My testimony about the Jewish resistance (Henri Broder)

The active or passive witnesses of the 39-45 war are disappearing from the 2000 horizon. It becomes an imperious duty for the survivors to testimony for the children and grand-children. For historian each testimony is important to help to the knowledge of the historical truth.The spirit of the partisans was mine as early as 1940 when my parents, Polish Jews naturalized French since 1928 accepted the to obey the Vichy laws and went to declare themselves at the quarter commissariat. I was then 17, integrated, without any knowledge of Judaism, I felt and I wanted myself totally French… I felt completely integrated in the French Nation and it’s republican values. It was out of question  to go with my parents to the police and to have the “Jew” stamp on my identification card. The only option left was to pass into the “free zone”. We succeeded to cross the line in the Montchanin area, near Le Creusot. Without any help, by chance, luck was with us.

At age 20 my goal was to join the active resistance, and I needed to find contacts. After several incidents painful for me, I decided to join the Jewish resistance.

I finally could get in contact in 1943 with Ernest Lambert, head of the Jewish resistance in Lyon.  He sent me to Toulouse. From there the captain Jacques (Jacques Lazarus) led me to the first Jewish “maquis” in the Bicques village. I became second to Pierre Lœb the new chief of that group; our mission was to train in the shortest time, young people from Belgium, Holland and France. We had to teach them discipline, manual of arms, and to give them the moral strength “to face”, our  motto... In the while, we also participated to ambushes organized by the leaders of the Tarn resistance. Our chief was lieutenant Raoul,head of a neighbour “maquis” and also member of the A.J. (Jewish Army), the partisans of Coubes. At the end of winter 1944, le headquarters of the Tarn partisans decided to gather the maquis of Bicques and Coubes at Jasses-en-Marinou near Lacaune.

On April 22nd we were attacked by the Germans. During the night, 30 trucks from Hérault and more than 20 other from Castres delivered their troupes on the hills around the partisans. It was a total surprise.  The enemy had heavy weapons and we had just our light “Sten” guns. We retreated after a strong resistance that killed 53 among the Germans and left numerous wounded soldiers...

On June 6th was the D day in Normandy; we moved to the Nore pike where gathered the Tarn partisans. Levy-Seckel (Leblond), the chief of the A.S. (secret army) in Labastide-Rouairoux  became our lieutenant. We formed a Jewish platoon integrated under the command of the lieutenants Raoul and Leblond. I was promoted “Marechal des logis-chef and  Pierre Lœb was promoted “adjudant-chef”. To save our specificity we wore white and blue ribbons on the epaulettes of our uniforms. We wanted to show the Jewish presence in the resistance. Our captain de Kervaoâl wrote about us: « A platoon composed only by young Jews, with the partisans for long (...) they form a coherent group, disciplined which produce the best impression...»We have participated to all the guerilla actions against the milicians and the Germans.On July 14th 1944, Bastille day, we marched in Revel and in Dourgnes, small towns in Tarn, under the acclaims of the inhabitants, making run away the Germans still present. July 20st a dozen German planes  flew over the region and their bomb killed many of us... Two planes are hit by our weapons though. The commandant Montpezat commanded a general retreat. Thirty of our comrades were taken prisoner by the enemy, out of which 26 were gunned. Including them, the total of losses reached 50 in our ranks.

With Levy-Seckel we try to escape the surrounding on July 25th .   On July he went scouting. Arrested by the SS he was gunned. Pierre Lœb took over the command of our platoon.  Until September 8th we fought many fights against the German moving back from the South, inflicting them heavy losses.

Henri Broder (extracts)   Published: Notre Volonté N°16 Oct-Nov-Dec 1997