Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hit The Road, Hans

German soldier on the quay in Bordeaux in 1940
            August 28 in Bordeaux at exactly 11 a.m., they rang the Grosse Cloche, the Big Bell. This was an experience for us for a couple of reasons. First, it proved that they really can be on time here - the sonnerie was announced for 11 and that huge bell started swinging right on the tick.  And we were proud to be involved, even if only as spectators, in commemorating the day in 1944 that Bordeaux ended four years of German occupation. This is not something Americans know much about.
1942 in Bordeaux - 3 German soldiers having a drink
            They left the same way they came with the last troops heading down Cours Victor Hugo and across the pont de Pierre on the night of August 28, 1944. Early the next day, hundreds of resistance fighters took over the city and Bordeaux was liberated. Bordeaux was within the original zone of occupation and the first German troops arrived right after the armistice in late June, 1940. While they were here, they built a nice submarine base so that all future Bordelais would have a souvenir from the die Bande, held the occasional parade, wrecked a lot of the vineyards then left in a hurry after the Allied landings in southern France made it pretty clear that anyone hanging around too long anywhere west of Marseille might not be able to make it back to the Fatherland.
German military bands in front of what is now the Regent Grand Hotel. Note 3 Posaunisten (trombone players). Three trombones, three guys in a bar. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
            The bell ringing ceremony also marked the beginning of an exhibit here at the Centre Jean Moulin, a local museum dedicated to World War II in France and the role the Resistance. I visited the exhibit a few hours after it opened and there are a lot of photos, documents and films taken in Bordeaux during the occupation and at the liberation. As I watched a film of German soldiers evacuating the city the child standing next to me started talking in German to his mother and I had to suppress a double take. Of course I had know idea what he said, except that I'm pretty sure it wasn't, "Look, there's Opa" but I did want to ask his mother what she thought of all this.
Part of Moulin Center exhibit

Locals celebrate departure of unwanted guests in 1944
            Thanks to this exhibit, I'm now more curious about what went on in Bordeau during the war, including how the wine industry came out of it. As I get more confident in reading French, I'd like to be able to find the information for some future posts. In the meantime, I thought I'd post a couple of photos. I was going to put up a link to the museum info but, like the exhibit, it's all in French and probably useless to anyone reading this blog. The Jean Moulin Center is at Place Jean Moulin, which faces the cathedral of St.AndrĂ©, you can't miss it. If you happen to be in Bordeaux the liberation exhibit runs until the 31st of May, 2015, and if you can't read French I'd be happy to go with you to tell you what I think there's a good chance the signs possibly say.
                                                                      Thursday in Bordeaux

             Some appropriate music from Brother Ray



  1. Fascinating, Bruce. And I always enjoy your musical selection.