Between the Salm and the Ourthe
Between the Salm and the Ourthe
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter focuses on the German forces' occupation of the area between the Salm and Ourthe rivers in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. It discusses the German soldiers' harassment of the local residents and the highlights of the battle for Hotton. It describes the engagement between German and Allied forces from December 20 to 31, 1944, and the success of the Allied forces' counteroffensive.
On Wednesday, December 20, around 7:30 in the morning, the church bells of Bérismenil, a village four miles east of La Roche, suddenly started chiming wildly without apparent reason. By the time the puzzled village priest arrived at his church to find out what was going on, the bells were silent again and nobody could be seen. The priest firmly locked the doors and made a brief note of the mysterious occurrence in the parish records.1
While German troops were being held up at Bastogne and St. Vith, the gap between both vital crossroads had remained wide open. More and more troops of the 58th Panzer Corps had been pulsing through it, thus avoiding the obstacle posed by the Salm River running behind St. Vith. Having bypassed Houffalize as early as dawn on December 19, reconnaissance units of the 116th Panzer Division had that afternoon already been scouting for bridges across the Ourthe, the last important military obstacle in front of the Meuse.
Before the Windhund division was able to locate a bridge across the west branch of the river on Tuesday, General Krüger, the corps commander, had ordered it to backtrack to Houffalize and to try and cross the main course of the Ourthe farther north. As there were an undetermined number of American troops in La Roche, General Krüger at dawn on Wednesday had unleashed the veteran division in the direction of Hotton, a town northwest of La Roche and some nine miles downstream from it.2
The impetuous speed of the Windhund division caught the inhabitants of the Ourthe Valley off guard that morning. Little did Bérismenil’s village priest suspect that those who had just rung the bells in his church were German soldiers, back again more than three months after their ignominious rout. Advance troops had sounded the bells merely to signal their safe arrival to the main body of the 116th Panzer Division and had then taken off like lightning. The division’s artillery claimed possession of Bérismenil in a matter of hours. Vindictive guns abruptly answered the puzzled priest’s questions as they began blazing away at La Roche and Samrée. By six o’clock on Wednesday evening, all of Samrée was in German hands, including six smoldering houses.3
(p.216) The road to Hotton was now wide open. Around three o’clock on Thursday morning, in pitch darkness and dense fog, German reconnaissance vehicles gave inhabitants of Beffe, almost six miles northwest of Samrée, a rude awakening. Heavy armor continued to roll through the village all day, and tanks displaying big black crosses made buildings and their inhabitants shudder without reprieve. German troops claimed part of the safest shelters that evening and bedded down with the civilians. There was nothing anybody could do about the brash intrusion. In the farm of the Desramaults, a soldier lay down on a heap of straw, next to Joseph’s eighteen-year-old daughter Renée. The German went to sleep with the girl’s hand in his. No one dared object.4
German troops also reached Trinal long before the cock crowed on Thursday. The village’s sixty or so inhabitants first thought the new arrivals were Americans. Several moments passed before Léa Collard realized that she was staring the enemy in the face again. Her husband had been deported to Germany as a political prisoner in July. Ever since that fateful summer day it was she and her two young sons who had taken care of the farm’s hard labor. She immediately ordered the eldest, fifteen-year-old Marcel, to hide in the hayloft and to keep from showing himself until she told him it was safe to do so. Léa Col-lard was determined not to lose another of her men to the hated Boches. Before noon, packs of enemy guns were spewing fire from the trembling village. A cannon in Mrs. Collard’s courtyard left the horses wide-eyed and the cows bellowing with fear.5
From Trinal it was only a stone’s throw to Werpin. Here, as in many surrounding villages, most able-bodied men had played it safe and taken to the road as soon as news had reached them of a large-scale German attack launched from behind the West Wall. One of the first to leave his flock had in fact been Father Laloux himself. Werpin’s (p.217) priest was known to have been involved in the resistance. He, like the others, feared brutal reprisals from the enemy. What made the mood particularly nervous among the men in this area was the memory of the German withdrawal in the autumn. The 2nd SS Panzer Division in Erezée and Fisenne on September 9 had arrested six presumed members of the resistance and had executed them without as much as an interrogation. Still, when military vehicles halted in Werpin in the morning darkness of December 21, Renée Lhermite, too, automatically assumed they were American. The eighteen-year-old girl had learned to appreciate the way the GIs doted on her. She rushed to the soldiers and with a coy smile asked them where the Boches might be by now. The faces staring back at her seemed set in stone, their contemptuous mouths parting slightly to spit abusive words in a guttural language. Renée backed away and fled to her parents’ house.6
Elements of the 116th Panzer Division pushed on to Mélines that Thursday morning. Two reconnaissance half-tracks rushed past the village and got as far as Ny. Three Panzergrenadiers burst into the Jadin home in search of something to drink and eat. Seventeen-year-old Renée stumbled into the kitchen just in time to tear portraits of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin from the wall. The Germans left with a pail of water and all the bacon they could carry.7
Mélines itself was a hamlet of no more than a few handfuls of scattered farms. It was important only because it sat astride a decent road that led straight into Hotton, some three miles to the west. Halftracks pulled up to the Beaufays farm between four o’clock and five o’clock in the morning. Panzergrenadiers violently kicked the door. An angry Mr. Beaufays threw on some clothes and drowsily descended the stairs ready to tell the Americans off for their impudence. Just as he set foot on the last step, two bullets ripped through the front door and slammed into the hallway’s rear wall. A pale and trembling Mr. Beaufays needed little prodding from his nocturnal guests to spill what little he knew about the Americans in the vicinity.8
The day before, eighteen-year-old Florent Lambert and two other boys from Mélines had decided they would leave their village before dawn on December 21. They had waited too long. They were about to assemble at the Buron farm around seven o’clock when all hell broke loose. The rattle of small arms and the pounding of artillery engulfed them from all sides. The boys rushed to the farm’s cellar with their heads down. Barely ten minutes later, Panzergrenadiers stormed the Buron farm. The boys and two women, one of them holding an infant, (p.218) climbed the cellar stairs with raised hands to show that there were only civilians in the farm. The Germans yelled at them savagely, but all they apparently wanted to know was if there were any Americans left. Then they calmed down and behaved as if the inhabitants were invisible. Later that day the Germans turned the Buron cellar into a command post. Officers barged in, telephone wire was strung, maps laid out on a table. Boys, women, and baby withdrew to the small adjoining cellar where heaps of potatoes lay stored in gloomy darkness.9
German officers at the command post in Mélines had only one concern: to seize Hotton at the earliest time possible. With its eight hundred inhabitants Hotton did not at first glance look like an objective that could have sparked interest in military planners. But the town was cut in two by the Ourthe River, and both sections were connected by a bridge. It was this sturdy two-way bridge, put in by U.S. Army engineers to replace the one that retreating Germans had blown up in September, that made Hotton crucially important to the 116th Panzer Division on its way to the Meuse.10
Hotton was defended by no more than a platoon of the 51st Engineer Combat Battalion and a handful of support troops from the 3rd Armored Division. Civilians, and former members of the resistance in particular, had begun abandoning their town as early as Monday, December 18. On Wednesday, the Americans in Hotton, alarmed by stories of German infiltrators, took drastic measures to tighten security. The circulation of civilian vehicles was prohibited, the remaining inhabitants were no longer allowed to leave town, and the identities of civilians crossing the bridge were subjected to careful scrutiny from GIs aided by local gendarmes. By the end of the day, some ten civilians thought to be suspicious were locked up in the town’s fishing-rod factory. Yet, despite the nervous atmosphere, more than five hundred of Hotton’s inhabitants went to bed that evening confident that the Americans had everything under control. After all, in May 1940 the Germans had been in Hotton barely thirty-six hours after crossing the frontier; now, five days after the start of their counteroffensive, they could still only be heard in the distance.11
On the left bank, on Thursday morning, December 21, two elderly ladies, Mrs. Lobet and Mrs. Colle, blissfully ignorant of the danger approaching Hotton from the other side of the Ourthe, got dressed for the seven o’clock Mass. The service had just started when on the (p.219) right bank German troops burst into the houses on Hotton’s outskirts. They wanted information on the Americans and demanded food. A woman in the Verdin farm pleaded with the soldiers to leave them at least something to eat. She was slammed into a corner by an officer. “Our men haven’t eaten in eight days,” he snarled. “They come first.”12
At 7:30 A.M. mortars and machine guns suddenly opened up on Hotton’s bridge and the buildings around it. The attack came as a surprise to soldiers and civilians alike. In the chapel on the left bank a flabbergasted Father Marquet abruptly halted his service. He knew what the noise meant, and memories surged to the surface of how retreating Germans in September had set fire to part of Hotton, including the town church. He turned around and, drawing a large cross in the air with a trembling hand, offered the churchgoers general absolution. Then he handed one of the faithful a strongbox containing the silver chalices. In a nearby garden Mr. Jacquemart lowered the box into a hole together with his best bottles of wine. He covered the treasure with straw and quickly pulled the earth over it.13
The battle for Hotton lasted three days. Tanks and Panzer-grenadiers of the Windhund division repeatedly stormed the bridge. Each time the elite troops were stopped by American engineers, clerks, and mechanics who had at their disposal no more than a handful of bazookas. They were reinforced by two platoons of Shermans from the 3rd Armored Division that slipped into Hotton after dark on the first day. The tanks arrived with the help of a civilian from Ny who jumped on the lead tank and piloted the Americans across a back road. At the end of the second day the 116th Panzer Division disengaged and was rerouted to La Roche, which, the Germans had learned, the Americans had abandoned. Foot soldiers of the 560th Volksgrenadier Division continued the attacks and managed to get close to the bridge, but they never seize it.14
Damage to the town was significant but not disastrous; it was mainly limited to buildings on two roads on the right bank that led to the bridge. Despite bitter fighting, the number of civilian casualties remained remarkably low. Before noon on the first day, Auguste Collard had been mortally wounded by shell fragments while fetching straw to make his family more comfortable in their underground shelter. On the second day, Raymond Richel was killed in his kitchen, probably by one of the Panther tanks roaming the rue Haute alongside the Ourthe. The next day, a mortar shell exploded close to Alexandre Lobet just as he emerged from his cellar. GIs rushed him to an aid station in (p.220) Hotton and then to a hospital in Marche, but there was nothing the surgeons could do to save him. Worse carnage among the civilians was prevented by the fact that much of the enemy’s heavy artillery had failed to keep pace with the armor. That gray skies and fog had kept Allied fighter-bombers at bay for much of the battle undoubtedly also played a role in keeping Hotton’s civilian casualty rate down.15
Before midnight on December 23, Americans from the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion had driven the last Germans from Hotton’s right bank. The paratroopers were part of the reinforcements that had been rushed into the gap between the Ourthe River and the 82nd Airborne Division, which was guarding the rear of the troops in St. Vith at the Salm River. They and two regiments of the 75th Infantry Division had been sent to complement the 3rd Armored Division with foot soldiers. These forces, together with the 84th Infantry Division that was getting into position behind the Ourthe, now formed an extension of the defensive northern shoulder that stretched as far northeast as the Elsenborn Ridge.16
From this section of the northern shoulder, too, increasing concentrations of artillery began to put tremendous pressure on the enemy. And when the skies at last cleared on December 23, growing packs of Allied aircraft joined them in wreaking havoc. American artillery was already hitting back at the Germans in Trinal during the afternoon of December 21. Phosphorus shells immediately set fire to the Guébel farm. A rain of American shells caused so much damage the following day that the Germans forced at least one civilian to help clear rubble. The uninterrupted shelling prevented the villagers from burying Mrs. Leduc, who had died of natural causes on December 18 and was laid out in her bedroom. On December 23 the lull that the villagers had been praying for finally materialized, and everyone headed for a wooded area on the bank of the Ourthe. Some of the elderly had to be pushed in wheelbarrows; a man too frail to carry his suitcase dragged it along on a rope. The villagers stayed in the woods for more than four days. Fires were built at the risk of attracting fighter-bombers and from time to time had to be shared with German soldiers roaming the area. On December 27 the inhabitants of Trinal at last succeeded in crossing the Ourthe and finding refuge in Rendeux. When they finally returned to their village in January not a single building remained standing and Mrs. Leduc’s corpse had been buried under the rubble.17
(p.221) American artillery had begun to reach farther southward and started pounding Beffe at dawn on December 22. People fled to the cellars and stables and were soon joined by inhabitants from the nearby hamlet of Magoster. Many flocked to the four solid shelters beneath the presbytery. With much of the village already pulverized or ablaze, the barrage increased in intensity the following day. In the evening, news spread that Marie Docquier and Emile Latour, a lumberjack and father of three sons, had been killed. The scared civilians hung on to their shelters until Christmas morning. Then shells of such heavy caliber began to plow into Beffe that the situation became untenable. Father Renson prepared the villagers for an escape in the direction of the Bardonwez flour mill, which lay hidden in woods on the Ourthe bank. At nine o’clock, just after a shell had ripped open the presbytery’s back wall, the barrage lifted long enough for the inhabitants of Beffe and Magoster to stumble to Bardonwez in temperatures far below freezing. The community had barely organized itself at the mill when a band of German soldiers showed up demanding laborers to dig trenches for them. They rounded up fifteen of the strongest men. Panic-stricken villagers hurriedly provided the men with some food before watching them be marched off. Over the next few days the forced laborers all trickled back to the mill, frozen to the bone but otherwise unharmed.18
For two long weeks the refugees from Beffe and Magoster lived on melted ice and bread made with flour stored at the mill. All the while American forces continued to pummel their villages and many others on the Ourthe’s right bank. The day after Christmas fighter-bombers struck at German troops holed up in Bérismenil. They set ablaze two houses; slugs from their machine guns badly wounded a young refugee from Liège. On December 27 a bomb hit the center of the village causing still more destruction. Five days later, in the shelters that remained intact, the inhabitants of Bérismenil quietly made room for a stream of refugees, at least one of whom was ill with highly contagious diphtheria. The unfortunates had come down from Dochamps after the Germans had ordered them out of their homes. Twenty people thronged the presbytery’s basement; twenty-six shivering civilians pressed against each other in the mayor’s cellar.19
None of the overwhelming American firepower was any good to Task Force Hogan. Sent out in the direction of La Roche by the 3rd Armored Division on December 20 to reconnoiter the area, the task force of some 400 men had become surrounded at Marcouray, a village of (p.222) about forty houses three miles upstream from La Roche. Marcouray in normal times counted some 140 souls, but most of the men of arms-bearing age had fled as soon as they had heard the first rumble of shelling at Samrée. They remembered all too well the wrath of the enemy the previous September when, in retaliation for attacks launched by the maquis, German soldiers had torched half the houses in nearby Marcourt and had executed a total of 13 suspected resistance fighters in both villages. As soon as Task Force Hogan had pulled into Marcouray in the afternoon of December 22, relentless German shelling had made people seek cover in three of the village’s sturdiest cellars. The trapped Americans prohibited anyone from leaving Marcouray. Around noon on Christmas Day, Lieutenant Colonel Hogan called Father Chariot to his command post. The Texan told the priest that he had just received orders to break out after dark and head for the American lines on foot. To avoid panic, he wanted Father Chariot to keep the news from his flock until his troops had vanished. Once that had happened, the priest was to urge the villagers to strip tanks and trucks of all that was useful rather than have it fall in German hands.20
Large numbers of enemy troops arrived in Marcouray the following day. They robbed the villagers of all the food they could find and of all things American. Other than that they behaved. But the villagers’ ordeal was far from over. During the night of December 27 the Americans greeted the enemy with ferocious shelling that destroyed at least four houses and mortally wounded one woman. The following day, fear of more shelling and a lack of food drove most villagers to seek refuge in Marcourt. Disaster struck the ill-fated communities again three days later. On New Year’s Eve German soldiers got drunk and aggressive. They demanded the company of girls and harassed several of them. Around midnight two soldiers with alcohol on their breath arrested Joseph Piret and Louis Adams, both refugees from Marcouray, possibly because they had tried to protect the girls. Pistols in hand the Germans forced both men to walk in the direction of the church cemetery. Louis Adams tried to escape but was shot in the head. A bullet in the neck ended the life of Joseph Piret. Ten days later, a cadaverous Louis Adams, blood caked on his face, was discovered in the cellar of his own home in Marcouray. Dazed and in shock, he had staggered back to his village and laid himself down on the cellar floor expecting to die. GIs rushed him to a hospital in Huy where doctors gave him a second life.21
(p.223) American troops liberated Marcouray after the start of the large-scale Allied counteroffensive on January 3. Long before then, however, GIs with the support of massive artillery to their rear had started nibbling away at the edges of the German positions near Hotton. Long lines of infantrymen were filing through Hampteau on December 25. They belonged to the 75th Infantry Division, which had never seen action. Villagers were pained to see how young and insecure these GIs were. Some called out to the Belgians to pray for them on Christmas Day. They marched on to Werpin, where they installed artillery to keep the pressure on the Germans while trying to establish contact with the soldiers of the 517th Parachute Infantry who had just captured Mélines.22
The people of Werpin did not have long to savor their second liberation. Made nervous by sporadic shell fire and the possibility of a German counterattack, officers of the 290th Infantry on the first day of the new year called a meeting of the heads of the village’s households in a barn near the church. There they announced that the following day all villagers were to assemble and leave for Soy and Fisenne. There were to be no exceptions, and those who resisted could expect a heavy fine. All were devastated by the news that they would have to leave behind farms and cattle, and some uttered loud protests. But at eight o’clock the following morning, a column of more than eighty elderly, women, and children began the two-mile trek through snow and the wreckage of battle. At the column’s head and tail American guards—bayonets fixed to their rifles—made sure that the dejected bunch, hunched under heavy bags, arrived at their destination.23
While American forces were staving off German attacks at Hotton, a new threat developed some fourteen miles east of the Ourthe town at Baraque de Fraiture. The place took its name from the nearby village of Fraiture and was nothing more than a crossroads with three farmhouses and their outbuildings. But this crossroads, located in the marshy and wooded Hautes Fagnes, was one of the most vital in the Ardennes. For at Baraque de Fraiture the roughly east-west highway from Salmchâteau to La Roche crossed Highway N-15, the major north-south route connecting Liège with Houffalize and Bastogne.
On Friday, December 22, German troops reached Highway N-15 north of Houffalize and some six miles south of Baraque de Fraiture. (p.224) They belonged to the 2nd SS Panzer Division. The veteran division, also known as Das Reich, had acquired a reputation for brutality in Russia as well as in Normandy. It had razed the Norman village of Oradour-sur-Glâne, murdering more than six hundred of its inhabitants, including women and children. During its retreat to Germany in September 1944 it had also committed several crimes in the Ardennes. Because of the failure of the SS troops to get across the Elsenborn Ridge, General Dietrich had ordered Das Reich to plunge into the same gap through which the 58th Panzer Corps had passed. From there it was to move up Highway N-15, capture Baraque de Fraiture, and seize Manhay. The division was then to veer northwest to protect the north flank of von Manteuffel’s Fifth Panzer Army to which the main effort had now switched.24
American commanders were not sure of Das Reich’s intentions on Highway N-15. Many in fact thought that the SS division’s true objective was Liège, a major supply hub behind which lay the headquarters of the First Army. They knew, however, that German troops on the highway had to be halted at all cost. But the Allies had only a handful of mostly airborne troops to spare for the defense of Baraque de Fraiture. The 2nd SS Panzer Division did not wait for them to get stronger. On Saturday morning, December 23, the hardened outfit hurled itself against the enemy at the crossroads. Most of the farms’ inhabitants had fled to Fraiture as soon as the Americans had begun reinforcing the intersection. Retreating Germans in September had set fire to at least one farm and had threatened some of the men with execution; no one had wanted to relive the horror of those days. SS troops were in control of Baraque de Fraiture and its smoking ruins by Saturday evening.25
The following afternoon the elite panzer troops also captured the village of Fraiture. They immediately rounded up six men and boys. They marched them to a command post in tents just south of the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads. Officers interrogated the civilians about the strength of the American forces in the vicinity and the nature of their vehicles. The questioning done, they left them standing in the snow for a while. Then they let them go.26
When dark came the Americans retaliated by hammering Fraiture with their artillery. Two shells pulverized the cellar that belonged to the Gille family, snuffing the lives of four women and a fifteen-month-old baby. Marie Baccus was still alive, but just barely. The explosion (p.225) had virtually severed both her feet. Accompanied by her brother, the Germans drove the victim to a hospital in Luxembourg. There her brother was forced to say goodbye. He never saw his sister alive again.27
Despite continued shelling, SS troopers requisitioned a cart and a couple of Fraiture’s youngest men to collect the corpses of comrades killed in the surrounding woods. They also ordered the farmers to furnish one animal each as a contribution to their food stocks. Increasingly, however, more and more animals simply vanished. Some of the female refugees in the village tried to make their way back to their farms at Baraque de Fraiture to watch over their cattle. German troops promptly arrested them and hurried them to La Roche to have them out of the way.28
Beyond Baraque de Fraiture, tanks on Highway N-15 would be hemmed in by dense forests on both sides, thus threatening to become sitting ducks for mounting swarms of fighter-bombers. To avoid this, General Lammerding, commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Division, decided to send his troops in the direction of Manhay by way of small roads fanning out through the woods on either side of the highway. The new plan made Odeigne, a village just west of the highway with a population of some four hundred, a prime target.
Many of Odeigne’s young men had fled on December 21, and some would eventually get as far as Brussels on their bicycles. Two days after they had gone, SS troops in pitch darkness attacked the village with vehemence. Within hours part of the presbytery lay in ruins and the Thomas home in ashes. Hidden by the fog, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas with their seven children managed to escape to a nearby wood. Nestor Bastin was cut down on his doorstep by a burst from a machine gun and would die a week later. Battle briefly carried over into the next day. Civilians who dared show themselves to the frenzied German troops paid a high price. A bullet from an SS pistol killed seventy-five-year-old François Dessy. Another one took the life of fifty-five-year-old Alfred Fagnant in front of the entry to his cellar. By noon on Sunday, December 24, the last remnants of American resistance at Odeigne were erased. In home after home anxious civilians from the top of their lungs cried, “Civilians! Civilians!” as soon as they heard the butts of rifles force in their doors.
On Christmas Day swarms of starving SS troopers roamed the village in search of food. They stripped dead GIs of their jackets and shoes. That same day, and the day after, American artillery replied (p.226) angrily from beyond Manhay, gutting many of Odeigne’s buildings. Allied fighter-bombers joined in the punishment of German troops in and around the village on December 27. Many terrorized families fled to the presbytery’s cellars, and most of the sick and wounded were taken there too. The vicious air attacks came on top of the discouraging news for the Germans that their comrades were being driven back from inroads made just west of Manhay. Some SS soldiers in Odeigne snapped under the mounting pressure and turned against the civilians. Late in the afternoon, a vengeful trooper hurled a grenade into the cellar of the Wuidar home, killing four members of the family. The following day soldiers claimed the presbytery’s solid cellar for themselves and drove the crowd of refugees, including the sick and wounded, into the open. Before the panic-stricken group could locate another shelter, an American shell had claimed the life of eighty-year-old Jean Nandrin.29
In the village of Malempré, a knot of secondary roads on the other side of the vital highway and still closer to Manhay, people’s ears had pricked up when the radio on Saturday, December 16, had announced that the Germans had launched a counterattack on Belgium’s eastern border. On Sunday unease had grown as the radio began to refer to the enemy operation as nothing less than a counteroffensive. Things had remained relatively calm until Wednesday when the muffled bark of guns could be heard through the thick mist. That same day part of a task force from the 3rd Armored Division had taken up position near the village. On Thursday the distinct sound of explosions had drifted in from Odeigne. Then the thunder of battle had begun to roll in from the direction of Baraque de Fraiture.
The rumble swelled by the hour on Saturday. To the inhabitants of Malempré there was no doubt now that the storm was heading their way. Some of the village’s young men said goodbye to their families in the afternoon and reluctantly took off. The first German shells hit Malempré around nine o’clock that evening, damaging the school and two houses. The following morning, December 24, tension reached fever pitch. More American troops arrived at the village and dug in. They were mostly battered and exhausted men from the 7th Armored Division, just pulled out from the salient at St. Vith. The GIs were suspicious of everything and everyone, and in the course of the day arrested several villagers for reasons that were unclear. The din of battle continued to creep closer. For the inhabitants of Malempré it (p.227) was still hard to believe that the Germans, so ragged and dejected in September, were not only back again, but were actually routing what had looked like the best-equipped army in the world. In the early afternoon, however, what lingering doubts remained were brutally dispelled when a jeep pulled up and discharged two captured German soldiers for questioning. Villagers flocked to the prisoners and stared at them as if they were the ghosts of people long dead.30
The 2nd SS Panzer Division unleashed its troops against Malempré late on Christmas Eve. For several hours the village was a whirlpool of hellish noises and violent shocks while the inhabitants held on to each other in their cellars. By midnight the racket ebbed away at last. Only the metallic crunch of German hobnailed boots remained. Apprehensive villagers came up from their shelters on Christmas Day to find Malempré teeming with SS troops. The Germans combed house after house in search of food and clothing and anything else they could use. They even broke into the sacristy to reappear again with white Mass vestments over their uniforms as part of their snow camouflage. Many villagers could not keep from crying at the sight of such irreverent scenes and the thought of what was to happen next.31
Ironically, the inhabitants of Malempré found the SS troops reasonably well behaved during the first days of the occupation. “They were correct with us,” one village woman recalled, “as long as we gave them what they wanted.” In fact, with the front line not far away, the first to threaten the villagers were the Americans. Shells began to rain down on Malempré around ten o’clock in the morning of December 26. Fighter-bombers swooped down not much later that day, demolishing several enemy vehicles as well as Joseph Philippe’s home. Early in the afternoon, twenty-nine-year-old Elisabeth Leruse was the first to fall victim to an American shell when it pierced a stable wall and exploded inside. Her parents wrapped her body in a shroud, gently placed it on the living-room table and, bent with grief, retreated to their cellar.32
Jules and Joseph Collignon, meanwhile, were in a painful quandary. They realized that fleeing Malempré while under fire might cost them their lives. But they knew the outcome could be the same if they decided to stay. The brothers had lived on a farm near Commanster when the Germans invaded Belgium in May 1940. To avoid conscription in the German army after the Reich absorbed the Ostkantone, they had gone into hiding in Malempré where they had family. If the (p.228) SS troops found out that they were draft dodgers, their wrath would be terrible. The brothers decided to risk escape some two hours after Elisabeth Leruse was killed. They walked in the direction of Fraiture holding tools they hoped might pass them off as lumberjacks. But the Germans could hardly be fooled by loggers pretending to be at work on a battlefield. In no time triumphant SS troopers arrived in Malempré with Jules and Joseph Collignon in their midst. First they took the cowering brothers to the presbytery. After a brief interrogation, SS soldiers marched the pale young men out of the village and to the edge of a wood. They told the brothers to look away; then killed them both with a bullet in the neck. Jules was twenty-nine years old; his brother Joseph was twenty-one years old.33
As the execution of the Collignon brothers showed, the continuous nerve-racking bombardments, as well as the crumbling foothold at Manhay, caused the behavior of the SS troops in Malempré to turn nasty and unpredictable. Some of the hardened soldiers cracked. In the wake of the first devastating bombardment on December 26, for example, civilians in one cellar watched a wild-eyed officer gesticulate furiously to no one in particular, while one of his subordinates kept mumbling to himself, “Alles Kaput. Alles Kaput.” (Everything is lost. Everything is lost.) Other soldiers vented their frustrations on the civilians. In one cellar an SS trooper threatened to kill all of the “terrorists” after finding some weapons nearby that had clearly been abandoned by GIs. Soldiers pulled Arthur Collignon from his shelter and took him away with a rifle pressed against his back. He returned a little later relieved that all they had wanted him to do was find them some alcohol.
More and more SS men, meanwhile, were drawn to the relative safety of the robust cellars, and they did not shrink from throwing the civilians out if there was not enough room. It was Maria Collignon’s baby son that sealed her fate and that of her family when he kept crying throughout the night despite an officer’s furious admonitions. The following morning the annoyed soldiers promptly ostracized the family from their own home. Still, amid such heartless behavior, individual SS men from time to time surprised the villagers with the simplest of human gestures. The surgeon, for example, who took two of Mrs. Noirhomme’s jugs and later in the evening unexpectedly returned to drop one off filled with fresh water. Or the soldier in the local syrup factory who, even when phosphorus set the giant shelter and aid post on fire and civilians and wounded comrades struggled to get out in a (p.229) mad panic, took time to lift a frail octogenarian into his arms and carry her to safety.34
Amid SS harassments great and small American artillery fire continued to claim the lives of Malempré’s civilians. On December 27, a shell lacerated Joseph Samray. Germans took him to a hospital near Houffalize, where he died two days later. On the last day of 1944, a shell exploded in the courtyard of the farm where earlier artillery had already claimed Elisabeth Leruse. The blast mangled a village woman, Lydie Daco, and instantly killed a refugee who had come from as far away as Liège. Stunned villagers dragged Mrs. Daco, her strangely twisted body smeared with blood and dirt, back to the cellar. There they were to watch her suffer for three days until the Americans managed to take the village back.35
On December 24, the 7th Armored Division’s battered Combat Command A, just back from the St. Vith salient, was ordered to Manhay to help defend the village against the SS thrusts from Odeigne and Malempré. The Americans were at the end of their tether and confusion reigned. Of the civilians who had yet to leave Manhay, some, on the advice of concerned GIs, now packed their bags and belatedly left for Vaux-Chavanne, a village about a mile and a half to the northeast. They were joined by villagers who had been ordered out of those homes located near vital crossroads. Later in the day, however, a new order suddenly came, this time strictly prohibiting civilians from leaving their shelters.36
The reason why troops in Manhay now wanted the unsuspecting inhabitants to stay indoors was that they were planning to leave the village that night. To build a more solid northern flank, the Allied command earlier that day had decided to pull back troops from the Salmchâteau–La Roche highway. They were to fall back to the road connecting Manhay with Trois-Ponts. The shortened line on its right would tie in with the defensive positions of the 3rd Armored Division between Hotton and Manhay. On its left it would mesh with solid positions already established at Stavelot and Malmedy and on the Elsenborn Ridge. The 7th Armored Division was to leave only an outpost at Manhay. The rest of Combat Command A was to withdraw and occupy high ground behind the village.37
Unaware of Allied plans, the 2nd SS Panzer Division attacked Manhay just as American armor was putting into action the complicated maneuver of withdrawal under cover of darkness. German shelling (p.230) was so ferocious that it shook concrete grit from cellar roofs and blew away the wooden railroad ties that villagers had used to barricade their windows. In the morning hours of Christmas Day, a shell exploded against the window of Jules Massin’s cellar, killing his eighteen-year-old son and a fifty-six-year-old neighbor. The village descended into chaos with the American withdrawal turning into a rout. Across Manhay, inhabitants were being flushed from their cellars. First by blasts pouring in from two sides; then by SS troopers claiming the shelters for themselves and in their impatience even forcing some of the civilians out through the windows. The Laurents poured from the cellar beneath their combined grocery and hardware store that two direct hits had nearly destroyed. In a reflex, fifteen-year-old Louis asked if he should try and return to retrieve the money. “To do what,” his father asked resignedly, “we’ll never need it again. We are going to die.”38
Panic-stricken villagers surged onto the road to Vaux-Chavanne in pitch darkness. Some waved white flags. It did not do them much good. Bullets mowed down thirty-one-year-old Léon Danloy and his slightly older sister, Thérèse. A single explosion sufficed to cut short the lives of Mrs. Brasseur and nine-year-old Marcelle Lesenfants. In Vaux-Chavanne, which remained just inside the new defensive line, nervous Americans systematically checked the identities of the hollow-eyed refugees and made a few arrests. The mayor and inhabitants did all they could to take care of the traumatized neighbors trickling in throughout the night. The following day, afraid that the same fate might befall Vaux-Chavanne, some refugees immediately got going again to destinations farther north. In the evening, one such group, on its way to Bomal, arrived at an isolated farm serving as a command post. An American chaplain assembled soldiers and civilians in the courtyard and gave them absolution. Then he handed each of them a rosary and a religious medallion.39
Meanwhile, losses accumulated over a period of five days were beginning to make the 2nd SS Panzer Division lose steam while promised support from other SS panzer divisions failed to materialize. Adding to the division’s problems, more than two hundred artillery pieces were now trained on the roads in Manhay from behind the strengthened northern flank, while increasingly active fighter-bombers prevented the Germans from bringing up most of their own artillery. Two days after Christmas, troops of the 517th Parachute Infantry (p.231) readied themselves for the attack that was to dislodge the Germans holed up in Manhay. “I have never seen a bombardment like the one that preceded our attack,” a paratrooper recalled much later. “The explosions merged into a continuous rumble, one could not distinguish separate bursts anymore.” By nightfall Manhay was in American hands again. Bulldozers had to be sent in to trace roads through the giant heap of rubble that had once been a village.40
That the paratroopers managed to wrestle Manhay from armored SS troops by nightfall of December 27 had much to do with the fact that Das Reich had been told to disengage earlier that day. They were now to leave the sector around Baraque de Fraiture to the 9th SS Panzer Division that had at last begun to move up the Lienne Valley to the east. Instead they were to join what was left of the 560th Volksgrenadier Division in the Aisne Valley to their west.
The Lienne River meanders northward roughly parallel with the N-15 to its left and the Salm River to its right. Just south of the Lienne’s source stretches the Salmchâteau–La Roche highway. In the evening of Saturday, December 23, just after the fall of St. Vith, the Führer Begleit Brigade launched itself from Salmchâteau. The elite outfit was under orders to support the 2nd SS Panzer Division by attacking along its right flank near Baraque de Fraiture. As the highway from Salmchâteau to Baraque de Fraiture was still defended by outposts of the 82nd Airborne Division, the Führer Begleit Brigade chose to advance along the secondary roads just south of it.
The armored column under cover of darkness rumbled from Provedroux to Langlire and from there, along even smaller roads, to Bihain. At dawn on Sunday the Germans looked down on Regné from the hills south of it. The hamlet was located just north of the highway and sat astride the secondary road leading straight to Fraiture, the village the Führer Begleit Brigade was to attack in order to support the 2nd SS Panzer Division at Baraque de Fraiture. The capture of Regné was vital to the Germans.41
The hamlet’s inhabitants were unaware that the enemy was spying on them from the hills on Sunday morning. Most of the remaining men were tending their cattle in the barns. Many women were busy baking cakes and cookies for Christmas. In a matter of minutes shells wiped away the peaceful scenes, causing panic-stricken people to stampede to cellars and stables. The sprinkling of paratroopers in Regné stood no chance against the armor, and by noon the hamlet was in (p.232) German hands. Early in the afternoon, however, paratroopers and tanks from the 9th Armored Division, the latter just back from the St. Vith salient, launched a counterattack. Fighter-bombers swooped down on Regné to support the push. They went after the tanks that tried to hide as close to the buildings as possible. In the stable of the Mathieu farm a large number of villagers pressed closer together. The adults prayed. Eleven-year-old Jeanne and Roger, a boy her age, continued to play cards—pretending that there was not a battle going on around them. One bomb blew the adjacent tank to pieces; another ripped the stable apart. Roger was killed instantly. Fire raced through the rubble and flames licked at Roger’s corpse. People darted in all directions and the wounded wailed. Acrid smoke mushroomed over the hamlet. With all the force still in her, Jeanne grabbed her mother’s left arm and dragged her away from the burning stable. The woman was unconscious and blood gushed from her body’s horribly mangled right side. Late in the afternoon Regné belonged to the Americans again. They loaded the many wounded civilians into ambulances and sped them to Esneux. There, Jeanne’s mother succumbed to her wounds in the hospital.42
That same night the Americans suddenly abandoned Regné again. They merely responded to the order that made the 82nd Airborne Division pull back from the entire stretch of highway between Baraque de Fraiture and Salmchâteau to a stronger line farther north running from Manhay to Trois-Ponts. The Germans returned to Regné unopposed on Christmas Day. In village after village along the highway German reoccupation now materialized in similar fashion. Helpless civilians watched as an uninterrupted stream of Wehrmacht and SS troops began to flow by from behind the Salm River.
Enemy troops generally behaved well along this axis of advance. German medics in Ottré immediately obliged when Joseph Maréchal one night asked them to assist his wife who had gone into labor; by late morning the soldiers had helped deliver a healthy baby girl. Joseph Petitjean was less happy with the arrival of two armored cars near his farm in Regné. SS troops spilled from the vehicles, massacred eight chickens, and told his wife to pluck and cook them. After they had eaten, however, one of the SS troopers motioned Mr. Petitjean to follow him. In his vehicle the German had a bag filled with scarves and blouses and other civilian objects. From it he pulled a pair of children’s shoes and handed them to the farmer.43
War and troops brought the usual inconveniences. Refugees (p.233) flooded the villages along the highway as they poured in from Fraiture and from as far away as Vielsalm and St. Vith. More and more soldiers, meanwhile, had to be billeted in the villages. When German troops arrived in Hébronval on Christmas Day, soldiers hurriedly assigned families lodgers by marking their doors with chalk. Germans in Petites-Tailles drove the inhabitants together in a few places and simply claimed the rest of the village. As American firepower increased, the soldiers did not flinch from chasing civilians from the most solid shelters, either. In Ottré they drove women, children, and the elderly from the humid quarries and shamelessly took their places around the makeshift stoves.44
Neither did the Germans hesitate to call upon villagers to perform all kinds of onerous tasks. Four women each morning had to assemble at the gendarmerie in Petites-Tailles to peel potatoes for the occupying troops. In Provedroux men were requisitioned to hack dead GIs from the ice with pickaxes and bury them. Farmers from Langlire worked long and hard to replace a bridge over the Ronce with a wooden structure and to fill a huge bomb crater in a nearby road. Civilians who refused to perform such tasks were made to see sense at gunpoint. Armed soldiers could bully civilians in any way they wanted. In a home in Joubiéval, SS troops, annoyed by the display of Mr. Willem’s Great War medals, snatched the frame from the wall and hurled it to the floor. Three SS men who stopped their armored car at the isolated Masson farm near Langlire had the most odious of intentions. Reeking of alcohol, they burst into the house, grabbed Mr. Masson’s wife, Yvonne, and dragged the screaming and kicking woman to their vehicle. Only when the arrival of another vehicle startled them, did the SS men let go of their victim.45
The withdrawal of the 82nd Airborne Division to a new line between Manhay and Trois-Ponts invited the German occupation not only of villages along the Salmchâteau–La Roche highway, but also of much of the Lienne Valley north of it. Droves of refugees from the German-speaking part of Belgium had alerted inhabitants of the valley to the seriousness of the German offensive at an early stage. Rumors were soon circulating up and down the Lienne of German brutality toward civilians. People readily believed them. Everyone in the area vividly remembered what the passage of German troops had brought in September. During the German occupation the vast dense forests between the Salm River and the Liège-Houffalize highway had harbored numerous (p.234) resistance fighters, and many had struck at the Germans while retreating. In at least two instances in the Lienne Valley, German soldiers had avenged comrades in ruthless fashion. In Brasur-Lienne seven people had been executed and several homes set ablaze in response to the resistance, which had wounded one German and captured three others. In La Chapelle troops of the SS panzer division Das Reich, in reprisal for the death of one of their men, had shot seven civilians without so much as a hearing. With such horrors etched on their minds, many of the valley’s able-bodied men had disappeared long before the withdrawal of American paratroopers on the night of December 24.46
The German troops that poured into the vacuum on Christmas Day belonged to the 9th SS Panzer Division. After their unsuccessful attempt to cross the Salm River at Grand-Halleux, troops from the Hohenstaufen division moved into the Lienne Valley from the direction of Vielsalm. They were to head as far as Werbomont and then to swing west in the direction of Hamoir where they, too, were to cross the Ourthe and protect the offensive’s northern flank. In the early morning of December 25, SS troopers ordered all of Sart’s men to assemble. They marched them to Petit-Sart. There they added three men to the group and told the twenty-five prisoners to line up in front of the hamlet’s monument to the Great War dead. The ashen-faced men were convinced they had only seconds left to live. Then suddenly came the order to get going again. The soldiers took the prisoners with them in the direction of the valley. The armored column pushed on to Lierneux, where large numbers of troops installed themselves in and around the village. SS troops requisitioned even the large psychiatric institution, ousting many of the hapless patients from their rooms and herding them into the building’s basement.47
The division’s spearheads, meanwhile, continued their rapid push. In the hamlet of Baneux they promptly arrested an inhabitant wearing the cap of a forester. Perhaps mistaking him for a member of the maquis, the SS troopers almost beat and kicked the life out of him. Several miles farther north, in Amcomont, they seized another civilian, forcing him to accompany them to the village of Reharmont. There the Germans let him go, obliging the man to grope his way back home across the darkened battlefield. At a stone’s throw from Amcomont, in Hierlot and La Chapelle, SS troops rounded up all male inhabitants between the ages of twenty and fifty-five. No one knew why. Shells had just destroyed a couple of vehicles, and perhaps the Germans (p.235) feared the villagers were directing American artillery fire. Or perhaps the SS troops had been briefed about the region’s reputation for resistance and simply wanted the men out of the way. After checking their identities, soldiers marched twenty-three of them down to Verleumont, where they herded them into a building that already bulged with the prisoners from Sart and Petit-Sart. The frightened men joined each other in prayer while awaiting their fate.48
As darkness fell on Christmas Day, SS troops stood before Bra-sur-Lienne. Situated on the road that connected Manhay with Trois-Ponts, the village formed part of the new defensive line that the Americans were to hold at all costs. Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division had poured in from positions farther south throughout the night of December 24. Father Mossay had held three Masses on Christmas morning. Civilians and GIs had thronged the church, and the Americans had donated large sums of money they thought they might never have a chance to spend again. Later in the day an American officer had broached the news the villagers had feared most: at dawn all civilians were to leave their homes for safe havens in the rear. The village priest had been asked to help organize the evacuation. Bra’s young men, mindful of what had happened in their village in September, had taken to the roads several days earlier. They had rubbed up against incoming American reinforcements, however, and many had been arrested and kept for questioning. But the evacuation that had been planned for Tuesday morning, December 26, went smoothly. Trucks showed up to help carry children and elderly to their new destination. Only four farmers received permission to stay behind to take care of the village cattle. In less than two days, these four men, too, would flee from the horrors of the front line.49
The 9th SS Panzer Division failed to break through the American defenses at Bra. But the occupation of the Lienne Valley south of Bra brought hardships to the civilians in many forms. The SS troops did not have enough warm clothing and thus ransacked homes in search of blankets, sweaters, and socks. But they were, above all, starving, and they plundered all the food they could find, sometimes forcing civilians to hand goods over at gunpoint. By the end of December, many of the valley’s inhabitants and refugees were lucky if they had some potatoes left to eat.
What the Germans also lacked desperately, here as elsewhere in the Ardennes, was the firepower of the Allies. From the sky over Lierneux fighter-bombers on December 27 swooped down on the (p.236) multitude of enemy vehicles and the houses they were hugging, causing panic among soldiers and civilians alike. Among the casualties at Lierneux were at least two inhabitants, one of them the village priest. So browbeaten did artillery and aircraft leave the Germans at Verleumont that they no longer kept an eye on their civilian prisoners and at last allowed them to trickle back to their homes.50
By the end of December, nowhere in the Lienne Valley were the Germans safe from air attacks or from the artillery concentrated in ever larger numbers on the northern flank. It left the SS troops more jittery and irritated by the day. In La Chapelle they requisitioned men to dig trenches. In Jevigné, a mile northwest of Lierneux, they evacuated most of the male inhabitants, with the exception of a few farmers and the sixty-one-year-old village priest. Soldiers came to pluck Father Fenaux from one of the cellars in the evening of December 30. Relations with the outspoken priest had been tense since the arrival of the SS troops in Jevigné. Now they accused him of having sent signals from the church tower to direct American artillery fire. There was not the least shred of evidence and despite severe beatings, Father Fenaux denied all charges. SS troopers dragged the bruised priest away and finished him off with a bullet through the temple.51
Life in the communities behind the Allied northern shoulder could not have contrasted more sharply with that in the villages occupied by the Germans. People were awed by the tremendous buildup the Americans were accomplishing in record time. In Noiseux, some four miles downstream from Hotton, GIs in two days and two nights threw two bridges over the Ourthe, one of which was capable of carrying tanks of more than forty tons. People on Christmas Day claimed they counted five hundred pieces of artillery in and around their village. The guns’ roar made houses tremble and windows shatter.
In Fisenne, a hamlet just behind the defensive line at Erezée, youngsters watched the daily ritual of trucks arriving and GIs unloading lemonade, beer, coffee, chocolate, oranges, potatoes, rice, sugar, cheese, butter, eggs, bacon, and corned beef. They rarely went home empty-handed. On Christmas Day the Americans, amid the massive concentration of artillery in Noiseux, felt optimistic enough to throw a party for the hosts and their children. First they livened up the town hall with a huge decorated tree. Then followed what a clerk in Noiseux’s official war chronicle described as “abundant distribution of candy, (p.237) chocolate, chewing gum, cheese, canned fruit, meat hash, cookies, coffee, cigars and cigarettes, tobacco, soap, and even blankets and shoes.” “Great joy,” the chronicler concluded, “for the children.” But Noiseux’s adults, too, must have slept soundly that night, convinced that, despite the temporary setback, the Americans were sure to win the war.52
(1) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 15.
(2) . MacDonald, Trumpets, 534–36 and 537.
(3) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 15–16.
(6) . Folder 2/Group II, AA 120, CEGESOMA; Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 46–47.
(7) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 122–23.
(8) . Hemmer, Vallée de l’Ourthe, 54.
(9) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 105–7.
(10) . Hemmer, Vallée de l’Ourthe, 102; MacDonald, Trumpets, 538.
(11) . Hemmer, Vallée de l’Ourthe, 16–17, 19–20, and 22.
(13) . Hemmer, Vallée de l’Ourthe, 62–63 and 66; Doucet and Gillet, Hotton, 46–50.
(14) . Hemmer, Vallée de l’Ourthe, 94–95.
(16) . MacDonald, Trumpets, 557.
(17) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 31–33 and 35.
(19) . Francis Collin, “Nadrin, Bérismenil et Samrée: Le journal de l’Abbé Dasnois,” La Cité, 30 December 1984; Frankort and Wilkin, “Souvenirs personnels,” 22.
(p.391) (20) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 88–89 and 94–95; de Lilienfeld report, 17 March 1945, AA 757, CEGESOMA; and Hoyois, L’Ardenne, 117 and 119–20.
(21) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 99–102; de Lilienfeld report, 17 March 1945, CEGESOMA.
(22) . Lambert, Vallées d’Ourthe et Aisne, 41 and 48–50.
(24) . MacDonald, Trumpets, 541–43 and 557; Parker, “Order of Battle,” 650.
(25) . Rossignon, “Fraiture,” 10; Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 195–98.
(26) . Rossignon, “Fraiture,” 10–11; Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 191–92.
(27) . Monfort, Carrefours, 184; Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 192; and Rossignon, “Fraiture,” 11.
(28) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 191, 193–94, and 196.
(29) . “Odeigne,” Section: Luxembourg 757, ARA-AGR; Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 166–68, 172–73, and 175–76; Monfort, Carrefours, 183; and Rivet and Sevenans, Civils, 83–84.
(30) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 182; Monfort, Carrefours, 8 and 152.
(31) . Monfort, Carrefours, 8–9; Frankort and Wilkin, “Souvenirs personnels,” 23.
(32) . Monfort, Carrefours, 9, 152, and 154.
(36) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 148, 154–55, and 143.
(37) . MacDonald, Trumpets, 549–50.
(38) . Frankort and Wilkin, “Souvenirs personnels,” 23; Rivet and Sevenans, Civils, 86–87; Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 152–53, 145–46, and 143; and Monfort, Carrefours, 181.
(39) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 143, 156, 146, 155, and 161; Monfort, Carrefours, 181; and Rivet and Sevenans, Civils, 88–90.
(40) . Rivet and Sevenans, Civils, 86 and 88.
(41) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 16–17.
(43) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 52 and 277.
(46) . Rivet and Sevenans, Civils, 73; Folder 2/Group II, AA 120, CEGESOMA; and “Lierneux pendant la guerre,” Folder “Lierneux et vallée de la Lienne,” Box VI-VIIIA, AA 1207–1208, CEGESOMA.
(47) . Hemmer, Vallée de l’Ourthe, 217; Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 63–64 and 86; and Lierneux, 26.
(48) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 119, 84, 93–95, 97, and 63–64.
(50) . “Lierneux pendant la guerre,” CEGESOMA; Frankort and Wilkin, “Souvenirs personnels,” 22; Rivet and Sevenans, Civils, 73–74; Schütz, “Unsere Flucht,” 227–28; and Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 87, 105, 103–4, and 95.
(p.392) (51) . Gavroye, Haute Ardenne, 82–83, 109–11, and 115; Commission des Crimes de Guerre, Ardennes, 21–25.
(52) . “Memorandum,” 21 and 25 December 1944, ACSL; Francis Collin, “Le Noël des écoliers de Fisenne,” La Cité, 18 December 1984.