good. We did not have the good one but one - ordinance which was called Julien and with which I was very buddy.
In this city, I remember the commander Roy, the Chertier captain, the captain of Teyssonnière and lieutenant Mangin. I played much with the girl of this last: Micheline Mangin, who was to have 5 or 6 years.
I went to school in Elzange. By which means of transport? Perhaps my father accompanied me it on his bicycle (there was a small additional saddle on the framework). We did not have a car. The commander Roy, had of them one to him and his/her son Serge (16 years), to undoubtedly impress my sister (15 years), had led this car a little, to the ditch nearest. The teacher was originating in Provence and it described us the marvellous fruits which push appears he in this area.
In connection with fruits, to the city of the officers, a fruit merchant and vegetables spent each day, in a cart drawn by a horse.
I often heard of the work of Métrich, Cattenom and this funny of Adolf Hitler which did not have interest to come to trail its gaiters by there!
In 1939, we left to Bitche, 4 rue des limes, not far from the church, since I saw of it the reflection in the window of the staircase, when I opened it according to a certain angle, thus discovering the laws of the reflexion. I went to catechism close to this church and school not very far. In general, my buddies did not speak French (except in class).
I remember funerals of the son of the pastrycook of Bitche, which was to have my age. At that time, it was not rare that the children do not reach the adulthood.
Sunday, we went to the pond of Hasselfurt.
At the beginning of September 1939: precipitated evacuation, I yet did not include/understand very well why. With only one bag per anybody, we very lost, including and especially my stuffed dog which had nothing any more but 3 legs and which was called - Dali. We took refuge in Fontainebleau, country of my family.
A problem: in Fontainebleau, the Lorraine refugees were not entitled to the gas mask distributed to the children of the schools. My mother thus was to make a scandal with the town hall: newborn with Fontainebleau, parents born in Fontainebleau. The mayor, overcome, has to yield lamentably and I thus could return to me then to the school with my portfolio and my gas mask, of October 1939 until June 1940.
It is then the exodus, to arrive, after various adventures, in cousins with Tonneins in the Batch and the Garonne. Then return to Fontainebleau, in occupied zone, about August or September. Our apartment had been plundered and we very lost, second once. Fortunately, this time, we did not have large-thing (and one ends up being accustomed).
Jacques DRAPER was born in 1931 in Fontainebleau. He is the son of the captain Jean Marie DRAPER (Elzange 1937-1938, Bitche 1939, Elzange 1940)
Married in 1953. Widower since 1983.
Two children: a girl doctor, an enquiring son (original cells) in the United States.
Three French grandchildren (including two already doctors). An American grand-daughter (9 years).
Draughtsman with the building sites of St Nazaire during 10 years. At Paris, 15 years engineer Alcatel. 15 years engineer Framatome (including 8 years detached in Bologna and 4 years at the ECA Saclay)
Reprocessed since 1992.
Kartoffelnberg (potato mountain, in German). It is the name given to this strengthened work built out of wood and fabrics at the time of a festival given to the camp of Elzange in 1938.
At that time the drudgery of potato pluches was famous and dreaded in the army.
I always preserved a very exact memory of this house of the city of the officers (camp of Elzange), in the least detail.
It rains, not desire for leaving, my nimble fingers pianotent on the keyboard of my computer and without too much thinking of it I type “maginot”. I obtain, inter alia, the site carried out by impassioned Maginot line: Raymond and Bernard Cima. Any chance, I send email… I have an answer… I excavate in my file and I find some photographs and documents, saved by miracle of the war and the successive removals.
And at the end of November 2008 I join with Thionville Raymond Cima and his wife, for a 2 days visit. We leave for Koenigsmacker then, a few kilometers further, I recognize immediately what is always called the city of the officers and I find my house which appears like new! Others seem to me degraded enough, empty. New constructions occupy the waste ground now opposite.
One photographs to me in front of at home, when the owner gets out of his car, slightly perhaps astonished. I explain the situation: 70 years of delay, my hair bleached, but I still have some. This lady, Marlène Mulas, really very pleasant and sympathizing, invite us at it.
Odd: the curtains are not any more the same ones; it there on TV, a refrigerator in the kitchen, but I find myself there perfectly: the living room, the dining room, kitchen. On the floor: the room of my parents, that of my sister. Surprised: my room became a big room of bath. The attic seems smaller to me: one arranged, beside the mansard-roofed room, a bathroom and a small living room.
Of only one blow, I renovated 70 years: more badly with the back, the knees, finished sciatica. This visit, it is better than a whole paracetamol tube. My cholesterol level passes brutally from 2,41 to 1,73 g/l, my blood-pressure is lower than 12. The walls realize of my presence, they preserved certainly the vibrations emitted by our gramophone, since I very distinctly hear the voices of Maurice Chevalier, Charles Trenet, Rina Ketty, Jean Sablon…
Hop! … I am ready to leap on my small bicycle to go to play with the buddies. In fact, not of small bicycle, but one embarks me in an extraordinarily futuristic automobile big car which takes me along as by magic towards the XXI ème century! …
It is thus possible, these machines to travel in time? I wonder what it could well occur between 1938 and 2008? Is Albert Lebrun always our President of the Republic? What a history.!!
We have a testimony
Some photographs of 1938
Document written in Oflag XB
Brief curriculum vitae, by his/her son Jacques Draper
Testimony on the city of the officers of the camp of Elzange
Prisoners in Germany
(wire of the Mercier captain) which makes us divide the splendid documents of this file.
One day old fortification
Jacques Mercier turns over in the city of the officers
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SF Thionville. Captain Draper (167eRIF Metrich); Realized starting from documents of Jacques Mercier that we thank warmly. ER Cima ©2008-2009
0_*; Related files; 1_*; Introduction; 3_*; Testimony of war; 4_*; Captain JM Mercier; 5_*; The city of the officers; 6_*; Camp of Elzange; 9_*; Departure towards Oflag XB; 11_*; 70 years later