Georges Villard, Charente who survived the death camps

He was arrested on December 23, 1943, at the same time as 500 other residents of Isère. Because the Villard family had settled in Seyssinet, on the outskirts of Grenoble, a few years before. He is a shoemaker’s apprentice, a specialty of this region. He is only 18 years old.

“We were arrested in retaliation…

He was arrested on December 23, 1943, at the same time as 500 other residents of Isère. Because the Villard family had settled in Seyssinet, on the outskirts of Grenoble, a few years before. He is a shoemaker’s apprentice, a specialty of this region. He is only 18 years old.

“We were arrested in retaliation after the assassination of the oberscharführer (adjutant) of Grenoble. » At that time, the Alpine capital was nicknamed the Red City, which is a consequence of the communist influence. “But I was in passive resistance. I was passing words through the handlebars of my bike, nothing more. »

The body is healing. But the head, never completely.

Nevermind. Georges Villard was first deported to Compiègne. There are almost 100 of them per car, crammed together. He will stay there for 20 days, in transit. On February 11, 1944, he was deported to Buchenwald. Long train ride again. In terrible conditions where the weakest die because they cannot breathe. All without food and drink. “I had the opportunity to meet the doctorsays the old man, whose memory is still alive. He advised me to drink my urine and stand near the air vent on the floor to breathe. This is what saved me in these four days of travel. »

A human being becomes a machine

From his living room, in his beautiful house in Suris, Georges Villard remembers everything. Even when he says that “It was 80 years ago, it’s all a long time ago”. It is impossible to forget the worst that a person can experience. Like those exiles who fell under SS bullets when the train left, and the weakest did not return. Or this arrival at the Dora camp, in central Germany, where thousands of deportees from all over Europe are busily building a tunnel. Georges Villard spent 43 days there without seeing the light of day. The works were intended to accommodate the production plant for V2 missiles. A weapon that could change the course of the conflict.

“We weren’t allowed to drink the water there, it wasn’t drinkable. » Urine will replace. It works 12 hours a day, without a single ray of sunlight. “We are a machine, we don’t even try to understand anymore. We are no longer human beings. » In the end, he gets sick. He was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp. Not exactly for restoring health: “After I recovered sufficiently, I served as a guinea pig. » He was vaccinated against typhus twice, one month apart. Nazi doctors monitor the progress of their “patient”. Out of a thousand exiles, only 57 survived. Including only two Frenchmen, including Georges Villard.

“Some were even vaccinated with turpentine. It is said that they felt that death was coming. » The old man also remembers the calls. Endless moments where thousands of men wait, sometimes for hours, naked, immersed in the freezing cold of winter. The Nazis cut down the weakest, who were languishing, exhausted. Georges Villard resisted all that. “You know, you can’t imagine what it’s like if you haven’t experienced it. The body is healing. But the head, never completely. »

Tomorrow will be better than today

Next to his armchair, at the entrance to his home, there is a prominent photograph. A sweet smile makes Andrée shine. The one Georges Villard met in the post-war period, in Pau. He was then “seller”. He shared 70 years of marriage with Andrée. “She helped me rebuild myself. I wouldn’t have survived without her. » Georges Villard doesn’t pay attention and disappears for a few moments. Her daughter Marie-Christine has red eyes. His mother died two years ago.

It took a strong shoulder to recover from these challenges. Because the exile’s journey is not over. On July 29, 1944, he returned to Buchenwald for 45 days. Before returning to Dora on September 15, when France had already been liberated for four months. On April 5, 1945, the SS evacuated the camp: Russian soldiers were getting closer. This is the beginning of the “death march”, in a column. More than 1,570 kilometers to escape from the allies.

On April 27, a breakthrough opened. The Nazi army is in decline. Georges Villard is aware of this: if he does not escape, he will be shot. He manages, with a French comrade, to escape from the guard of the SS. Russian soldiers found them after a few days of fleeing. They returned to France a few weeks later. They weigh only thirty kilograms. He was reunited with his parents, brothers and sisters on May 18, 1945. His parents tried to recognize him.

“It took me more than a year to recover physically. » Morally, the scar never fully closed. “My mother told me that dad often had nightmares in which he screamed in fear. Those were his memories of the war”.slips daughter.

For several years now, Georges Villard has been telling his memories to students from Charente. He arrived in the department about fifty years ago. His children, Marie-Christine and Cédric grew up there. This Thursday he will be at the College of Gond-Pontouvre. But the exercise did not come by itself. “It was a fellow deported Breton, whom I found years later, who convinced me to continue. » With a friend who is a historian, he wrote his story in a book. That his children and grandchildren understand his path. Also, so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. “When I was little, my father often told me: ‘Tomorrow will be better than today.’ In Germany, I thought about it every day. »

In dates

1925: born on February 23 in Barcelona where his parents are. He fled the country during the Spanish Civil War in 1939, in which he lost his older brother.
December 23, 1943: Arrested by the SS in Grenoble.
January 17, 1944: arrival at the Buchenwald camp.
February 17, 1944: arrival at the Dora camp. There will be 43 days left to dig the tunnel intended for the production of the V2 missile.
July 29, 1944: Returned to the Buchenwald camp. He had previously passed through the Bergen-Belsen camp to undergo medical experiments by the Nazis.
September 19, 1944: returns to the Dora camp.
April 27, 1945: Freed during a death march organized by the Nazis in an attempt to escape Allied forces.
18 May 1945: reunited with his parents in Grenoble.

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