A Hero. The Sole Surviving agent from all special Service prisoners at Buchenwald

Discussion in 'Special Forces' started by Smudger Jnr, Oct 17, 2010.

  1. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Several months ago I received information that there was to be a new memorial added to those already at Buchenwald Concentration camp, next to the Crematorium building.

    The memorials, as there are two, were to be dedicated to the Free French Intelligence Officers / SOE Officers executed late in the war as the Allies neared the camp.

    The Royal British Legion Berlin Branch Standard was requested by the organiser, Duncan Stuart of the Special Operations Club, London.

    Five members of the branch attended with our standard, including the Rev Max Homewood (Berlin Branch member) who conducted the service.

    A Welsh Guard musician attended to play the 'Last Post', 'Aux Morts' and Reveille.

    The Military Attaches from the countries involved attended together with many guests.
    Some of whom had travelled from as far away as Canada, to pay their respects to their lost family members, up to three generations having been born since.

    The day was dull and overcast with rain forecast and as the service started at 1100 hrs on Friday 15th October 2010, the rain came down and became progressively worse as the service continued.

    The Opening Address (Copy in attachments) was given by General Sir Michael Rose, followed by the Bidding and service by the Rev Max Homewood.

    The Special Guest speaker was Stephane Hessel ( Free French Intelligence Officer of the BCRA), one of the three sole survivors of the party of agents held in Buchenwald and executed prior to the camps liberation.

    Stéphane Hessel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Stephane Hessel is 93 years of age and extremely active still regarding Human Rights and He spoke for several minutes switching from French to English several times and naming all the Free French Intelligence Officers and SOE colleagues that were imprisoned with him from his memory as he had no notes made for his speech.

    A truly remarkable person, who it was a privilige to later speak with and shake his hand.

    Colonel J.H. Debrun then made an address and called out all the names of the Free French SOE Officers that were executed.

    Duncan Stuart, the organiser then recited the names of all the SOE victims executed.

    The Exhortation was given by General Sir Michael Rose followed by the 'Last Post' and 'Aux Morts'.

    Two minutes silence was observed before the 'Reveille' was sounded.

    The Rev max Homewood then conducted Prayers, followed by the Benediction.

    Those guests with Wreaths and tributes filed into Memorial Room and laid their wreaths and paid their last repects.

    Although the weather did not smile upon us, the service was extremely moving and a great tribute to those who died serving their country.

    I can only say that it was a privilage to have attended such a ceremony.

    Photographs attached.
    The first two were taken the day before the service as both memorials were being fitted to the wall.

    The last photograph being of the Sole Survivor Stephane Hessel.

    The experience of speaking and shaking the hand of this special man is one that will remain with me for ever.

    I have scanned a booklet with all the Free French Intelligence / SOE Officers executed, which also contains a little history of each Officer.
    Regards
    Tom
     

    Attached Files:

    von Poop, nicks, dbf and 3 others like this.
  2. wtid45

    wtid45 Very Senior Member

    Well done Tom great post and pics.
     
  3. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Thank you Tom.
     
  4. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Thanks for that Tom. Great pictures. Must have been fascinating chatting with Mr. Hessel.
     
  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Tom,
    Super reporting. Thanks for posting this up. Surely an occasion you will never forget.
     
  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Tom,
    Super reporting. Thanks for posting this up. Surely an occasion you will never forget.

    Diane,

    Absolutely, but the cellar to the crematorium was not only for me, but several others, a truly sobering experience.

    This place has almost 40 large hooks around the walls at ceiling height.

    They were used to hang the bodies of those inmates executed before being placed onto a large lift, where the bodies were then hoisted up to the crematoria room.

    There is a plaque explaining what took place, which when reading, sends a chill right through you and several had to leave the room after feeling / sensing the evil that once a daily occurrence there.

    It was only when speaking to Stephane Hessel, that he told me that first batch of Officers executed were actually executed (hung) in the Crematorium cellar from the wall hooks.

    It was after this incident that a brave Officer approached the camp Commandant and said that as they were all officers they should not be executed by hanging.

    All further executions were by firing squad.

    Stephane added that they should have attempted to escape whilst being transported to Buchenwald by train, but did not as they believed the German's word that they were being moved to the camp to await the end of the war.

    He added that it is hard to believe how they could have thought that at the time, but that they did believe that they would be released.

    Photographs of the Crematorium and cellar attached.

    The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation


    Regards
    Tom
     

    Attached Files:

  7. slaphead

    slaphead very occasional visitor

    Another great report, Tom. Thank you
     
  8. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Thanks Andy.

    Here are a few more general shots of the camp.

    The very large building is the original warehouse used for storage of the inmates belongings.

    It is now the main Exhibition centre and can be seen in the top right corner of the old photograph of the camp.

    The large stones are inscribed with the names of all the Concentration camps and set in the base of a former inmates block


    Regards
    Tom
     

    Attached Files:

  9. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Many thanks for the photos and report they are thought provoking, especially when you place them in the context of the camp. The Berlin Branch and yourself are true ambassadors for the British Legion, providing support and dignity to memorial occasions.Please keep on posting the photos and reports they are interesting and informative and ought to be kept as archive material by your Berlin Branch
     
  10. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Mike,

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    After every occassion I write a short report and it is placed on our Berlin Branch Web site together with any photographs that are felt suitable.

    The Website was only started in February and is constantly being updated, but it is coming along nicely.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  11. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Excellent report Tom. Thanks for sharing.
     
  12. nicks

    nicks Very Senior Member

    Thanks, Tom
     
  13. Defendini

    Defendini Junior Member

    Tom

    I would like to thanks you for this report. My grand father, Ange Brand Defendini, was one of the SOE member who was killed in Buchenwald. We had little informartion on his last moments and it is really moving to see your pictures and report. I will inform my grandmother, who is now 95, about that. Thanks again

    Regards
    Ange Brand Defendini
     
  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Ange,
    Thank you for joining the forum and explaining about your grandfather. I'm sure that Tom will be as touched to read your post.
    Kind regards,
    Diane
     
  15. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Well done Tom.
     
  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Tom

    Many thanks for your most informative and sobering report.

    Lest we forget !

    Ron
     
  17. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Well Done Tom - their memory must be preserved
     
  18. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Tom

    I would like to thanks you for this report. My grand father, Ange Brand Defendini, was one of the SOE member who was killed in Buchenwald. We had little informartion on his last moments and it is really moving to see your pictures and report. I will inform my grandmother, who is now 95, about that. Thanks again

    Regards
    Ange Brand Defendini

    Ange,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    All the hard work was carried out by the Special Forces Club in London.
    It was an honour to attend such a memorial service.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  19. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Today I received an email from a RCAF veteran called Ed, who had learned of the Buchenwald visit and memorial for the Special Operations Officers.

    It turned out that he was a POW there from August to November 1944 and wished to make contact with Canadian connections.

    I have forwarded him a contact email which I hope will help him make his connections.

    I have also passed on our Forum address and hope that Ed may look, enjoy and participate in the future.

    It is the receiving of such emails that makes attending and reporting on these occassions something very special.

    Regards
    Tom
     
    Drew5233 likes this.
  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Tom,
    Well done again !

    It'd be great if Ed would join in here, otherwise I wish him well in his quest.
     

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