Just thought you might be interested in this….
It was after we attended the 2007 Pont Laveyrat Memorial service that I wrote the attached article. We were astonished that on a cold Friday afternoon in February that nearly 500 people would assemble in a remote part of Beyssenac to remember the occasion of the massacre of many young people from the communes of Lanouaille, Beyssenac, Payzac etc. Later many made their way to Payzac and Savignac Ledrier for further small commemorations. Some 40 banners of the resistance were paraded and most mayors of the surrounding communes were present. This occasion is an important symbol of the wish of local communities to never see or hear of such an atrocity again. Those of us who have now made our homes here can stand alongside those whose families were touched by the massacre, offering our support for the same ends.
The mill has now been acquired by the local communes and work will start on turning it into a museum of the resistance, with the avenue along the river between the Pont and the Mill becoming a memorial walk with educational panels concerning the resistance activities.
The service takes place at the impressive Memorial by the mill. There is a turning on the right hand side of the road from Pompadour to Payzac, just after Pissac, which leads to the Pont. Many will park at the Pont Laveyrat where fields have been made available and walk to the Memorial, about 600m. If you wish to attend do remember to wrap up warm and have good shoes in case it is wet and cold…
This year, as ever, the date is the 16th February which is a Saturday and the service will begin at around 15:00 hrs in the afternoon. It is best to arrive at about 14.30 hrs to make sure that you can park and also walk to the Memorial area. Following this ceremony it moves on to Payzac Cemetery and thence to the Mairie at Savignac Ledrier. A reception will take place later in the Salle Polyvalente of Savignac Ledrier, behind the Mairie.
Please pass this around to others that you know, and of course everyone is welcome to attend if they wish.
Neil & Sue Spoonley
My thanks to Neil & Sue for this article. Please attend if you can.
At this time I’m planning to attend……….Gorsein Boy.
The Massacre at Pont Laveyrat in Beyssenac, Corrèze
It was sunny on the afternoon of the 16th February 2007 when some 4-500 people assembled at a remote old mill in Beyssenac, Corrèze. It was quiet and calm and so different from that same day some 63 years ago, in 1944, when the German occupying force in this area caused the deaths of 43 young people. How could we imagine the icy cold, the snow, the darkness and the sound of rifle fire…. and above all the horror of what took place?
The mill is at the end of a lane in a defile through which flows the fast moving river Auvezere. At that time the mill was accessed only by a small path from the Pont Laveyrat, some 800 m away. It was a remote spot and was an ideal place for a group of young people to use as a hideout and training centre for actions against the occupying German Army.
On that fateful day there were some 40 or so people at the mill and others were out on missions or being cared for at Clairevivre, a hospital nearby. Sometimes there were up to 100 people there, all of them were between 17 and 24. The came mainly from the local areas of Dordogne , but also there were people from Corrèze and Haute-Vienne, and from other parts of France. They were drawn together as part of the Batallion Violette, attached to the 3rd Battalion of the Secret Army of North Dordogne.
It is thought that the Germans had been advised of the activities at the mill by the owner who was French and was a doctor in Limoges, but he had close relations with the occupying forces. Sadly it also seems that the Germans were led to the mill by two young French youths. On arrival the throats of the two lookouts were cut and then the mill was surrounded by blocking the path from the Pont Laveyrat, and also the pathway that leads up to the road between Pompadour and Paysac.
The storming took the best part of the day until those who had not already been killed came out with a white flag of surrender. They had decided that they had no way to escape and their resistance was useless. The Germans said that they would come to no harm, but as they exited the slightest movement resulted in a shooting.
They were rounded them up and divided into three groups, one by the river, one by the bank up into the hills, and one in between. All were seated on the freezing and snowy ground with their hands behind their heads. It was now in the afternoon that the Germans then executed the two outside groups, one by one. Finally thirty four young bodies lay on the cold earth.
The middle group of twelve was saved from the shootings and were ordered to assist the Germans in removing all weapons and munitions from the site and they were taken up to the Pompadour road where there was a group of lorries. The youths were put into one, taken to Limoges, and were subsequently deported, many to Auswitsch. Of this dozen only four survived to return.
The final total of this grim day was 43 dead; three survivors of the massacre at the mill; and four who returned from deportation.
This horror story has been re-told every year, on the anniversary date, at a memorial erected at the mill to honour the dead and as a permanent reminder of this dreadful act. This year, 2007, there were some 4-500 people assembled in mid afternoon. A procession of about forty resistance flags of all the local units, clearly carried with much pride, began the short ceremony. The mayor of Beyssenac. Mr Francis Comby reminded us all of the event, and also informed everyone that something more was now to be done. The mill itself has been bought by the community of communes of Saint-Yrieix, in association with those of Pompadour, and Lanouaille, and it will be developed as a museum dedicated to the Resistance and to the particular tragedy of Pont-Laveyrat.
There will be a small exhibition this summer, and as the project develops with archives and artefacts it will be open to all, and especially to the youth from schools and colleges.
As Mayor Comby said
‘ N’oublions donc pas le Pont Laveyrat: ni pas ce drame qui a endeuillé tout ce secteur le 16 février 1944.’
We must never forget the Pont Laveyrat : nor this event which plunged this area into grief on 16 February 1944.’
Article kindly provided by Neil Spoonley, Correze, Limousin