The Vichy Web

THE AMERICAN LAW FIRM SULLIVAN AND CROMWELL, the world’s largest, closed its Paris offices. This left American lawyer François Monahan unable to practise. Like his friend René de Chambrun, Monahan had dual American–French citizenship and belonged to the New York Bar Association. But he was not licensed to plead in the French courts. To speed up the process to qualify, he sought help from René. René explained the origin of their friendship: ‘His father-in-law, Captain [Charles] de Marenches, had been an aid to my father, then Colonel de Chambrun. The two together, from 1917 on, directed the liaison between Pétain and Pershing, the commanders of the French and the American armies.’ Charles de Marenches, like Aldebert de Chambrun, was married to an American. Together, they wrote a book, The History of the American Army during the European Conflict, with the cooperation of Pershing and Pétain. Alexandre de Marenches, François Monahan’s brother-in-law, supplied the American Hospital at Aldebert’s request with vegetables from his land near Paris. Monahan was on the board of governors at the American Hospital of Paris and occasionally served as its secretary. An official at the Palais de Justice had suggested his admission to the French bar would be accelerated if he inserted in his file a copy of his father-in-law and General de Chambrun’s book, signed by Maréchal Pétain. The bureaucrats would take the hint. Monahan asked René to obtain Pétain’s signature. René had avoided Pétain since the Maréchal dismissed and arrested Pierre Laval on 13 December 1940, so he took the book to Dr Bernard Ménétral, Pétain’s physician and adviser, in Vichy.

At the Hôtel du Parc, René walked up the stairs to avoid Maréchal Pétain in the lift. Dr Ménétral’s office was next to the Maréchal’s, but René slipped in without difficulty and explained what he wanted. Ménétral agreed to ask Pétain to sign the book for Monahan. As René was about to leave, Pétain came in. Surprised to see his old friend’s son, he said, ‘Tiens, c’est toi, Bunnie!’ He took Bunny into his office and said, ‘Sit down in this chair, a little closer, so I can hear better. How is Josée? How are your parents?’ He asked, ‘Is your father-in-law still angry with me?’

René explained that Laval was less angry about his arrest on 13 December than about the harm he believed the Maréchal had done to France. It was Laval’s contention that, when he was dismissed, the Germans were about to make major concessions: the release of 150,000 French prisoners of war, a huge reduction in French payments to cover Germany’s occupation costs and the restoration of the northern provinces, then governed by a German gauleiter from Belgium, to French administration. Pétain, according to de Chambrun, blamed his subordinates for Laval’s arrest in 1940. He added, ‘Laval knew how to talk to the Boches, how to gain time. Darlan is a good sailor, but on land he can’t cope.’

As de Chambrun said goodbye, Pétain asked, ‘Do you think that in spite of everything that’s happened, your father-in-law would consent to come back and help me?’ René thought he might, but he warned Pétain that two people would do anything to prevent Laval’s return to politics: his wife and his daughter.

René left with a burden heavier than the signed copy of a book for François Monahan. He had become the intermediary between Pétain and Laval. It was not a role he had sought, he claimed, but no one was better placed: family friend of Pétain, devoted son-in-law of Laval. In Paris the next day, he received a telephone call from Dr Bernard Ménétral. The Maréchal wanted René to fix a meeting with Laval as soon as possible. The rendezvous had to remain secret to avoid arousing the suspicions of the current prime minister, Admiral Darlan, and the American Embassy, which had repeatedly expressed its antipathy to Laval. René returned to Vichy and, with Ménétral, went to the forest of Randan to mark a spot at the crossing of two bridle paths. Pétain and Laval would meet there, supposedly by chance, the next day.

‘My father-in-law and I arrived at 4.25,’ René wrote. ‘A little later, we saw the marshal’s car. As he was getting out, I leaned toward my father-in-law and told him what Josée had asked me to say, “Don’t give in. Remember December thirteenth.”’ Pétain and Laval went into the woods without eavesdroppers so that the old Maréchal could ask him to return as prime minister. Despite the secrecy, the American Ambassador, Admiral William Leahy, learned of the meeting within twenty-four hours: ‘Ralph Heinzen, of the United Press, told us on March 26 that Laval had had a secret conference with Pétain near Vichy. That same day M. de Chalvron, one of our friends in the Foreign Ministry, reported that he was certain that Laval would be returned and that contact had already been established through Laval’s son-in-law, René de Chambrun.’ Leahy informed President Roosevelt, who sent Leahy a message for Pétain that America would cease all cooperation with Vichy if Laval were restored.

Admiral Darlan, desperate to remain in office, showed FDR’s cable to the Germans. His ploy failed. Hitler now saw the premiership of France as a contest between himself and Roosevelt. He ordered Pétain to choose: America and Darlan or Germany and Laval. Discussions dragged on among Pétain, Laval and Darlan over who would have which post and on what terms. Every detail was reported to Berlin and Washington.

On 1 April 1942, Josée Laval de Chambrun celebrated her thirty-first birthday by driving out from Paris to the Château de Candé to play golf and ping-pong with Charles and Fern Bedaux. Charles and Fern were masterful golfers. Having Laval’s daughter to visit helped to cement their friendship with her father. Laval, after all, would be useful if he became prime minister again. Josée bumped into Hans Jürgen Soehring, the German officer who was living with her actress friend, Arletty. In the evening, René joined Josée at the chateau for dinner with the Bedauxs and other friends. René and Josée drove from Candé at midnight to the Villa Argizagita near Biarritz, where Aldebert and Clara de Chambrun were waiting for them. On Sunday, amid the splendour of the Pyrenees, they celebrated Easter together. Clara did not record whether René confided in her the degree to which he had become involved in Vichy politics or that Laval was about to return to office. As an admirer of Laval, she would have approved anything her son did to bring him back. When the Easter festivities ended, both Chambrun families returned to Paris.

In Paris, Josée became embroiled in another kind of Franco-German dispute. Arletty and her German lover, Soehring, were squabbling. Arletty sought Josée’s advice, and Soehring called to accuse her of stirring up trouble between them. On 8 April, René went to Châteldon by train with Josée, François Monahan and Monahan’s brother-in-law, Alexandre de Marenches. On board, they met Ernst Achenbach, counsellor at the German Embassy, and the pro-German journalist Jean Luchaire. If René was not a collaborator, the company he was keeping left little room for another interpretation.

On 13 April, Pétain made his choice: Laval and Hitler over Darlan and Roosevelt. Six days later, Laval became prime minister with Darlan in the government as military chief. Including Darlan was not sufficient to placate Roosevelt, who reacted immediately. He recalled Admiral Leahy from Vichy, and the US navy disarmed the French fleet in France’s Caribbean colonies. The United States blamed René de Chambrun for instigating Laval’s coup, but he pleaded that his involvement had come by chance while trying to help François Monahan. Like his mother, René was guided more by family and friendship than politics.

The Americans were not the only ones displeased to see Laval back in office. Josée had begged her father not to serve under Pétain, whom she had hated since the 13 December affair. Jeanne-Eugénie-Elizabeth Laval, Pierre’s wife, was even more adamant. When German Ambassador Otto Abetz arrived at Châteldon to congratulate Laval, Jeanne Laval refused to welcome him or to accept flowers from his French wife, Suzanne. ‘I don’t want to see Germans in my house,’ she told her husband, as she went on making jam in the kitchen.

In the summer of 1942, Germany appointed a new Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich, 56-year-old career soldier and First World War veteran General Karl Heinrich von Stülpnagel, to replace his cousin, General Otto von Stülpnagel. Otto had implemented Hitler’s policy of shooting hostages in retaliation for Resistance attacks. His successor, who had been involved in an aborted but undiscovered conspiracy to depose Hitler in 1939, believed that killing hostages both violated the soldier’s code and failed to intimidate the Resistance. In fact, martyrdom attracted more people into its ranks. But Karl Heinrich von Stülpnagel was deprived of the powers his cousin had to police Occupied France. They went instead to Major-General Karl Oberg of the Sicherheitsdienst, the Nazi Party’s security agency known as the SD. The SD tracked down the Reich’s enemies, and the Gestapo took action against them. The 45-year-old Oberg looked like the archetype of Hollywood’s evil Nazi: shaved head, rimless glasses, black uniform and pug face. Born in Hamburg, Oberg joined the SS in 1931, two years before Hitler became chancellor of Germany. Now, he was in Paris as Höherer SS und Polizeiführer, Higher SS and Police Leader, to take over policing of the Occupied Zone from the Wehrmacht. Oberg was the protégé of Reinhard Heydrich, tasked with emulating the vicious policies that Heydrich was instituting in Czechoslovakia. The Gestapo chief, Colonel Helmut Knocken, fell under his command, as did the Criminal Police (Kripo), the SS and the SD. Oberg commanded 10,000 German military and political policemen, and he had the support of ten times that many French police who took their orders from Vichy. He had two missions: to send Jews from France to die in Poland and to destroy the French Resistance. He ordered what became known as la rafle du Vel d’Hiv, the round-up of the Vélodrome d’Hiver, on 16 July. The Germans dragged 13,000 Jews without French citizenship from their homes in Paris to the bicycle stadium where the French government had interned unwanted foreigners like Arthur Koestler in 1940. Among those held there without proper sanitation or sufficient food and water were 4,000 children. When the hierarchy of the Catholic Church appealed to Laval on their behalf, Laval answered, ‘They all must go.’ The Vélodrome d’Hiver was a transit point from which the helpless Jewish men, women and children were taken to Drancy, herded onto trains and sent to death camps in Poland.

Oberg’s vicious treatment of Jews was nearly matched by the ferocity of his campaign against the Resistance. On 10 July 1942, he declared, in addition to résistants themselves, he would punish their families. To intimidate ‘saboteurs and troublemakers’, he announced, ‘One. All close male relatives in ascending line, including brothers-in-law and cousins of the age of eighteen, will be shot. Two. All similarly related females will be sentenced to hard labor. Three. All children of men and women affected by these measures, who are under the age of seventeen, will be put in reform schools.’ Oberg hunted down assassins who were shooting German soldiers in the streets and Metro stations of Paris as well as résistants who were killing German soldiers and mutilating their bodies in the countryside. His network of French informers spied on and denounced their countrymen. His agents tortured everyone they suspected of possessing information on Allied pilots escaping to England. Executioners worked full-time shooting résistantsand hostages in the prison at Mont Valérian and outdoors beside the waterfall in the Bois de Boulogne. It did not take long for Oberg to earn the sobriquet ‘Butcher of Paris’.

Summer should have led to relief of some kind. Instead, the Germans made life worse. On 1 June, the German military government decreed that all Jews must wear the étoile jaune, a yellow Star of David, sewn onto their outer garments. Within days, some of the estimated 110,000 Jews still in Paris bravely demonstrated against the order. Jewish war veterans wore their military decorations beside the yellow stars, and, to the irritation of the German police, ‘let it be known that they were proud to be wearing their national emblem’. Gaullists, communists and Zazous, young Parisians with a counter-cultural affinity for American jazz music and long hair, sported yellow flowers, yellow handkerchiefs and paper stars in solidarity. Such sympathizers were a brave minority. The star had a practical purpose: it identified Jews who violated General Karl Oberg’s order prohibiting them from entering restaurants, cafés, theatres, cinemas, music halls, markets, swimming pools, beaches, museums, libraries, historic monuments, race tracks and parks.

Sylvia Beach, always sensitive to the hurts of others, felt the indignity inflicted on her Jewish friends. Her assistant, Françoise Bernheim, who had remained close to Sylvia after the shop closed, was also forced to wear the star. Displaying it brought derisive stares, and occasional attacks, from anti-Semites. Not displaying it meant arrest. Sylvia wrote that

as I went about with Françoise, I shared with her some of the special restrictions on Jews–though not the large yellow Star of David that she wore on her coat or dress. We went about on bicycles, the only form of transportation. We could not enter public places such as theatres, cinemas, cafés, concert halls or sit down on park benches or even those in the streets. Once, we tried taking our lunch to a shady square. Sitting on the ground beside a bench, we hurriedly ate our hard-boiled eggs and swallowed the tea in our thermos flasks, looking around furtively as we did so. It was not an experience we cared to repeat.

When Sylvia, Françoise and an American artist friend, Katherine Dudley, attended a lecture by Paul Valéry at the College de France, a sympathetic usher hid Françoise’s overcoat with its Star of David so she could come inside.

Sylvia and a small group of friends walked through the Latin Quarter with Valéry after his lecture at the College de France. They passed the Rive Gauche, a German propaganda bookshop in what had been the Café d’Harcourt. Police guards were stationed outside to prevent students from smashing its plate-glass windows, as they had when it first opened. When Valéry saw the books of his mentor, Stéphane Mallarmé, on display to promote National Socialism, he was outraged. Sylvia wrote,

‘They dare …’ he yelled, waving his umbrella, regardless of disapproving glances from passing uniforms. It looked as if the windows of the ‘Rive Gauche’ were going to catch it again, and our master would be whirled away in a ‘salad basket’ [police van] and deported at any minute. Luckily, at that moment, a lot of determined-looking policemen came between us and the offending sight, and we dragged Valéry away, still muttering.

Sylvia visited Valéry at home in the 16th Arrondissement, within sight of the Arc de Triomphe. An air attack by the RAF began just as Sylvia and the Valéry family sat down to lunch. The old poet leaped from his chair and ran to the window to watch the bombardment. His younger son explained to Sylvia, ‘Papa adores these raids.’

Of the 340 Americans interned at Compiègne in January, only 173 remained in June. The rest had been repatriated in exchange for Germans in the United States or allowed to return to their homes in Paris. Another sixty-six internees in the camp were from the American countries of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, San Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. A Red Cross delegation visited the camp on 16 June and reported, ‘The morale in the camp is excellent.’ Of seven barracks, three were specifically for US citizens. ‘The brick barracks are all of one model,’ the Red Cross wrote, ‘each one contains seven large rooms of fourteen beds and six smaller rooms of two or three beds.’ Of the food, the inspectors found, ‘American cooks handle the preparation of the meals and the spokesmen declare that they are very well prepared. The spokesmen check on the provisions from the standpoint of quality and quantity. In our opinion the food distributed corresponds to the basic rations.’ Clothing, however, was ‘not in good condition’. Some of the internees had been arrested in January without time to pack, and they were unable to obtain any clothes apart from those they arrived in: ‘Many of them are denuded of everything and do not have the means to buy clothes for themselves; and their families do not either (rationing of cloth, etc.); they do not have enough underclothing and would be very glad if they were aided to obtain some. They do not all have leather shoes, about ten per cent wear wooden shoes.’ Washing facilities were adequate. ‘From the hygienic point of view this camp allows nothing to be desired,’ the Red Cross noted. It added that medical care under the Cuban chief physician, Dr Soler, was ‘excellent’.

A camp inspection on 13 April noted, ‘There are no air raid precautions, and the latter do not seem to be necessary, as the camp is situated away from any dangerous zone.’ Then, on 24 June, United Press monitored a German radio broadcast that announced, ‘British planes last night dropped bombs on an internment camp near Compiègne, northeast of Paris, killing three persons and wounding one.’ The New York Times confused matters with a report one month later that ‘four Americans were killed and sixteen wounded when a plane, apparently in difficulties, jettisoned bombs on an internment camp at Compiègne, northeast of Paris on June 21’. Leland Harrison, the US Minister in Berne, Switzerland, raised the possibility that ‘German planes, in reprisal for the escapes of interned Americans according to an unsubstantiated street rumor in Paris, which was reported to Consul Squire at Geneva, bombed the American internment camp at Compiègne.’ Harrison asked whether the incident had ‘been officially reported by the RAF’. The street rumour turned out to be false. The Red Cross confirmed that the camp was bombed during the night between 23 and 24 June by a ‘foreign airplane which dropped a total of seven bombs’, killing two Filipinos and a Cuban. One American was wounded.

‘Since that occurrence,’ the Red Cross concluded, ‘the morale of the internees has fallen a great deal and several dozens now announce that they will imitate the Americans mentioned above who will be able to leave the camp to go back to America by way of Lisbon.’ Until the bombing, many of the American internees had been reluctant to leave their families, homes and businesses in France. Bombardment by their own side changed their minds. A Red Cross visit of 25 July found, ‘Some of the internees are living in fear of a new bombing of Compiègne … The German authorities offered to transfer the whole Camp to some other place, but the internees declared that they preferred to stay here near Paris where they can see their friends and relatives.’ The inspector added, ‘The general impression of this Camp is still a good one.’

Although conditions at the Compiègne camp were superior to the usual run of German prisons, its resources were about to be stretched to breaking point. Seven barracks might comfortably accommodate 249 inmates, but they would not easily provide beds for another one thousand American men. But, in September 1942, the camp’s commanders were ordered to find space for new arrivals.

To American diplomats in Vichy, the iron grille in the Hôtel du Parc between the offices of Maréchal Pétain and his new prime minister, Pierre Laval, symbolized their mutual distrust. René de Chambrun carried messages between them when their own aides would not suffice. Almost as soon as Laval was sworn in, René asked his father-in-law to appoint a new representative to the Commissariat Général des Prisonniers de Guerre Rapatriés (General Commission for Repatriated Prisoners of War). His nominee was André Masson, whom René trusted to convince freed prisoners to support collaboration with the Germans. Prisoners were coming home and condemning their German captors for mistreatment and using them as slave labourers. Although their comments were not published in the collaborationist press, word spread. If more returning prisoners supported collaboration, René reasoned, the Germans would set more free. In June, Laval appointed Masson.

René’s concern for French prisoners dated to the capture of his Maginot Line comrades in June 1940. His 1940 book, I Saw France Fall, whose royalties went to a prisoners’ charity, had been dedicated to three prisoner friends. The continued absence of 1.58 million able-bodied men was crippling France, whose wives were without husbands, children without fathers and land without farmers. One in every seven adult males was in a German prison camp. In seeking to ameliorate the suffering of prisoners and their families, René mired himself more deeply in Vichy’s politics of intrigue and collaboration.

Laval reached an accord with the Germans that went into effect in June 1942 as the relève, or relief, scheme that sent three Frenchmen to work in Germany for each French prisoner freed. As so often with instances of German–French collaboration, Germany was the real beneficiary. The three to one ratio of workers to freed prisoners was in Germany’s favour. Sending French workers, who were more skilled than east European slave labour, to Germany was a boon to German industry. What was more, releasing French prisoners or converting them into voluntary workers relieved German soldiers for front-line duty. When 221,000 French prisoners became voluntary workers under the relève, 30,000 German guards were transferred to combat units. But thousands of young Frenchmen went into hiding to avoid the forced labour or, with little to lose, joined the Resistance.

Life magazine, owned by René de Chambrun’s friend Henry Luce, launched the first salvo of an American press campaign against French collaborators. On 24 August 1942, Life published a ‘Black List’ of ‘the Frenchmen condemned by the underground for collaborating with the Germans’. Not surprisingly, prominent pro-Nazi propagandists like Jacques Doriot and Marcel Déat made Life’s roll of shame, as did Maréchal Pétain and Pierre Laval. The list included actors Sacha Guitry and Maurice Chevalier and comedienne Mistinguett. Unexpectedly, one alleged collaborator was ‘René de Chambrun, son-in-law of Laval’. The Luce–Chambrun friendship ended.

A regular visitor to Vichy that summer was Charles Bedaux, who called frequently at the American Embassy in the Villa Ica. In a five-page memorandum to the secretary of state sent on 25 July 1942, S. Pinckney Tuck relayed Bedaux’s analysis of the power struggle between the German army and the SS. Bedaux recommended Pierre Laval as a mediator between the United States and anti-Nazi Germans seeking a compromise peace. ‘Kippy’ Tuck’s final paragraph analysed Bedaux’s character:

My estimate of Charles Bedaux, who proved an interesting and intelligent visitor, is the following: I believe this astonishing person can be classified as mentally unmoral. He apparently lacks the tradition and background which should make him realize that there is anything wrong, as an American citizen, in his open association with our declared enemies. He considers himself as a person gifted with unusual qualifications and that his refusal to accept financial remuneration for his services to mankind justifies the international character of his activities … One thing is certain about Bedaux and that is, naive as his philosophy may appear, he is apparently completely sincere in his beliefs.

‘Germany had been at war with the United States for six whole months before I first received a visit from Nazi authority,’ Clara de Chambrun wrote. ‘I was working in my office when a voice with strong Teutonic accent inquired over the telephone whether the directress was there. On answering affirmatively, I was informed that Dr Fuchs would call in twenty minutes.’ It was June 1942. Dr Hermann Fuchs was the Bibliotheksschütz or ‘protector’ of libraries in German-occupied Europe, who had established a modus vivendi with Dorothy Reeder in 1940. True to his word, he arrived at the American Library twenty minutes after his call to Clara. Clara found herself ‘confronted by an officer with the stiffest back and most piercing spectacles I ever remember to have encountered’. Dr Fuchs was looking for Dorothy Reeder. When Clara explained that Miss Reeder had left Paris, Dr Fuchs confessed his disappointment: ‘I guaranteed that Miss Reeder should never be molested come what might; therefore, she ought to have remained at her post.’ This was followed by ‘a very full interrogation’ of Clara, whose answers and credentials satisfied him. The interview concluded with his promise to Clara to deal with any difficulties she might have with other occupation agencies, indicating that Germany’s different bureaus were not always in agreement. She was to call him immediately if there were problems. He said, ‘I gave my word that this Library should be maintained open during the war. I am glad that you feel able to assume its responsibilities. You have but to continue in the same way as your predecessor and subscribe to the same rules.’ The rules were that the library was forbidden to sell any of its books or furniture, to raise the salaries of its staff and, though Dr Fuchs neglected to restate it, to admit Jews. By the time he reassured Clara that the library would remain ‘quite independent’, however, Jews were so restricted in Paris that they could go to few public places at all.

Just after the Nazis ordered Jews in the Occupied Zone to wear the yellow star sewn conspicuously onto their outer clothing, Clara recognized a man and a woman whom, on her June 1940 flight from Paris, she had seen picnicking beside the road, ‘seated at a tiny folding-table which formed part of their Rolls-Royce equipment’. The gentleman with the neatly trimmed beard and his elegant wife were back in Paris. Clara wrote, ‘I met them walking down one of the streets near the American Library. The man was still well-dressed but wore a yellow star; to his credit, he wore it jauntily.’ The library staff still delivered books to the houses of its remaining Jewish readers, whose numbers decreased with the deportations to concentration camps.

While observing the letter of Dr Fuchs’s rules, Clara contrived to violate their spirit: ‘Without actually raising salaries, I arranged to have the staff admitted to a free canteen in the neighboring building and instituted an “off the ledger” system of gifts at Christmas and Easter, and bonuses which made living possible.’ In the meantime, Clara managed the library with a light hand, noting that ‘my small staff whose quality made up for its quantity did better without me. So instead of exhibiting my technical incompetence in the cataloguing department or at the distributing desk, I remained in my office, made regular rounds of the building, and kept myself in readiness to give help in case it was requested.’ Her free time was devoted to writing a new book on William Shakespeare’s life and works, to be published in English as Shakespeare Rediscovered. When Aldebert was not sleeping at the American Hospital, he and Clara went to plays. Their usual venue was the Théâtre de l’Odéon, ‘which being a few blocks from the house was easy of access, and allowed us, even in case of an alert, sufficient time to return to our own home without being shepherded into an abri[shelter]. But occasionally we were tempted to Montparnasse, where the show was always worth seeing, and even to the Français [Comédie Française] which is more difficult of access.’

To reach the Comédie Française near the Louvre, Clara and Aldebert took the subway across the Seine. Clara was unlikely to have stood up when the train pulled into the George-V Metro station, as many other Parisians did in defiant tribute to the late British monarch. Clara had little patience with meaningless acts of resistance and none at all for direct assaults on the Germans. When Clara and Aldebert were exiting the Barbès Metro station one evening, she recalled, ‘There was a deafening noise, whether of a pistol or a hand-grenade I could not tell: then the sound of running feet.’ Suddenly, German military police ordered, ‘Hands up!’ Clara, Aldebert and the other passengers were led single file to two police examiners. The 69-year-old matron was frisked ‘from throat to ankle’ for firearms, an indignity she endured with her usual sangfroid.

What had happened? A young officer belonging to the German Navy had been killed by a shot fired from behind by a self-styled patriot who took to his heels and escaped, but meanwhile every individual passenger in the station had to be passed through the police sieve and if any suspicious objects were found they were certain of arrest and imprisonment. What was much more grave, following their customs of reprisal against which Vichy never failed to protest until finally the Germans renounced its practice, at least twenty Frenchmen were put to death for a crime with which they had nothing to do.

This was the first assassination in occupied Paris of a German, a naval cadet named Moser, on 21 August 1941. The culprit, 21-year-old communist Pierre Fabien, was later captured by the Gestapo on suspicion of other offences and escaped. In response to such attacks, hostages–communists, Jews, Freemasons, captured résistants or anyone held in a police station for violating the midnight curfew–were shot. On 20 October 1941, the Nazis executed fifty hostages in response to the killing of one lieutenant colonel. An anonymous American in Paris wrote to The Nation in New York about the reaction to the knifing of a German officer in the Bastille Metro station: ‘Everyone on the platform and on the train was arrested. A certain number of them were allowed to see their families. They were optimistic and said they would be home soon. They were executed the next day.’ After the killing of a German soldier on 1 March 1942, the commander of Grossparis, General Ernst von Schaumburg, ordered the execution of twenty Jews and communists–with twenty more to follow if the culprits were not captured. Five months later, Schaumburg was himself the object of an assassination attempt when a 17-year-old Jewish communist, Marcel Rayman, threw a bomb into his car. More hostages were murdered in response.

Clara, characteristically, blamed the Resistance rather than the Germans for the executions. The attacks led the Germans, in Clara’s words, to come down ‘harder and harder upon all those who were known to be connected with England and the United States’. While Dr Fuchs’s assurances to the American Library were honoured, the American Hospital came in for scrutiny. Clara wrote, ‘Général de Chambrun received visit after visit from German medical officers of high rank with no other object in view than to take over the whole establishment for the use of their army. Every time, he pointed out that it was full to overflowing, and that it would not be large enough for them.’ In his obstinate refusal to admit German patients or to allow the Nazis a role in running the American Hospital, Aldebert was inadvertently assisting Dr Jackson to perform work for the Resistance that Clara abhorred.

In Princeton, New Jersey, Holly Beach Dennis began receiving unexpected letters from France. The authors claimed to be friends of her sister Sylvia. One letter, dated 27 August 1942, been posted from Orange in the Vaucluse. It said, ‘I am a friend of your sister Sylvia who asked me to tell you she was very well and not in need of anything, has enough to eat and is in all respects all right.’ It invited Holly to write to Sylvia at: ‘Mlle. F. Bernheim, c/o Mme. Cohen, Hotel des Princes, Orange, Vaucluse.’ The writer of the letter added, ‘I have been helping her in the shop a little this winter and enjoyed it.’ Holly, who had not received Sylvia’s letters for many months, did not know that Shakespeare and Company had closed in December. Another letter from Marseilles from an Alexis Roger Roubin said, ‘Dear Madame, I have had the pleasure to see, some days ago, your sister, Miss Sylvia Beach, whom I’ve met often in Paris.’ The writer urged Holly to write to her at an address he gave in Marseilles. Holly was understandably suspicious, particularly because Sylvia did not spend time in either Orange or Marseilles. Rather than reply, she sent the letters to the State Department. Had Sylvia known someone was writing to Holly in this way, she would have been certain that the German security services were attempting to incriminate her. The coincidence that all three names–Bernheim, Cohen and Roubin–were Jewish pointed to Gestapo entrapment.

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