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Lucette Destouches

Discussion in 'WWII Era Obituaries (non-military service)' started by GRW, Nov 24, 2019.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "When a very old woman died in Paris on Friday 8 November, her passing prompted a few paragraphs in the papers.
    Lucette Destouches was 107 years old and had been quite a name in years gone by. A dancer and the wife, then widow, of France's most controversial writer of the last century, Louis-Ferdinand Céline.
    She was also the last surviving witness of the tragicomic, final days of France's collaborationist regime - days that were lived out not in Vichy but in a bizarre French microstate created in a southern German castle.
    It is September 1944 and World War Two is coming to an end in France. Paris has fallen to the allies. The Germans are in headlong retreat.
    What to do then, if you have been a collaborator?
    Not a run-of-the-mill, low-level, keep-your-options-open kind of collaborator. They would just keep their heads down and trust they were not important enough to be noticed.
    No, we are talking about the real cheer-leaders. The ones who had welcomed the Germans, who had set up political parties to support the Germans, who had run pro-German militias to hunt down the Resistance and sent troops to fight with the Germans on the Eastern Front.
    Or maybe an award-winning novelist, heralded as a great new voice in French fiction a few years before, but who had since turned his pen to the most poisonous anti-Semitic diatribe, of a kind that actually embarrassed the Germans, and under German occupation in Paris quite openly sided with the invader.
    Such was Louis-Ferdinand Céline (born Louis-Ferdinand Destouches), commonly known just as Céline, author of the book Journey to the End of the Night, which is still cited today as one of the great works of European literature.
    Céline knew he had to get out. He was viande à poteaux - gallows fodder. Caught by the mob, he would be lynched. Tried, he would be executed.
    So Céline fled Paris and, after various adventures, ended up in the surrealistic setting of a small town in Germany called Sigmaringen.
    Sigmaringen is also a 1,000-year-old castle that became part of the Hohenzollern dynasty and is perched on a crag high above the River Danube.
    And it was here, in September 1944, its aristocratic owners having been kicked out by Adolf Hitler, that the diehards of French collaboration were brought, and permitted for a few months to set up a weird facsimile of a French state in exile, complete with flags, border checks and foreign embassies.
    Altogether, more than a 1,000 French people came and lived here, among them Céline, accompanied by his wife Lucette, then aged 32.
    Lucette was, then, the last witness to this most peculiar of postscripts to the shame of Vichy, France's collaborationist regime."

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