Today is the 20th of march 1942, Catherine and her son Andre come to visit Catherine's brother, Christophe Le Meur. There have been moments where Christophe disappeared and reappeared, this time feels different, this time feels like the last...
The first time Christophe reappeared, he was 18. Catherine was married, and ran with her husband a small hostel in Villejuif near Paris. Christophe arrived from Brittany, where the rest of the family lived. He was ready to see the world, and Catherine welcomed her brother with open arms, with her young son Andre.
Christophe worked here and there, he joined the communist party and the CGTU, the united General Confederation of labour, and in 1936, he was ready to see more. Spain was at war, General Franco was threatening the country, Christophe joined the international brigades and left to fight Franco's army, to protect a country in the middle of a civil war. This was a country he knew little about, yet fighting fascism was all that mattered,
War wasn't kind to Christophe, he was shot in the leg. Back in France, at the Kremlin Bicetre hospital, the doctor who took care of him wanted Franco to win the war, he didn't want Christophe to use his leg again, to come back there. The hippocratic oath was apparently on hold during the Spanish civil war. So Christophe reappeared to Catherine in September 1937 with a limp, yet still with the will to see more of the world.
In may 1940, Christophe came back once more, this time with a truck. France lost the war, the german army was marching to Paris, the french army was running away, so was the french population. Christophe took his aunt, his sister Josephine and the kids and brought them all as south as possible. Catherine prefered to stay behind, she didn’t want to lose her house, and her son was already safe in Brittany. Nevertheless, this was the beginning of the exodus, for Christophe and Catherine this was the start of the resistance.
Resisting takes many shapes, one is to gather intel and inform. Christophe distributed communists leaflets in the streets whenever they could, hidden in rabbit hutches, this was their way of resisting. A year later, on the night of the 21st of April 1941, Christophe's luck ran out, he was chased by the police with a friend, Jean Couliou. He was arrested, his friend Jean escaped. This time, Christophe didn't come to his sister with a truck, Jean came to alert them that the police was coming. Catherine destroyed any evidence, she was saved, but Christophe was caught.
Condemned to 8 months of prison, Christophe did the time, and stayed in jail afterwards, transforming from prisoner to administratively detained… he was to live in a camp, until further notice.
And now, they meet again, in prison. Catherine wants her son Andre to spend as much time as possible with his uncle. For half an hour, they discuss, about school, home, rabbits, anything, and Catherine waits. Christophe is hopeful, he knows this won’t last long, he believes he’ll be free very soon. Catherine doesn't know what they talk about, anything is good to Catherine. She only asks for Andre to give his uncle some chocolate, and a letter hidden in the package.
A policeman sees the letter, he comes to Catherine and Andre. This would be enough for Catherine to join her brother in prison. But the policeman couldn't possibly do that, not after he saw a man and his nephew talking maybe for the last time. So he let Catherine and Andre go. This is also what resisting meant in nazi occupied France, protect the families.
Thank you for listening to this episode of 3100045000, my name is Matthieu Landour Engel.
This episode was about Christophe Le Meur, who was born in Brittany, on the west coast.
Christophe Le Meur was a member of the communist party and joined the international brigades, a group of international soldiers who volunteered to fight alongside the republican spanish government against the nationalist forces, led by general Franco. I will explain this further in a later episode, but the republicans lost the battle and Franco ruled the country for nearly 40 years. Christophe was hurt on the right leg during his time in Spain and never fully recovered.
It is worth mentioning that Christophe Le Meur worked briefly at the Humanity newspaper, a communist newspaper, which was forbidden at the same time as the communist party. He worked there as a guard or night guard. He became close to a communist deputy, Marcel Cachin. It is known that Christophe hid some of the communist party archives in his own garden, as the communist party was forbidden.
The 1940 exodus was a massive flux of civilians, from France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. As the german army was invading France and its neighbours, there was a movement of panic and a quarter of France left their homes to move south, mostly without a specific destination in mind.The roads were filled with carts, cars, families, fleeing soldiers, thus creating a grand scale chaos. 8 to 10 million people, not including the soldiers, were on the roads, it was one of the biggest exodus in the century. I will explain this further in a later episode. In the case of Christophe Le Meur and his family, they moved south by truck, and reached Thouars, almost 400 kilometers south west.
I took liberties regarding Christophe and Catherine Le Meur. I suppose Christophe wanted to see the world, I suppose Cathering wanted her son to know more of Christophe. I can’t prove any of that.
Yet I was lucky to have a discussion with Andre Le Breton himself, the son of Catherine, the one who met Christophe in prison for half an hour. He told me about Christophe, his mother, himself. He saw Christophe as his older brother rather than an uncle, he felt protected by him. In 1944, Andre was only 14 but he fought alongside the resistance in Villejuif and helped barricading the streets. He truly was an impressive young man. I wish to thank him, as well as his daughter Christine.
My sources for this story are the website Memoire Vive, the book Red triangles in Auschwitz by Claudine Cardon Hamet and wikipedia.
Thank you very much for listening to this episode, next episode will be about Robert Lambotte.