Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Blessing of the Bread

The Blessing of the Bread
It is Holy week.  My brother Robert and I are to take the basket of blessed bread to every home in the village.  We do it this year because it is our mother's turn to bake the bread.  She baked it in a large flat loaf in a mold in the shape of a lamb and one representing Jesus as a shepherd.  The top is golden brown.  It is full of anise seed and smells good.  Before distributing the bread we took it to the priest who blessed it.  Then in each home, each person takes a piece, makes the sign of the cross and eats it in silence.  This is our village communion and happens each year on good Friday.  One piece is kept in each home from one year to the next.  For luck some say, for protection from lightening, say others.  Our mother doesn't believe that it is for any of those things.  She says, “It is a symbol of God's goodness in giving us bread.’’

Rebecca Goethe DeVries
Translation: Rebecca Goethe DeVries
Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, June 22, 2009, Brewster, MA 02631, USA

Easter Story - The Blessing of the House

The Blessing of the House
During Holy Week, it was the custom in our villages, to receive the blessing for our houses, our stables, our fields and ourselves.  So, the week before we polished the floor, the furniture, finally all in our simple home.  The bricks of the floor were rubbed with wax, red for the space which separated the bedroom from the kitchen, the rest spruced up with yellow wax. And we also, we were polished up!  With our white collars and our black aprons we stood up very straight, waiting for Monsieur le Curé Tépeigner. 
He entered with his two choir boys, one carrying a crucifix, the other the blessed water.  We stayed standing very serious, while the priest blessed us as well as the house, while murmuring a prayer in Latin.  One of the boys held the crucifix towards us so that we touched it with our lips then he wiped the cross with a white napkin.  What an angelic air these two boys had with their black and white surplices!  Nevertheless, these are the same who tease me while going to or coming from the school.
When all was blessed in the house, we went in the courtyard and Father Tépeigner threw a little holy water on the door of the stable and towards the field of wheat.  The priest is very old and he fumbled a little.  All was blessed and we gave him some eggs that he had me put carefully in his big black basket while saying to Maman…“Madame, I do not see you often at church and never at confession.’’
Ah, poor M le Curé.   This is not a thing to say to Maman who had at all once fury in her eyes.  The priest made his goodbyes quickly.  I believe that he was afraid of Maman who engaged herself willingly in discussion of the misdeeds of the nobility, vis à vis the third estate.  However, liberal thinker that Maman was, she would be very angry if the priest left out our home for the annual benediction.  While going out, the boys turned and made a face at me.  All the same, our house is protected for another year.

Rebecca Goethe DeVries
Translation and Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, January 23, 2009, Brewster, MA 02631
Rebecca visiting her home in 1937, her first trip back since leaving in 1921
Rebecca’s photo album

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Homage to My Benefactors

Rebecca Goethe 17 years old, 1919, Nevers, France
photography unknown

Homage to My Benefactors
        You have arrived at the stage of life when it is necessary no longer to count on the devotion of fellowmen to provide for your needs. It is necessary now to work and not to be something useless and boring.  It is like this for everyone. While for a long time men and women are children and others protect them, what would happen to mankind if children would never become adults or would not wish to behave as adults?
Courage then little maid.   Do not let this name offend you.  That does not take anything away from your honor or your self-respect.
Sometimes it is better to be a “petite bonne,’’ a little maid, than a wealthy woman.  And you ought to have courage not only by simple duty but also by gratitude for those who have guided you along the way.  They are many already, those who have protected you and who extend still their goodwill upon you! Have for them a deep and grateful respect.  Besides this, honor and love God our eternal and sovereign protector. 
When you will raise thought toward Him humanity will seem to be more pure, the task less heavy – the way of duty clearly traced in the horizon of justice.  And to love God, it is to love that which is great, simple and virtuous; this is to think of others and to love them also!  When little and weak thus like a poor bird without feathers, you lived among strangers who did not know anything about your birth or even your name, they welcomed you and took care of you as one of theirs. 

Rebecca Goethe, Moiry, France circa 1918
Translation and Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, January 16, 2010, Brewster, Ma 02631, USA
 Editor’s note: This undated fragment was found among the letters written by my parents, Rebecca Goethe and Charles DeVries between 1919 and 1921.  This was probably written when Rebecca about age 16 or 17 when she had to leave her home to work.  She dreaded being farmed out to be a maid and she seems to be fortifying herself for the task.  Up to this time she had worked for her foster mother.  Every state child* had to go to work at age 13 but Madame Soupet, Rebecca's foster mother, had needed Rebecca to help her. Rebecca’s foster brother Robert was in the Army. Perhaps Mme Soupet did not want to let her go.  Records show that Madame Soupet paid wages for Rebecca to the state.  That money was then given to Rebecca as needed and perhaps became part of her dowry from the French Government when she was married. This piece had a more religious tone than often noted in her letters and Vignettes.

* Rebecca was “un enfant de l'assistance’’, a child of the state, abandoned in Paris at the Hospice of St Vincent de Paul as an infant of one month and 10 days.   She was left with a name, “Rebecca Goethe,’’ that she was “Israelite’’ and born in Platz, Russia on or about September 9, 1902.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Armistice, A Testimony from Beyond the Atlantic by Rebecca Goethe DeVries

Mars-sur-Allier American Hospital, France, WWI
Postcard collection - Lucy DeVries Duffy

An article published in La Montagne, Nevers, France, Sunday, November 24, 1968
by  Rebecca  Goethe DeVries
translated by Lucy DeVries Duffy

Approaching the Fiftieth Anniversary 
of the Armistice of 1918

A Testimony from Beyond the Atlantic about the Former American Hospital Installed at Mars -sur-Allier

In the framework of a “promenade between the Loire and the Allier,’’ we have written, last August 11th, that there was this hospital. One former inhabitant of a little village situated near  this hospital, having had knowledge of this article in our newspaper, wrote us a letter which we have the pleasure to publish now.  It comes from Mrs. DeVries. Originally from Moiry, where she lived before and during the First World War, she made the acquaintance of an American minister (Correction:  Charles DeVries was not yet minister. He was a medic at the Base Hospital.) whom she married.  Since 1921, she lived in America with her husband in Harwich, Massachusetts.  ( Correction:  Charles  and Rebecca DeVries lived in different communities. Their last home was in Harwich, MA.)

Here is her letter.

Dear Monsieur, I regret to be so late in thanking you for the Montagne-Sunday of August 11th.  We were on vacation when the journal arrived, and since I have not had the time to tell you how much the reading of your article entitled, “Visite du Souvenir à l’ancien hôpital américain de Mars-sur-Allier’’ “A Visit to the Memory of the former American Hospital of Mars-sur-Allier’’ gave us pleasure.   You have presented in a manner exact and precise a resumé of what was, for those who were witnesses of it, a grand event.  Permit me to offer you some personal memories.

The Beginnings and the Life of the Camp

At first, there were rumors without end. The war was going badly for us in 1917.  We heard with anguish the tales, perhaps exaggerated, of the atrocities, of the pillaging, of the debacle.  Some refugees in a group, miserable, had passed by our village.  A Belgian family, the Verstraetes, had established themselves at a café at the corner of the route to Mars-Sur- Allier.  We liked them.  They stayed until the end of the war.

One morning, while watching my cows in the field, I saw with amazement  five  soldiers in khaki uniforms putting up a tent in the middle of the field.  Frightened, I returned home, bringing my cows to the stable.  Never having seen the American uniform, I told myself, “It is over.  The Germans are here.’’...But  war or not, the cows had to eat.  My mother accompanying me, we took them back to the field.  These soldiers, some engineers, tried to explain to us their projects.  They laughed at our fear and gave us big pieces of chocolate.  Mama said to me, “Little stupid one, don’t you see that these are soldiers, Americans, come to save us!’’  And the soldiers, understanding that it was necessary to let the cows graze put up their tent on the far side of the field.  Following this initial contact, the presence of the Americans became very familiar.  They measured our  houses.  They surveyed our villages.  Not understanding, we found them strange and a bit arrogant.  They walked in our streets as if they were the proprietors.  The plans for the hospital completed, the village of Moiry was invaded, mostly by the workers from Madrid and Barcelona.

An American Soldier, Rebecca Goethe, M and Mme Soupet and Maurice Gauchon, Rebecca's foster brother, Moiry, France, 1918, Photo from Rebecca's album, photographer unknown

The First Trains of the Wounded

Many workers, having brought their families, found lodging in the village.  It was an occasion to make some “sous’’, and I remember having been very angry when my mother gave my room to two Spaniards.   The wives of the workers, naturally, used the communal lavoir ( washing place).  There was much resentment, and even some explosions, for their manner of washing did not at all please the housekeepers of Moiry.  During their stay, I took care of  two children of a Spanish family.  No one spoke French in this house, it was I who learned easily their language.  When the   worked  stopped, they all left, leaving us the souvenirs of many things which we did not like, but also their songs and their joie de vivre.  

The railway linked the hospital to the station at Mars-sur-Allier crossing a part of our garden, and it happened that the train all loaded, stopped there and the water of our well refreshed the wounded.  Little by little, surely among the young people, the young girls of the country and the American soldiers, the strange barrier of language disappeared.  The American learned very quickly to ask for omelettes and pommes de terre frites and Mademoiselle, voulez-vous promenade avec moi ce soir?   And we learned the the mostordinary words in English.  They were so generous... and during the horrible epidemic of flu, our good Dr. Turpin having died, it was the American doctors who helped us.  One of them  took out my tonsils free of charge, on the table  of our kitchen!!!  They loved our good bread and gave us conserves in exchange.  Certain of them were interested in our mores, wishing to understand our way of life, and trying to make us understand the difference between our country and theirs.  For the most part they were bored,  like all soldiers.   They wanted only to return home.  Having made the acquaintance of two American nurses, I had had the occasion to visit the hospital many times.  Passing near the lines of barbed wire, behind which were the German prisoners, also wounded, I said to myself, “ the poor boys..., they are like all the other soldiers.  You see the effect of propaganda.....I had believed them to be monsters.
The Annamites, Lost Children

I saw also the Annamites,who seemed like lost children.  They had always the appearance of trembling from cold and from fear.  I had noticed at the cemetery, situated opposite the border of  Route National 7 a board marking their common grave.  There was no name -  simply a word Annamite- and a number.  Very often I visited this cemetery.  From our house, I heard many times a day, especially during the epidemic, the piercing sound of the trumpet playing Taps, the very sad goodbye to the soldier.
Even the donkey Martin
Tomorrow, will be the 50th anniversary of the Armistice, 50 years!  Soon, all those who remember this memorable day will be no more.  I have not forgotten any of it.  The Americans tumbled out of  the hospital barracks, acting like fools, embarrassing us, one of them embracing even our donkey Martin and crying, La Guerre est finie, la guerre est finie! - The war is over!  The war is over! 

There had been so much false hope.  One could scarcely believe it.  But it was  true, the tears of joy drowned those of mourning.

       Little by little, the base hospitals emptied.  After the departure of one of them, leaving during the night, I found the next morning, in our garden, one last gift, one of those little sacks full of good things by the ladies of the Red Cross and of which the soldiers had no more need. 

Yes, effectively, for many of the people of the villages of St Parize-le Châtel,  Magny-Cours, Moiry, these more than two years of the presence of the Americans was a godsend.  I believe that certain people of these villages had never had so much money or things of all sorts.  When I returned to Moiry in 1937, for the first time in 16 years, I found an inhabitant who still had a bag full of American  socks and pullovers.
Wars are all the same... For certain, they bring unhappiness, misery, mourning....for others, fortune and alas, profit...and, again for others, a love so strong as to overcome time and distance,  the differences of  mores and of language,  between two beings  who could not live without each other.  It is for this reason  that I left my pretty village, my dear country.  I had returned there three times since the Armistice of 1918 and I hope to do it at least one more time.

Many times, during the 47 years in which I lived in America, I had had the great pleasure to see again many of the occupants of the base hospital.   All have a good memory of Moiry and its people.

Memorial Day

       At the end of your article, dear Monsieur you write: “ How shall we commemorate this anniversary.’’

Permit me to offer you this suggestion:  Each year in America we celebrate Memorial Day, that is, the Day of Remembrance. I would be happy if someone would put flowers on the little monument. (monument to the Americans who died for France, the Right and Liberty.)

It would be good, also, if  the school children participate, learning by this what has happened in this little corner of  France.  Someone could also put there a little American flag.  A barrier around the  monument would  protect it.  In the beginning there was one, wasn’t there?  If anyone is interested, I would be happy to contribute to this project.

The politics of a country changes; those who were our enemies become our friends, but the great individual sacrifice of the soldier never changes.  He has given his life. This supreme act demands an act of remembrance.

I did not have the intention in beginning this letter, in thanking you for the newspaper, La Montagne-Dimanche, to make it such a long commentary, but your captivating article having evoked in me so many memories, I could not stop myself.  I ask your indulgence, for, speaking and writing English for 47 years, I believe that my French is mixed up.
Thanks you again for so many things remembered.

Mme Rebecca De Vries
née Goethe
Villa - Chez Nous
Harwich, MA,  USA

 translation and  copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy 3/10/01, Brewster, MA 02631

Saturday, March 6, 2010

While Looking for Eggs

       Most of the time our chickens were reasonable chickens, content with their henhouse, with their individual boxes where they were happy to lay their eggs and sit on them.  But every year, we had one or two adventurous chickens, crazy chickens, not content with their house, those “idiots’’ as my mother called them, those chickens who would sneak away and build a nest in the hedges in the pasture, near our house.  There they lay their eggs and, if they were not discovered, sit on them.  One of my duties is to find them or to uncover the nests before the foxes or the snakes found them or so they did not become chicks.

       This year there were two adventurous chickens, a beautiful black one which we called “L’Espagnole’’  and a beautiful redhead which we called “La Normande.’’  I was looking for their nests.  After having walked the length of the hedgerow, I retraced my steps and suddenly I saw under the grass, well hidden, a beautiful nest containing many eggs. 

  I began to put the eggs in my basket when I heard some voices from the other side of the hedgerow.  Across the underbrush I saw two young women seated face to face in a little pit, one had hair the color of copper, so brilliant that it looked like a helmet.  The other had very black hair, a helmet of ebony.   Both were so made up that one would have said that they were wearing masks.  
  Since the war, we saw all sorts of people in our little village of Moiry. Primarily, workers and their families came from Barcelona and from Madrid to build the American Camp because all the strong young French men were at war.  Then the American soldiers came, and also all sorts of women who did not look at all like our women of the village.   I asked Maman, “Where do these women come from? What do they do?’’
  She answered me, “Ah, these are the women of war.  I believe that they work at the Camp.  Enough questions!  Get to work! ’’

      It was like that when I asked her where babies came from.  She answered, “From Paris.’’  As there were many state children in Moiry and since their mothers went to get them in Paris, I accepted this response.

      From my side of the hedgerow, I listened silently.  I thought, “There is something mysterious in all of this.’’
The mystery became more profound when I heard from across the hedgerow, the bronze head saying to the black head, “ I have made 89 francs.  And you?’’

      “Me, I have made only 53 francs.  However, I am prettier than you.’’  They got up and, shaking the grass from their skirts, they took the road to Magny-Cours.

      From the house, Maman, called me, “Rebecca, what takes you so long to find the nests?’’

Translation: Rebecca Goethe DeVries
Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, May 12, 2001, Brewster, MA, 02631, U.S.A

American Hospital of Mars-su-Allier
Postcard collection of Lucy DeVries Duffy
  Photographer unknown

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Invasion

Le Moulin-The Windmill-Rebecca's Secret Place

The Invasion-1917 
At first there were rumors without end.  The war was going badly in 1917.  With anguish, tales were told, perhaps exaggerated, of the atrocities, of the pillaging, of the debacle.  Some refugees in a group, miserable, had passed by the village of Moiry, near St. Parize le Châtel in central France.  A Belgian family, the Verstraetes, had established themselves at a café at the corner of the route to Mars-sur-Allier.  They were liked.  They stayed until the end of the war.
July 25, 1917, a fresh July morning, a time of year Rebecca loved so well, the vast field bright with coquelicots, poppies, the field behind her house where she pastured her cows along with her friend François.  The fields were still wet with the morning rain as she took her cows out to graze.  She clapped her hands to scare the poisonous vipers as she scoured the swollen earth for the delicious snails for Maman to prepare for a treat. 
The old Moulin beckoned her, her secret place, for dreaming and for writing, poetry, and essays.  She loved to write.  She hoped the cows would care for themselves munching the good clover or maybe François, her adoring friend would cover for her while she dreamed from her perch in the top of the moulin.
Rebecca climbed the slippery spiraling mossy stairs of the dark abandoned wingless moulin and emerged into the bright room at the top with her window to her realm.  From here she could survey her vast realm, this peasant maiden, a child of the state, in her queendom.  The vast plain was rich with the wheat soon to be harvested, the golden wheat with the ruby jewels of poppies interspersed.  Rebecca could see her cows and François and her small red tiled roof home and Mama Soupet, her foster mother, rinsing her clothes in the village lavoir, the washing place.
And in amazement she could see five soldiers in uniform setting up a tent in the middle of the field, in the middle of her realm. 
Down the twisty slippery stone steps from the top of the moulin, Rebecca raced to gather her cows, bringing them home to the stable.  Never having seen the American uniform, she raced to the lavoir, the washing place, terrified.
“Maman, Maman, It is over.  The Germans are here.’’
Kneeling in a small box, a wooden paddle in her hands to beat the clothes M. Soupet’s looked up from her scrubbing.   “What Rebecca, you imbecile, I have work to do.  Don’t you see that these are soldiers, Americans, come to save us?’’
War or not the cows must eat.  Her mother accompanying  her, they took the cows back to the field.  
The soldiers, some engineers, tried to explain their project. They laughed at her fear and gave Rébecca and François big pieces of chocolate.  And the soldiers, knowing also that the cows had to eat, put their tent on the far side of the field.
Still, Rebecca’s realm had forever changed.
Following this initial contact, the presence of the Americans became very familiar. They measured their houses.  They surveyed the village.  Not understanding, the villagers of Moiry found them strange and a bit arrogant.  They walked in their streets as if they were the proprietors.  The plans for the hospital completed, the village of Moiry was invaded, mostly by the workers from Madrid and Barcelona. 
Edited and Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, July 5, 2009, Brewster, MA, 02631, USA

An American Soldier, M. and Mme Soupet, Rebecca's Foster Parents and Rebecca, 1918
From Rebecca's photo album, photographer unknown

American Hospital at Mars-sur-Allier
Postcard Collection of Lucy DeVries Duffy
Chateau D'Eau, Water Tower Built for the American Mars-sur-Allier Hospital by the American Army Corps of Engineers.  It was never used. Photo by Lucy DeVries Duffy

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Friend Alphonse

This photo is in the archives in Chevy Chase, MD along with boxes of photos from the American Mars-Sur-Allier Base Hospital.  The children, including the bossu, the hunchback, are watching American soldiers being entertained as seen in the photo below.  The bossu in this photo looks like the boy in Rebecca’s class picture whom she identifies as Alphonse.

Alphonse and his friends watching the entertainment of the soldiers from the American Hospital at Mars-Sur-Allier
Photo from the National Archives in Chevy Chase, Maryland

My Friend Alphonse
On returning from school, as soon as we think we are far enough so that M. Besançon, our teacher, cannot see us with his “long-view’’, we break rank and run to our home, or, if there are no women at the washing place, we go there to sail our little paper boats.   Almost always, my friend Alfonse is with me.
Because I have rickets, I cannot run like other children.  If I try, I fall.  Alfonse cannot run either for he is a hunchback.  So, we walk together.
Alfonse has a big bump on his back, another smaller one on his chest.  He walks always as if he is carrying a bag of wheat on his shoulder.  People say that he is ugly.  Truly, if all one sees are his poor bumps, his chin almost on his chest, perhaps it is true.  But I see his beautiful dark eyes, deep and tender.  His hands are fine.  His fingers are long and clever.  In spite of his infirmities, he is joyful.  He sings.  His voice is melodious and we like to hear him.  He knows many songs and he can draw almost anything.  Besides that, he has traveled. He is a state foster child.  Because of his condition, he has been sent to the South of France, “to warm his humps’’, he says.  For us, who have seen only our village, he is a great traveler.
He tells me of the exercises that he and other hump-backs did while singing,  “Bosse du d’vant, bosse du dos, ça se guérira tantôt.’’  ....“Hump of the front, hump of the back, soon they’ll go away.’’   But the humps did not go away. Now the State had sent him to live with foster parents at Moiry, my village.
He was not very happy there, for the Henrys, his foster parents, are very miserly.  Alfonse is often hungry. I admire Alfonse, especially because, unlike most of us, he is not afraid of Mr. Besançon, our teacher. In fact, he is not afraid of anything.  Mama says, “It is because life has already given him all the blows.’’
I often think when I am with my friend that he is like the poor beast of the fairy tale.  I believe that one day he will let fall the ugly form and become a beautiful prince.
When he has some leisure, for the Henrys make him work hard, he draws.  He sees beauty everywhere.  He draws animals, trees, and flowers.  While Mr. Besançon rages at him, Alfonse draws his black beard on the map of France.  Finally, our teacher gives up.  Alfonse keeps drawing.  His drawings are so good that people of the village give him a few sous to have reproductions made of their faded photographs. 
One day the Director of the Public Assistance saw his drawing and promised to send him to L’Ecole des Beaux Arts.  Alfonse was happy.  He made great plans.  He would say to me,  “Who knows?  Perhaps I will become a great painter.  Then I will meet a great doctor.  He will remove these ugly humps. I will become straight and tall like other people.  Then, you know, Rebecca, I will marry you even if you are still a little lame.’’  I share his dream.  I see him tall and straight as the prince of my dreams, for unless that prince has a soul like Alfonse, I would not want him.
Alas, in August, 1914, the war came.  Everything was changed.  Alfonse was already 14 years old.  It was decided that he must learn a trade.  He was sent to Nevers which was about 15 kilometers from our village.  There he became an apprentice to a tailor.  He sat all day on a table, with his short legs folded under him.  He learned to make buttonholes and to take measure.
Every time Mama and I went to the market at Nevers I went to see him. Then he would stand up and walk on the long table among the cuts of cloth and sing the old refrain, “Bosse du d’vant, bosse du dos, ça se guérira tantôt.’’ “Hump of the front, hump of the back, soon they’ll go away.’’  It was like an understanding between us.  It was his way of telling me that, even so, life was good and one must have courage.
It was cold even in the summer time in the basement of the tailor.  Alfonse, whose lungs were fragile, took cold readily.  They sent him to the hospital in Nevers where he died at the beginning of winter.  My mother said, “Do not cry any more, he is beautiful now.’’
Translation: Rebecca Goethe De Vries
Editing and Copyright:  Lucy De Vries Duffy, May 12, 2001, Brewster, MA 02631, USA
Editor’s notes: I cry every time I read this vignette.   However, while most of the story is accurate, I discovered when I went to France, that Rebecca’s dear friend Alphonse did not die at 14.   He was a witness to Rebecca and Charles’ wedding.  His name on the handwritten certificate of marriage. still in the Mairie (the town hall) in St. Parize le Châtel, is further evidence of Rebecca’s skill as a writer.   Alphonse lived into his 40’s. 
In 1988 when I was living in my mother’s village Moiry for a summer and reading the Vignettes in French with people there who remembered the times in the early part of the century, I inadvertently roused some anger.  I read this Vignette with a grandson, then an older man, of the foster parents of Alphonse.   My mother’s description of the Henry’s as miserly infuriated him and I hastened to apologize.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In Passing, Remember (Continued) Notes re the monument

The Monument to the American Soldiers Restored
Monsieur Wilrich and Others Planning the Restoration of the Monument.

Over the years since 1918 the monument to the Americans “Mort Pour La France, Le Droit et La Liberté’’ had fallen into neglect and ruin. When my parents, Charles and Rebecca DeVries, visited Moiry in the 60's, Monsieur Wilrich, the author of this article, took an interest in getting it restored and it was.

Again it fell into neglect. In the 80's when I visited Moiry, M. François Buveau, a schoolmate of my mother, would clean it up when he knew I was coming and we would go together to put flowers on the monument. I remember one poignant moment when we stood together at the monument and Monsieur Buveau sang “La Marseillaise’’ and I sang “The Star Spangled Banner.’’

In 2001 the monument was cleaned up again for Memorial Day for a weekend honoring the history of the Americans who were there in WWI and the love story of my parents, Charles and Rebecca DeVries. Mme Colette Mayot, Monsieur Gianni Belli and others, members of Hérédit, a geneological society, organized the exposition. I attended with members of my family. We had a ceremony at the monument along busy Route 7. We brought a flag that had been flown over the Capital, letters of commendation from Senators Kennedy and Kerry and Representative Delahunt. The commemoration was also entered into the Congressional Record with a commemorative tribute delivered to the village.

For the 90th anniversary of the Armistice of 1918 on November 11, 2008 my son Daniel and I were the honored guests. We were the link to their past in the story of the love of the American Doughboy Charles DeVries stationed at the Mars sur Allier American Hospital and the French peasant girl, Rebecca Goethe. The school children viewed the exposition about the Americans in their village so long ago and participated in the ceremony in the cemetery at the monuments to the French and American soldiers who died in WWI. The children presented poems and art about hopes for peace. At a mass in honor of the American and French soldiers in the lovely 12th century church the priest read one of my mother's stories, “The Mother,’’ a poignant story about a mother who goes to meet the troop trains hoping she will find her missing son. The “Vignettes de Moiry,’’ my mother Rebecca Goethe DeVries stories, which I have edited, of her youth in Moiry have become part of the history and folklore of the village

In Passing, Remember (Continued) Mort Pour La France/Died for France

At the monument at the 90th anniversary of the Armistice of 1918, November 11, 2008 honoring the Americans who died for France in WWI

Holding the flag which had flown over the U.S. Capital, M. Gianni Beli, Daniel Duffy. Monsieur le Maire André Garcia and Lucy DeVries Duffy

The cemetery at St Parize le Châtel November 11, 2008. The monument had been moved from National Route 7 to the St Parize Cemetery
Lucy DeVries Duffy

In Passing, Remember, Part 4


Thus, after fifty years of history, nothing more human exists on this land battered by the cold winds of winter or the hot breath of the winds of summer.

Alone, among the ruins of old pieces of walls, some lizards scoot about, sometimes encountering a viper warming itself in the sun. The birder is king, but there aren’t many for there exists no longer a speck of water.

In returning to Nevers, passing Moiry, you see on the right a tombstone of rock terminating in a pyramid, just on the border of the road. This little monument was erected to remember that at this place was the cemetery. On the front one can read, “Aux Américans morts pour la France le Droit, la Liberté (1916-1918) (To the Americans who died for France, Right and Liberty)

Rare are those who stop a moment in memory of these allied soldiers who came from so far and who had made the sacrifice of their young lives for the freedom of France.

In Passing Remember Part 5

How Does One Commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary

In remembering some 2,000 soldiers having slept their last sleep 50 years ago ( now 90 years ago )in this corner of the Nivernaise earth, who will go to bring a simple bouquet of flowers? Will there be only a bouquet of flowers from the fields ( this one for the soldiers who died as heroes, at the foot of this stone monument, poorly maintained and totally abandoned)?

For sure, the bodies were disinterred and transported to Nevers shortly after the Armistice, but there is still something shocking. The egoism of me continue to manifest itself, some forget quickly, to quickly even, others never acknowledge that such a forgetfulness might happen to the grand day, especially those who had survived the tragedy of the second world war.

Friends, readers, this is a story of the camp called St Parize le Châtel, but in reality, called American Hospital of Mars-sur-Allier because of the railroad serving it leaving from this station. And while you are stopping before this monument think of these soldiers who died in the dawn of the life and think about it as the poet recalling to you these simple words, “In passing, remember...’’

Editor's note: M. Wilrich was instrumental in getting the monument cleaned up initially. As written before it is now in good shape and has an honored spot in the cemetery in St Parize le Châtel. M. Wilrich bemoaned the fact that those who died here were forgotten but now the village remembers. My mother Rebecca Goethe DeVries forecast this in her article in La Montaagne in response to the above article in her wish that the monument be honored in the future on the American Memorial day. This happened Memorial Day weekend, 2001. My family and I put flowers on the monument in memory of the American soldiers who died there and in memory of my parents. I spoke at that event and now each Memorial Day M. Gianni Belli asks me to send a few words to be read at the ceremony of remembering. The village remembered with a grand celebration and exhibition on November 11, 2008.

Translation and note, copyright, Lucy DeVries Duffy, 2/5/2010

In Passing, Remember (Continued) Some German Prisoners

Soldiers in a Hospital Train


Besides the American soldiers there were naturalized Americans, those Greeks, Italians, Spanish, even German, having emigrated to the United States, and volunteered for the duration of the war. There were also wounded German prisoners who lived in the enclosure of the camp and took part in the same life as their guards.

Toward the end of the war, there were many wounded arriving from the front. As the place was inadequate, the later arrivals were cared for in the trains which brought them.

As soon as the state of their health permitted it, the convalescents were authorized to go out and walk, to make a tour in the villages around.

For the local population it was a windfall to have a military camp so near, for the United States did not fail to furnish copiously their soldiers with foodstuffs, conserves, etc.

And when the camp was closed, when the soldiers were evacuated, there was a grand debauch of the American surplus, which finally gave back supplies to people deprived of things from the war.

However, during the activity of this military city, many of the people were employed there in the services of governing and administration.

In Passing, Remember (Continued) Always More Wounded

Monument “Aux Américains Mort Pour La France, Le Droit et La Liberté’’
“To Americans Who Died for France, for Right and for Liberty’’

Nurses at the Mars sur Allier Hospital Camp


As bit by bit the number of wounded grew, it was necessary to build new barracks. The material, stone especially, was taken from the quarries located near Moiry. A good number of Portuguese, Spanish and Annamites were employed there. ( Note: Annamites were Vietnamese.)

In spite of the care given to the wounded, many died. It was then decided to build a cemetery, very rudimentary - similar to those of the front --. This cemetery was built at the south west side of the camp in a big field slightly inclining, terminating along the side of the national route 7.

In the course of the winter 1917-1918 many of the workers, Spanish and Annamites, employed in the different services of the camp, as well as the soldiers, of whom many were black, perished from the Spanish flu. The sanitary services were overflowing. The cemetery took on disturbing proportions.

In Passing, Remember (Continued)

In Passing, Remember Part 2


Here and there, numerous ruins of old pieces of wall, of cement paving covered with moss, the remains of smokestacks, etc...

Of numerous black thorns, eaten away by lichens, growing more and more, covering up little by little that which were these buildings.

At the beginning of the existence of this camp, some soldiers of the American Corps of Engineers came first, with little equipment -- Little by little the organization developed. -- The land was divided into squares and then were built many barracks with walls of brick, setting on floors of cement, covered with boards which were protected with tar paper. Many roads crossed the camp permitting access to the barracks and to the secondary services.

According to eyewitnesses having known this little military city (more than 45,000 people at the end of 1918!) the hospital had many blocks. Each block had around 25 barracks, placed in two rows. facing each other. Between each row were the refectories, the kitchens, the bath rooms and the w.c., the surgical block and the infirmary.

There was also a big recreation room where resident soldiers ( actors or professional comedians), singers, etc. gave their performances to entertain the convalescents. Also, the hospital was composed of many secondary hospitals. At the entrance were the general quarters - with the services of administration and the supply depots of every sort.

Evidently, militarily speaking, each block had a number in order. From the numbers 1 to 50, the blocks were housing the American Red Cross - the numbers under 50 belonged to the American states.

For this era, things were very modern. Electricity was created there, running water functioned marvelously and, moreover, in an area so dry and without natural advantages, all was quickly taken care of.

With their enormous technology, with machines and materials, the American builders went to acquire a water supply at more than six kilometers away, in the Allier River, just opposite the church of Mars-sur-Allier.

Fishermen who frequent the banks of the river could see still the wells which were dug and which still exist. The pumping station is there. The water was brought by underground ducts up to the end of the plateau to supply the camp. It was kept in reserve in an enormous water tower ( chateau d’eau), still held up by nine pillars made from the quarry of Moiry. On the facade bordering the road one can see the American insignia ( insignia of the American Corps of Engineers) fixed in the masonry.