Belgio / Storia

War crimes in the Borinage



Indicazioni stradali

On 3 September 1944, at around 08:45, on Avenue Demerbe in Jemappes, Resistance fighters fired at a large group of retreating soldiers from the nearby slag heap. The German soldeirs, mainly Fallschirmjäger (parachute troops), accompanied by Tatar auxiliaries from the Volga, fought back.

The skirmish lasted half an hour, and although the paratroopers suffered a few casualties, they dispersed their attackers. Retaliation followed. Grenades were thrown through cellar window wells and into nearby houses. Residents were thrown out of their homes and their interiors ransacked. Paratroopers gathered the residents of Avenue Demerbe, women on one side, men on the other. The women took advantage of an air raid to flee and scatter into the surrounding streets, while the men were searched and stripped. Lined up against the wall of the Canon-Legrand rolling mills, they were machine-gunned by an armored car. Seven men were killed: Joseph Beck, Emile Fagniart, Gaston Hoyoux, René Mairesse, Hector Quintin, Edouard Sirault and Frans Splingard. Their names are commemorated by the bronze plaque at the end of what is now Rue Richebé. Five others survived their wounds.

Their crime perpetrated, the German soldiers cross the canal from Mons to Condé by the lock bridge and appear on the Baudour road. At the sight of the soldiers, the locals run out to meet what they think are Americans.

Indeed, the German paratroopers had a silhouette (helmet with no neck covering, camouflage net) and an outfit (camouflage tracksuits, boots rather than ankle boots) that differed from the verdigris of the occupying troops to which local residents were accustomed. It was to be a cruel mistake. Eyewitness accounts tell of furious soldiers "breaking down doors and windows, smashing furniture and kicking men out" in search of "terrorists".

As at Avenue Demerbe, the men were separated and taken to the exit of the nearby communal park, where they were left. Frans Willamme, who was part of the group, testified shortly afterwards to investigators from the War Crimes Commission: "Believing we were free, we returned in a group, taking the same route. Arriving near the park gate, we found ourselves in the presence of a German officer who gave orders to a handful of soldiers standing near him [...] machine guns began to crackle". While some of them managed to escape, not without being shot, fourteen men were coldly gunned down. The wounded, finished off with rifle butts. The names of these victims are : André Cardinal, Désiré Cardinal, Marcel Cheron, Fernand Deghislage, Jules Donfut, Fernand François, Marcel Houdart, Louis Laurent, Auguste Leblanc, Jules Levêque, Valère Levêque, Fernand Mondron, Raoul Noël and Nicolas Perez.

Rue Richebé 107, 7012 Jemappes