Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Michel Hollard (1897 - 1993)

1. V1 photograph displayed at the IWM

2. Imperial War Muesum, London
 For additional information about the V1 and Michel Hollard, 'the man who saved London' click on 'Comments' below.

4 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Introduction

The story of the German V1 ('vengeance') weapons during WW2 is one that can be found at the Imperial War Museum, London. From the summer of 1944 until the end of the war the following year the V1 weapon - and the V2 rocket - proved devastating to London, southern England and parts of the liberated N.W. European mainland.

Yet, the devastation of the V1 flying bomb could have been much worse had it not been for the effort of the French Resistance leader Michel Hollard (1897 - 1993) and the AGIR Resistance network he founded. Since the war Michel Hollard has become known as 'the man who saved London'.
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Some biographical details

Michel Hollard was a hero of the French Resistance during World War II. In 1941 he formed the AIR Resistance network which was attached to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Based in the north of France, during the years 1941 - 1943 the network worked to inform the Allies on the composition and movement of enemy forces in France. Then, Michel Hollard came across the German preparations to locate a large number of rocket launchers for the V1 weapon in northern France.

Given the rank of Colonel in the AGIR, Michel Hollard had more than a hundred agents in the network. After informing the Allies on the composition and movement of enemy forces in France in 1941, 1942 and 1943, he discovered the preparations of the Germans in order to install a large number of rocket launchers V1. These military constructions had a launch pad aimed at London, principally in the Nord, the Pas de Calais, the Somme, Seine Maritime and the Cotentin areas. Michel Hollard's AGIR network communicated this information to London via the British Embassy in Berne, Switzerland with Michel Hollard passing through the France - Switzerland border about 100 times.

Michel Hollard was not only able to identify about a hundred launchers under construction in the coastal areas aimed at the southern English coast but also provide all the features of the V1 weapon. One had been found stored in a depot at a railway station in Auffay (Seine-Maritime).

The knowledge of this weapon and the exact location of the launch pad sites enabled the Allies to begin precision bombing during 1943 and 1944. A post-war estimate of the effectiveness of this strategic bombing campaign meant that the potential number of V1s fired at London and the South East was reduced by 90%. This is why Michel Hollard is often referred to as "the man who saved London".

In February 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo in Paris with two of his subordinates. Tortured, and imprisoned firstly at Fresnes Michel Hollard was sentenced to death. Yet, he was then deported to the Neuengamme concentration camp. With the war drawing to a close, Michel Hollard was one of a group of prisoners transferred to a prison ship in the Baltic. His prison ship was sunk following an attack by the RAF on 3 May 1945. Luckily Michel Hollard was rescued and lived to be honoured for his wartime efforts.

Michel Hollard was married to Yvonne (née Gounelle) and had three children: Francine, Florian and Vincent. He passed away on 16 July 1993 and was interred in the cemetery at Gorniès (Hérault), France. Many people in London and the south East of England who never met Michel Hollard can be grateful to him in largely averting the curse of the V1 menace towards the end of the war.
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Wednesday, 25 April, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Redemption - surviving Neuengamme

How could someone survive the hell of a Nazi concentration camp? For the Nazis, by the time he reached Neuengamme Michel Hollard had already been de-humanised - and under a death sentence.

Yet, it would seem that even in this dark place of hell - a place of grief and death - Michel Hollard was thinking of his home and family, sunshine and laughter. For example, in September 1944 Michel Hollard wrote a poem about these things in his native French language - "Rédemption" - dedicated to his son Florian. This poem was first published in the Parisian 'Liberation' newspaper - "L'Agent de Liaison" (No. 12) on 5 April 1946.

Below is one possible translation into English of Michel Hollard's poem (by the author of this article).

'Redemption' - a poem by Michel Hollard
To my son, Florian
(Written at Neuengamme, September 1944)

Over there, in the land where the sun is shining,
Where one can talk without shouting,
Where, in the eyes of all, the look sparkles,
Where the joy and laughter remains,
In this Paradise where we wished to be taken,
To sing snippets of songs that we unlearnt.

A handsome lad with heavenly eyes
Azure coloured with a clear face
Is priest to the sounds; every gesture
Awakens a note or a remembered air
And seeks to give a passionate life
To such a concerto whose voice haunts us
And makes us dream as far as hell! ...

The hands at work and obstinate soul,
To provide them with a triumphant fate
It brought back twenty times a day
Some serenade, or else a choir
And a certain fugue barely cleared
But always present and repeated
In my being where the final approval dies!

Fine musician of gentle lands
Whose arrangements go to a too far away heaven;
Your notes of silver lost one day,
Could they not change their fate,
To visit those places where soul is unknown
Where only horror still sleeps,
Where all is cursed, even the mornings?

Slipping in the short space measures
To come here to brush against our limit,
Could they not make our dreams ewe make our dreams,
To mix beauty with our great grief,
One little softness to this cruel land
And the rebellious light of eternity
To which our heart would wish to welcome?

Could they not enlighten our souls
And remind us that there is a heaven! ---
A world of harmony which proclaims your art
And that happiness itself is real?
Let them remember our misery
So that we know it is ephemeral
And that their power alone is eternal!

Proud host of minds that slumber,
Yes: that your music in a long boom,
Let it come to exorcise these demons that ensure
Until the hell where no one sleeps.
That, in her sweet subjugation of status,
It makes them his finest wonder:
Resurrect them from LOWER THAN DEATH!
---------------------------
[Michel HOLLARD]
Neuengamme, September 1944
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Wednesday, 25 April, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The original poem in French

Although this is an English language website about WW2, I include Michel Hollard's original French language version of the poem below for completeness.

Rédemption
« À mon fils, Florian »

Là-bas, au pays où le soleil brille,
Où l’on sait parler sans pousser des cris,
Où, dans tous les yeux, le regard scintille,
Où sont demeurés la joie et les ris;
Dans ce Paradis qu’on voulait nous prendre,
Chanter les morceaux qu’on désappris.

Un beau jouvenceau dont les yeux célestes
Colorent d'azur le visage clair
Est prêtre des sons ; chacun de ses gestes
Réveille une note ou rappelle un air
Et cherche à donner une vie ardente
A tel concerto dont la voix nous hante
Et nous fait rêver jusque dans l'enfer ! ...

Les mains au travail et l'âme obstinée,
Afin de leur rendre un sort triomphal
Il fait revenir vingt fois par journée
Quelque sérénade, ou bien tel choral,
Et certaine fugue à peine effacée
Mais toujours présente et recommencée
Dans mon être où meurt son accord final !

Beau musicien des douces contrées
Dont les accords vont au ciel trop lointain ;
Tes notes d'argent un jour égarées,
Pourraient-elles pas changer leur destin,
Visiter ces lieux où l'âme s'ignore
Où seule l'horreur peut loger encore,
Où tout est maudit, même le matin ?

Glissant dans l'espace en mesures brèves
Pour venir ici frôler notre seuil,
Pourraient-elles pas nous rendre nos rêves,
Mêler de beauté notre immense deuil,
D'un peu de douceur la terre cruelle
Et d'éternité la lueur rebelle
A qui notre cœur voudrait faire accueil ?

Pourraient-elles pas éclairer notre âme
Et nous rappeler qu'il existe un ciel ! ---
Monde harmonieux que ton art proclame
Et que le bonheur lui-même est réel ?
Fais-les retenir sur notre misère
Pour que nous sachions qu'elle est éphémère
Et que leur pouvoir seul est éternel !

Fier animateur d'esprits qui sommeillent,
Oui : que ta musique, en un long essor,
Vienne exorciser ces démons qui veillent
Jusqu'en la géhenne où nul ne s'endort.
Que, les subjuguant sous son doux prestige,
Elle fasse en eux son plus beau prodige :
Les ressusciter PLUS BAS QUE LA MORT !
-------------------------------
[Michel HOLLARD]
(Écrit à Neuengamme, septembre 1944)

First printed in:
"L'Agent de Liaison" (No. 12),
5 April 1946.
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Wednesday, 25 April, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Florian Hollard, musician

Florian Hollard, the young son whose musical voice his father could still hear if only in his imagination while in Neuengamme, went on to to become a celebrated professional musician - a bassoonist and conductor. He was Director of the Symphony Orchestra of Tours, Professor at the Tours Conservatory and the ‘École Normale de Music’.

Florian Hollard also went on to write what can be classed as the definitive biography of his father (in French):

"Michel Hollard, the Frenchman who saved London" (2005).
--------------------------

Further information:
1. Imperial War Museum website (Home page):
Click here

2. Wikipedia article about Michel Hollard (in English):
Click here

3. BBC "People's War" list of stories about V1s and V2s:
Click here
____________________________

Acknowledgements:

Imperial War Museum, London,

"L'Agent de Liaison" (No.12), Paris
(5 April 1946)

Cumbria County Archives & Library Service
(Whitehaven Records Office)
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Wednesday, 25 April, 2012  

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