Friday, July 8, 2022


Frenchman of the Milice¹
It is November of 1940, the war has settled into German bombing raids on the United Kingdom and British bombing raids on Germany. From the northernmost reaches of Norway to the Pyrenees and from the English Channel to old Poland most of continental Europe lies under the iron boot of Nazi Germany.

While ground fighting on the Continent is going on in the abortive Italian invasion of Greece, most of Europe lies quiet. Many people are just trying to get on with their lives, assuming that the war is lost and that the British will eventually sue for peace. Some actively assist their German conquerors, trying to get a leg up on their fellow citizens in Hitler's New World Order.

Some though, are beginning to resist, loyalties are being tested. Often it is the innocent who suffer most of all.

In the town of Épernay, two Opel trucks pulled up to the the scene of an attack on German soldiers which had taken place the previous day. Twelve German soldiers dismounted from those trucks and quietly surrounded the small sidewalk café owned by Eduard and Colette Bousquet. Colette turned to her husband.

"What is this Eduard, why are the Germans here? Has this got something to do with that murder yesterday?"

Colette had been at the market when the attack had taken place, she had returned to find the café closed. She had nearly fainted at the amount of blood on the sidewalk and one of their tables.

"I don't know, chérie,² perhaps." Inside Eduard was deathly afraid, he had heard rumors of German hostage taking in some of the bigger towns and cities throughout France, but something of this nature had never happened in Épernay. There were only a hundred Germans in the entire town, what could this mean?

SS-Hauptsturmführer³ Oswald Müller saw that the infantry he had requested had already arrived. He nodded with satisfaction as his Kübelwagen pulled to the curb, "Do you want to join in the fun Hannes?" He asked his driver.

SS-Oberschütze Johannes Berger nodded and said, "I'd love to Sir."

The two SS men got out of the car and watched the French near the café, there appeared to be fifteen or so being held up by the soldiers. Looking for the man in charge, Müller saw a sergeant and called out, "You, Unteroffizier, are you in charge here? Where is your officer?"

Unteroffizier Werner Schmitz looked towards the SS officer, then turned to the interior of the café, "Herr Leutnant, you have a visitor!"

Müller walked over to the young sergeant, noticing that the man was highly decorated⁴, he didn't remonstrate with him concerning his attitude towards the SS. Combat veterans seemed to have a lower opinion of rear area men like himself. Not that we don't serve the Reich in other ways, Müller thought. Any fool can point and shoot a rifle.

"Ah Leutnant, how good of you to join us on this fine day, I think it might rain tonight, perhaps snow if it gets any colder." Müller offered.

The lieutenant, also a combat veteran by the looks of his decorations, sniffed and said, "My men are here Herr Hauptsturmführer, we have sealed off the café and prevented those who were here when we arrived from leaving. What else do you need?"

"Why, arrest these people of course. They are potential witnesses to the crime which took place here yesterday. You'd think that the local commander would have done this yesterday rather than wait for me to drive down from Reims. Obviously you people are unaware of proper procedure." Müller was smiling, which made the lieutenant nervous.

The Bousquets were confused at first when the Germans began loading people onto the trucks. At first things were smooth, the French were nervous but the Germans were remaining calm. Then one of the civilians, an older man, began to protest loudly. The Bousquets could hear him yelling, "I'm not getting onto any truck, I've done nothing wrong!"

At which point the SS officer nodded to his driver.

Berger walked over to the man who was now physically trying to push away the soldier who was trying to get him on the truck. Berger simply walked up to the older man and used the butt of his rifle to drive the man to the ground.

The man sat stunned upon the sidewalk, waving a hand over his bloodied head as if to say, "No more." The crowd began to get restless, more people were starting to try and get away. Which is when a single shot rang out, freezing everyone, German and French.

Müller still had his P 38 pointed skywards, his arm extended. Everyone naturally looked towards the source of the shot. Müller bellowed, "Everyone on the f**king trucks or we start shooting people, right here, right now!"

The French moved quickly now, boarding the two trucks with little resistance at this point. Two men began to help the older man who had been struck down up into one of the trucks. Müller shouted again, "Not him, leave him!"

The two men complied, they let go of the man, who managed to stay standing, then they climbed onto the truck. The older man looked at Müller and tried to speak, which is when Müller shot him in the head, killing him instantly.

"Do you Französischen Schweine understand now, we are not playing f**king games. You will comply and you will obey!"

Müller holstered his pistol then turned to Berger, "How many did we bag?"

"Fourteen, Hauptsturmführer."

Müller thought for a moment, he could see two people inside the café, probably the owners. Ah yes, he recognized Eduard Bousquet. He thought about loading the two of them on the truck, but decided not to, they could pick up six more Frenchmen on the way back to Reims. His boss had said twenty hostages, ten for each German killed. He'd leave the Bousquets, they had the only decent café in town.

At dawn the next day, the twenty hostages were brought out, in groups of five, and shot in front of a crowd of hundreds. The witnesses to this atrocity had been gathered by the Germans and forced to watch their innocent fellow citizens being murdered by the German Army.

It was nothing new, les Boches had behaved the same way in the Great War two decades before. Nearly every French and Belgian village had a monument to those murdered by the Germans, with their names on the monument and the inscription -

Fusillé par les allemands 1914 - 1918

¹ The Milice française (French Militia), generally called la Milice, was a political paramilitary organization created on 30 January 1943 by the Vichy regime (with German aid) to help fight against the French Resistance during World War II. (Source)
² Darling (French)
³ Captain in the SS (German)
⁴ German troops typically wore their decorations on their combat uniforms, even in combat.
⁵ "Shot by the Germans 1914-1918" (French) Now those monuments have a new list of names and a second inscription: Fusillé par les allemands 1940 - 1944


  1. There are jackboots in EVERY country.

  2. I don’t recall hearing about systemic mass-murders of civilians in retaliation for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. Maybe I missed it.


  3. Sarge, this is always one of the more troubling aspects of guerilla warfare to me (as if war itself was not troubling enough). Yes, ultimate blame lies with the aggressors and (as in the case) the executioners, but sometimes these actions are an effect of a guerilla action. What would Guillaume say to the family of those twenty hostages after the war? Acceptable sacrifice? And are we truly empowered to make decisions on behalf our fellow citizens which ultimately results in their death?

    I never have answers of course, always questions.

    As always, well (and spookily) written.

    1. Of course, hostages are taken (and shot) in the hope that it will deter the resistance from acting. What often happens is that more join the resistance in outrage at the murder of innocents.

      Like the kids say, "Don't want none, don't start none."

    2. Of course Sarge. It is almost a 100% backfiring policy tried by every invading force ever, except when it is practiced with such utter brutality that those practicing it can scarcely be ranked in humanity.

  4. It is these stories from history that have hardened my resolve since I was a youngster. When you know what the outcome will be, why comply? You are dead either way. Better to send one or two ahead, than rely on their mercy. I guess that's why that long quote: “And how we burned in the camps later...." from the Gulag Archipelago resonates so with me. If you want to reduce me to a statistic, then I'll factor my own equation. Aptly put: Don't want none, don't start none.

    1. If the only alternative is death, take some with you.

    2. "No mercy! There's no samurai code or fair play in battle! No sword? Use a stick. No stick? Use a rock. No rock? Use your fists and feet! Lose your life, but make the enemy pay!" - 13 Assassins

    3. Sarge - It is a great movie, if you have never seen it.

  5. Have retaliatory murders ever stopped the guerrilla activity? It would add more people to the resistance I'd think....

    1. It often turns the squishy deciders to hostility (active or passive) against the guerillas. By mid-war, many French were narcing on their neighbors.

    2. Killing hostages will do that, motivates some to fight, motivates others to squeal. Either way, it's not effective.

  6. Living through war is a form of living through death. Both sides see, and feel, and do too much that must be forgotten by far too many -- and then it begins again.

    War is not the best way to reduce the human population on this planet, but it may eventually be needed. We have too many humans; how many too many is an open question. Can Earth support a mere billion? And how, then, keep it there?

  7. If you fight, you die - but perhaps you'll inspire others. If you comply, you too will die, only die more slowly. Warsaw Ghetto 1943

    1. Fear of those jackboots is the first response, and the resistance builds after, but I often wonder if we could instill courage and an understanding that those jackboots are far outnumbered. I wonder what would have happened if the Jews in the ghettos had only resisted more at the beginning. I think our arms here in the US help instill an automatic resistance to tyranny. Unarmed folks can't do it as well, although knives and bats work too, if they have superior numbers and some are willing to die.

    2. Depends on the culture as well.

    3. @ Tuna The stories I remember (and the histories I remember reading) were about the hierarchy imposed on the Jews in the ghettos by the Nazis (as well as by themselves) - a lot of people like György Schwartz found their way into this structure - people who decided who next was going to appease the hunger of lions. BTW, I think the Jews who emigrated/escaped to the British Mandate finally understood that it was far better to die fighting.

    4. Like the capos in the camps, but you can only feed the monster so long before he comes for you. Which most capos learned the hard way,

  8. The guy holding the pistol in the opening photo....
    Reminds me of the dweebs in third grade that LOVED being the line leader giving orders to the kids in his grade behind him, only older now. AKA NOT grown up. Usually, but not always getting the crap kicked out of him by his class mates (extra effectiveness if it was the girls doing it) taught them the error or their ways. Pretty sure a more extreme version of said event was usually in their future.

    Some things never change. 1. Bully's gotta bully. 2. At some point, you gotta stand up to 'em. 3. The longer you wait, the more you're gonna get hurt.

    1. I see he has six rounds and at least sixty pairs of hands in the picture. Those are better odds than those already standing at the wall.

    2. You can bet he's not the only one around.

  9. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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