Bernard PONS President from 1966 to 1976
Born in Poland, he came to France between the two wars. The country he had chosen as his new fatherland, he knew even before seeing it. This country he knew it through literature works and History. Humanist and defender of righteous causes, France represented to him the symbol of freedom and of the Human’s Rights. As a great Connoisseur of Arts, Paris attracted him particularly. His hobby was painting and the painters where numerous to consider him as a trusted friend. When broke ww2, in September 1939, he thinks that his place is at the side of its adopted country to fight against nazism and for the honor of the Jewish people. His behavior under the uniform and then in the ranks of the partisans had been exemplary. He was decorated with War Cross and was knighted “Chevalier of the Honor Legion”.At the very end of the war, at the capitulation of the hitlerian Army, Bernard Pons is among the first to found our Union. From the very beginning he has a major position in the HQ of the Association…During long years as vice-President and the ten last years as President.
There is no accomplishment to which Pons has not anticipated . Everywhere he put his print. The memorial, the publication of the album at the occasion of the 10th anniversary...
he obtained the drawing from Chagall that constitute the prolog of the book.In presence of Pons it’s impossible to get bored. He provoked discussions. As an intelligent man with culture, getting interested to all problems of life, there is no subjected on which he had no advice… Honest and righteous man, disinterested, he always acted in the spirit of the Union… The situation in the Middle-East and the Israel-Arab war worried him strongly. Ardent defender of Israel and admirer of the young state’s accomplishments, Pons always worked in order that the solidarity between our organization toward Israel should translate the feelings of the majority of the members.
With the death of Bernard Pons the Union just lost a valuable and quite irreplaceable comrade, a leader of great organization, a president at his task’s level.
Extract of Isi Blum’s speech Union’s general assembly, October 24th 1976. Published in « Notre Volonté » November 1976
Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur
Our comrades learned with joy that one of our Union’s founder and its devoted Vice-President since many years, Bernard Pons, was just knighted “Chevalier” in the order of the “Légion d’Honneur”. This distinction is deserved by Bernard’s behavior in the Resistance. Let’s publish for this occasion the story of an extraordinary feat of our comrade… In September 1944, the 18,000 men from the German division under general Elster, stationed between Levet and Châteauneuf surrendered to the allies without trying to fight… What is not known, is that two French partisans are at the origin of this total surrender. Two men who accomplished one of the most extraordinary and most daring missions of the war: Bernard Pons and Raymond Launay…
In September 1944 the 2,500 partisans of the Cher “maquis” created in 1943, just had formed the 1st regiment of Berry, which keep setting ambushes for the enemy in the whole Bourges region. The morning of September 6th , the lieutenant Launay captured a German Red-Cross convoy filled with weapons. The German Medical Officer made prisoner reveals that the German soldiers’ moral is at the lowest. The Elster division, stationed between Levet and Châteauneuf, are in a precarious strategic situation, due to the approach of the allies troops and to the partisans’ guerillas. So, that very day, at 5pm, the colonel Hubert commanding the 1st RPB, highly interested with this information decide to tempt an intimidation maneuver. If it succeed a lot of blood French and allied as well could be saved. Hubert asks Pons and Launay to meet with the German HQ and to deliver a note to the general Elster which says: “ Surrender. You have lost. And we know that you don’t believe in the victory anymore.”
Hardly had he a look at the message from the “maquis” that the general flew into a violent rage: “ I do not understand a word in your note! Exclaimed he in French. We have no intention at all to surrender and the war isn’t lost yet !…Are-you then the terrorists who keep shooting on our troops? Where are your ambushes?” As Pons and Launay remained silent, the general murmured: “France I cannot ask you military secrets - And he added this terrible sentence – But I don’t recognize the “maquis”
“Make them blow up!”
Then he addressed the officers around him and said in German: “What do we do with them? – The answer came immediately – make them blow up!” Only one of the partisans, Pons understood German. He did not shake. Cold as a diplomat he tried to bargain his friend’s life like his own. “General – said he - one of our formation has stopped this morning a red Cross convoy of yours that was filled with weapons! But I can commit to obtain from my colonel to agree to free the prisoners…” These words probably saved the two French partisans. After a short reflexion, Elster accepted the proposal and commanded the two men to be reconducted at the very place where the contact had been established. When they reached the place, the German officers asked them whether they succeeded in their mission. At the negative answer from the partisans they said: “Shade!” (shame!)… Five days later, Elster surrendered. The note had made its work…
Jacques Gergeal ( Ce Matin-Le Pays August 15th 1948 )Published in « Notre Volonté » N° 103 June 1965