The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Little Late for Memorial Day

In an unloved corner of Villeurbanne (OK, most corners of Villeurbanne are unloved), between the tech school, the former wastewater treatment plant, and the beltway peripherique, lies a patch of flat land that was once used by the French army as a parade ground and drill field. During WWII, the Germans took over all French army property, and used this particular parade ground for, among other things, the execution of prisoners and suspected Resistance members. [photo: "Here at the foot of this hill, facing the German firing squads, these Resistants died for France and for liberty." Note the number of inconnus (unknowns) and the ages of some of the Resistants, including a 73-year-old printer.] When Lyon fell to the Allies in September of 1944, the ground thus consecrated became the Allied cemetery.

I biked out there the other weekend and took a few pictures.

One section of the cemetery is for Muslim soldiers [photo], and another for Jews. Many of these graves were relocated from various locations where the Nazis had summarily executed them rather than taking them prisoner.

In other parts of the cemetery, graves are grouped by nationality: Belgians and Italians [photo] and a small grouping of British and Canadian airmen from the 1943 bombing raids on the Lyon rail yards [photo].

I found no American graves, despite the American army having liberated Lyon in passing through toward the heavier fighting in the Colmar pocket. Most likely the US dead from that offensive were transported to larger cemeteries elsewhere, probably Draguignan or Epinal.

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