Sunday, May 05, 2013

Henri Fertet (1926 - 1943) - the last letter home

1. Henri Fertet (1926 - 1943), French resistant 
2. Typescript of Henri Fertet's last letter home
Written on the the day of his execution:
26 September 1943 
Courtesy of the French Army Museum (Paris 7e)  
For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

A last letter home

Henri Claude Fertet (1926 - 1943) was a 16-year old French resistant executed by the German Occupiers at Besançon (Doubs) on 26 September 1943. He was a member of the 'Guy Mocquet Resistance Group'. On 23 September 1943 the Germans executed 16 members of this group by firing squad. Henri Fertet (Photograph No 1 above) was the youngest of his group to be executed that day. He had been held in solitary confinement since early July 1943.

On the morning of his execution, Henri Fertet wrote a last letter home to his family. An abridged typescript copy of this letter is displayed in the WW2 French Resistance section at the French Army Museum, Paris (Photograph No 2 above).

Below is my translation of Henri Fertet's moving testimony to his parents. The original letter was written in French.

In this letter he mentions his younger brother Pierre and quotes from Jean-Baptiste Racine's play 'Britannicus'. Henri Fertet also tells his mother that at the end he will sing the patriotic song "Sambre et Meuse", which his mother had originally taught him.

This is the letter of a French boy who has grown up quickly. This is the letter of a man with a deep insight of the events unfolding around him. This is the letter of a man who has given everything, including his life, for the right to live in a free country.

Sunday, 05 May, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

English translation of Henri Fertet's last letter

"La Butte prison, Besançon (Doubs)

26 September 1943

My dearest parents,

My letter will cause you great pain, but I've seen how you courageous you are that I do not doubt you will be able to keep it, even if only out of love for me.

You cannot know the low morale that I have suffered in my cell, how I have suffered for not seeing you any more, for no longer feeling your loving tender care being so far away. During these eighty-seven days in my prison cell it is your love that I have missed more than your parcels and, often, I have asked you to forgive me for the pain I have brought you, all the harm which I have caused you. You can have doubt that I love you today, as before, I loved you in a rather routine way, but now I understand all that you have done for me. I believe I have arrived at real filial love, true filial love. Perhaps, after the war, when a comrade speaks of me, it is this love that I will have communicated to him ; and I hope that he will not fail to make the point in such a sacred mission.

Thank all the people who are interested in me, especially my closest family and friends, tell them of my confidence in Eternal France. Give a warm embrace to my grandparents, my uncles, my aunts, my cousins, Henrietta. Tell the parish priest that I have been especially thinking of him and his flock. to him and his family. I thank the Monsignor for the great honour he has paid me, an honour which, I believe, I have shown I am worthy of. In falling, I also salute my High School comrades. In this regard, Hennemay owes me a pack of cigarettes and Jacquin, my book about Prehistoric Man. Return "The Count of Monte Cristo" to Emeurgeon, 3 Chemin Français, behind the station. Give to Maurice André La Maltournée the 40 grams of tobacco that I owe him.

I bequeath my small library of books to Pierre, my school textbooks to my dear Dad, my collections to my dearest Mum, although she is wary of the prehistoric axe and the Gallic sword and scabbard.

I die for my country. I want a Free France and the French people to be happy, and rather than an arrogant France the first nation of the world, a France that is hardworking, industrious and honest.

For the French to be happy, that is the point. In life, you have to gather in happiness.

As for me, do not worry yourself. I keep my courage and my good humour to the end and I will sing "Sambre et Meuse" because it was you, dearest Mum, who taught it to me.

With Peter, be both strict and tender. Check out his work and make him work hard. Do not allow him to be negligent. He must prove himself worthy of me. Of the "Three Little Indians", there remains only one. He must succeed.

The soldiers are coming to look for me. I await hearing their steps. Perhaps my writing is a little shaky, but that's because I have a small pencil. I am not afraid of death as I have a clear conscience.

Dad, I beg you, please, remember that if I die, it is for something good. What more honourable death would I have? I die willingly for my motherland. We will soon meet again in heaven, all four of us. What is a hundred years?

Mum, just remember:
"And these avengers will find new defenders who, after their death, will be followed."

Farewell, Death calls me, I want neither a blindfold nor be tied down. I embrace you all. All the same, it is hard to die.

A thousand kisses. Long live France!

A 16 year old condemned to death

H. Fertet

Excuse the spelling mistakes, no time to read it over.

H. Fertet.

From: Henri Fertet, in Heaven, close to God."

Sunday, 05 May, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The fate of other members of the 'Guy Mocquet Resistance Group'.

(a) Executed at Besançon on 23 September 1943.

The following 15 'comrades in arms' of Henri Fertet were sentenced to death and also executed at Besançon on 23 September 1943:

Raymond AYMONIN (20 years old)
Jean COMPAGNON (21 years old)
Philippe GLADOUX (18 years old)
Jean Paul GRAPPIN (21 years old)
René PAILLARD (18 years old)
Paul PAQUERIAUD (35 years old)
Marcellin PUGET (29 years old)
Roger PUGET (20 years old)
Marcel REDDET (17 years old)
Gaston RETROUVEY (18 years old)
Balthazar ROBLEDO (30 years old)
Georges ROTHAMER (24 years old)
René ROUSSEY (26 years old)
Marcel SIMON (23 years old)
Saturino TRABADO (32 years old)

While being transported towards their execution, a number of passers by later reported hearing the condemned men singing "La Marseillaise" and "Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse". All of the executed resistants declined the offer to be blindfolded.

According to the German officer in charge of the firing squad, they all died bravely, shouting "Vive la France! "

(b) Sentenced to death and reprieved

There was one member of the 'Guy Mocquet Resistance Group' who had been sentenced to death who was not executed. This was André MONTAVON (24 years old), a Swiss national.

A legation from Switzerland managed to have his sentence commuted to one of imprisonment.

(c) Sentences of imprisonment and hard labour

Six of the 'Guy Mocquet Resistance Group' received the "lesser" sentences of imprisonment and / or hard labour. They were deported and only half of them would live long enough to return to France.

This was their fate:

André BECHE (29 years old):
Sentenced to 15 years hard labour, he was deported and died in prison.

Roger DUPUY (18 years old):
Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, he was deported and died in prison.

Paul LAREQUI (17 years old):
Sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, he was deported and died in prison.

Paul LHOMME (16 years old):
Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment (survived).

Jacques MICHELOT (17 years old):
Sentenced to 8 years imprisonment (survived).

Georges TOURRAIN (18 years old):
Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment (survived).

Sunday, 05 May, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Post-war recognition of Henri Fertet

After the war, the posthumous recognition of Henri Fertet as an exceptional and courageous resistant included the following honours:

Knight of the French Legion of Honour
(France's highest national Order)

Companion of the Liberation
(France's second highest national Order)

The 'Croix de Guerre' (1939 - 1945)

The Resistance Medal

The 'Croix du Combattant Volontaire' (1939 - 1945)

The Medal of Deportees and Internal Resistants.

The sadness and tragedy of a wartime loss

“A tragedy need not have blood and death; it's enough that it all be filled with that majestic sadness that is the pleasure of tragedy.”

Jean-Baptiste Racine (1639 – 1699)

How does a family cope with the loss of a loved one because of war? It can be difficult to live with, even when that loved one has died nobly, as Henri Fertet did.

It has been said that Henri Fertet's younger brother Pierre devoted his life to Henri's memory. Pierre Fertet, like his father before him, became a school teacher. After the death of the father, the Fertet family circle this side of paradise was further depleted.

On 27 November 1980, in Chailluz Forest near Besançon a motor car was found with two bodies in it. It was a successful suicide attempt. They had died of asphyxiation due to car exhaust fumes. The two bodies were identified as Pierre Fertet and his mother.

Over 37 years after Henri Fertet and his comrades in arms died at Besançon the sadness of this wartime tragedy engulfed his surviving family. For this family at least, time was not going to heal a wartime loss. In the end, this side of Eternity it proved too difficult to live with.


Musée de l'Armée (French Army Museum),
Hôtel National des Invalides,
129 Rue de Grenelle,
Paris 7e,

Further reading

For French readers, click on the following link to read a short biography of Henri Fertet on the official Order of the Liberation website:
Henri Claude Fertet, Companion of the Liberation

Sunday, 05 May, 2013  
Blogger Cathie said...

This is so moving!
Thanks for posting this - they were so young... it is essential to remember their sacrifice.

Sunday, 05 May, 2013  
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Saturday, 25 May, 2013  
Anonymous Valencia said...

This is cool!

Monday, 12 August, 2013  

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