JUST AFTER THE LIBERATION, William Christian Bullitt took leave from the French First Army in southern France to fly to Paris. When he mounted the balcony of his old embassy to survey the Place de la Concorde, Parisians let out a cheer and burst into applause. His sense of humour forced him to admit they probably mistook him for General Eisenhower, who was about his height and just as bald. Bullitt soon rejoined his unit, and an accident during the battle for Alsace permanently injured his back. Ignoring the pain, he fought beside the French to Baden Baden in Germany. On 8 May 1945, a day after the Germans surrendered, he attended the ratification ceremony. France awarded him the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour. Bullitt died of cancer at the American Hospital of Paris on 15 February 1967.
Bullitt’s counsellor at the Paris embassy, Robert Murphy, remained in the foreign service after the war. He became ambassador to Belgium and Japan and was President Eisenhower’s personal representative to Lebanon during its civil war of 1958. Although he retired from his post as under secretary for political affairs in October 1959, he became an unofficial adviser to Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. In his 1964 memoirs, Diplomat among Warriors, he omitted all mention of Charles Bedaux. Murphy died in January 1978.
Charles Bedaux was buried at the Mount Auburn Cemetery for Christian Scientists on Halcyon Lake in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Isabella Waite attended his funeral and interment, lamenting that her employer’s death denied him the opportunity to exonerate himself in a public trial. His defenders, including engineer Marcel Grolleau, insisted he committed suicide to avoid giving testimony that would jeopardize the lives of his wife, Fern, and his friends in the Resistance. The new French government investigated Bedaux’s wartime activities in 1944 and, finding evidence that he had sabotaged German factory production in France and protected Jewish property, awarded him a knighthood of the Legion of Honour. The citation specifically commended him for ‘economic contributions to the well-being of France’. After the war, the city of Tours named the street which runs near the avenue Winston Churchill the avenue Charles Bedaux. In the United States, sixty-five years after Bedaux’s death, the FBI continued to withhold many of its documents on Bedaux from the US National Archives and from other public scrutiny. Fern Lombard Bedaux died at the Château de Candé in 1974.
Shortly after the liberation, some of Sylvia Beach’s former ‘bunnies’ returned to Paris. T. S. Eliot, Cyril Connolly and Stephen Spender crossed the English Channel to visit their favourite bookseller. Eliot gave her soap and Chinese tea, both as scarce as they had been during the occupation. She moved into the fourth floor apartment where she had hidden her books and mementos from the Germans. Adrienne gave Sylvia lunch every day in her kitchen, as she had during the war. In October 1944, Sylvia wrote to her sister Holly, ‘We eat quantities of soup as there is no meat–no milk–no eggs–no butter–no chocolate. There ain’t no hot water, nor light nor coal.’ Life in the first years of liberation under the Free French administration was nearly as bleak as it had been under the Germans. Adrienne’s spirits flagged, as Sylvia told Holly: ‘She is sad, has lost her father and now her mother is dying.’ Adrienne suffered from increasingly painful rheumatism and was diagnosed with Ménière’s syndrome of the inner ear. Sylvia found her, as she had found her own mother in 1927, in a coma from a barbiturate overdose on 19 June 1950. Her closest friend and former lover died the next evening.
In an article on resistance literature that Sylvia wrote for the Paris Herald Tribune in January 1945, the editors noted that Shakespeare and Company was ‘closed for the time being’. It never reopened, and the site became an antique shop. Sylvia joined the board of the American Library, her old rival, in 1950, and gave it 5,000 volumes from her American literature collection. Her translation of Henri Michaux’s Barbare en Asie earned her the Denise Clarouin Award. Other honours followed, including an exhibition of her memorabilia in 1959, The Twenties: American Writers in Paris and Their Friends. On Bloomsday, 16 June 1962, she dedicated the Martello Tower near Dublin as a centre of Joycean studies. Four months later, she died at home, four floors above her great nursery of Franco-American letters, at 12 rue de l’Odéon. She was 75.
In 1964, an American bookseller in Paris rechristened his eccentric Le Mistral shop on the Left Bank of the Seine facing Notre Dame ‘Shakespeare and Company’–a name he called ‘a novel in three words’. George Whitman had come to Paris in 1947 and met Sylvia during a reading in his shop by the British author Lawrence Durrell. He was too shy to ask her permission to borrow her shop’s name for his own, so he waited until her death to pay the homage. He called his daughter, to whom he entrusted responsibility for the shop in 2005, Sylvia Beach Whitman.
On Sunday, 27 August 1944, Aldebert de Chambrun received an urgent call from the concierge at his son René’s house in the Place du Palais Bourbon. Résistants were about to kill the family’s cook, Elie Ruel. Aldebert went straight there. A few minutes later, one of René’s neighbours called Clara to come as well. Clara talked her way through a checkpoint of the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieure (FFI), whom Clara and their other detractors called the ‘Fifis’, to enter the square. She saw her 72-year-old husband standing between a terrified Elie Ruel and a firing squad. The general warned the armed men, ‘You will have to shoot me first.’ Clara walked over to her husband. Someone brought her a chair. She sat down, and the situation seemed to calm sufficiently for Aldebert to search for an officer. ‘I must say,’ Clara wrote of the Fifi captain Aldebert found, ‘he looked as foolish as the others when he found himself face to face with the General under whose command he had been at Fez.’
The captain asked Aldebert what Ruel’s alleged crime was. Aldebert answered, ‘The same offense as mine: loyalism. He is superior to me, though, in that he is a very good cook, without whose services my wife and I will be deprived of our evening soup and noodles.’ The captain dismissed the firing squad. Clara and Aldebert spent nights at René and Josée’s to protect the place. The old count and countess left René’s house early each day for work at the American Library and the American Hospital. Before dawn on 9 September, Aldebert heard unusual noises outside and told Clara, ‘The Fifis seem to be coming here. You had better disappear.’ She went into the bathroom, but not before a band of armed men broke in. One pointed a submachine gun at her while she changed out of her nightgown. As they were led outside, a local policeman saw them and called for help. Seven more gendarmes appeared on the scene and persuaded the Fifis to bring Aldebert and Clara to the Prefecture of Police rather than to their own headquarters in rue du Helder. This probably saved the count and countess from the mobs and revolutionary courts that were executing suspected collaborators.
At the Prefecture of Police, the count and countess were held in what Clara called ‘filthy conditions’. A sympathetic woman jailer allowed them to receive food from a local café in the tiny cell where they spent the night. Elisabeth Comte of the American Hospital lobbied hard for their release. At the American Embassy, diplomats told her they could not become involved. Miss Comte went to Aldebert’s brother, Charles, a respected diplomat with credibility among the Gaullists for his opposition to the Nazis. He called de Gaulle’s office to declare he ‘would hold de Gaulle’s chief of staff personally responsible’ if his brother and Clara were not released at once. Miss Comte took Aldebert and Clara in a hospital car that evening from the Prefecture to their house in the rue de Vaugirard, which had been looted in their absence.
In the months that followed, Aldebert and Clara were gradually eased out of their jobs at the hospital and the library. Post-liberation correspondence by the boards of both institutions referred obliquely to the ‘Chambrun situation’. Rather than pay them tribute for having saved Paris’s two main American institutions from the Nazis, the governors curried favour with the Gaullists by distancing themselves from a couple who had been too close to Pierre Laval and Maréchal Pétain. When the passions of the épuration, or purge, that followed liberation eased, René and Josée de Chambrun came out of hiding. Personae non gratae with the new French government and the US Embassy, they spent the rest of their lives exonerating her father Pierre Laval’s wartime legacy and published many books on his career. Along with Aldebert, they were with the 80-year-old Clara at her bedside when she died at home in Paris on 1 June 1954. Aldebert died a year later.
During the liberation of Paris, Sumner Jackson was working fourteen hours a day on a forge at the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. His middle finger became infected and had to be amputated by a fellow prisoner, a Czech surgeon. His 17-year-old son Phillip laboured in the kitchen from midnight to two o’clock each afternoon. A spilled vat of boiling water inflicted third degree burns on his foot. But father and son survived better than most of the inmates, who died of exhaustion or were murdered by the German guards. Some time in the spring of 1945, Sumner was reassigned from factory work to the camp infirmary.
In the eight months prior to April 1945, as Germany was falling to the Allies, Phillip estimated that the Germans murdered 35,000 prisoners. On 21 April, the British army reached the outskirts of Neuengamme. The Nazis herded its remaining inmates into cattle trucks for the train journey to Lübeck. Ten days later, most of the prisoners were put aboard three ships in the harbour. Sumner and Phillip boarded the 6,000-ton cargo carrier Thielbeck. On 10 May, Phillip wrote a letter to his ‘Dear Friends’ that told what happened next:
On the morning of May 3rd, the English, who were close by on the shore, ordered the ships to enter into the port, as they believed the ships carried troops or runaway Germans. The ‘Adlon’ returned to port. The two others were ordered by the S.S. on board to remain in the shoals. At 3 p.m. after having been given warning we were sunk. First the ‘Cap [d’] Ancona,’ then the ‘Thielbeck’ on which we both were, my father and self, [hit] by rocket carrying Typhoons. The Cap [d’] Ancona was set on fire by the projectiles. Fortunately I was on deck and was not hit by the projectiles. I waited 5 minutes in hopes of seeing my father. I could not see him. I then jumped into the sea.
After the RAF bombed the ships, Phillip splashed through the cold sea to climb into a lifeboat. The Germans threw him overboard when they realized he was a prisoner rather than a sailor. He and another 200 men swam towards the beach. ‘The first 150 who landed on the shore,’ Phillip wrote, ‘were shot by the S.S.’ The rest then swam in the opposite direction. Once ashore, Phillip could not find Sumner. It was only later that a French prisoner told him he had seen his father ‘about a hundred yards from the ship “swimming with a plank,” already in difficulties’.
Dr Sumner Jackson was never seen again, and his body was not recovered. The brave American partisan, who refused all compromise with the Nazis from the day they occupied Paris, died three days after Hitler killed himself in Berlin and five days before Germany surrendered. The RAF did not conduct an inquiry to discover why its pilots had attacked three shiploads of Allied prisoners in the Bay of Lübeck. Of the estimated 7,000 inmates aboard the Thielbeck, only 200 survived.
Phillip Jackson, believing his mother had already died in a concentration camp, volunteered for the British army. Toquette, however, had survived many months in the Ravensbrück camp, although badly disabled from starvation and exhaustion, to be repatriated to Sweden through the efforts of Count Folke Bernadotte. She and Phillip were reunited in Paris two months after the German surrender. On 18 July, Toquette wrote to Sumner’s sister Freda, ‘I want you to know that I never ceased to be in love with Sumner for whom I had forever a great admiration and respect. He had such big qualities.’