Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Resistance Priests

This Sunday my friend Naftali, who came from a Polish, Jewish, Communist family (he says already in France he had three strikes against him) took me to Saint Xavier church in Paris. Naftali, himself a Resistant, who I've written about before, has introduced me to many living Resistants but surprised me when he picked me and said let's go to Mass. This was a Catholic mass - full on two hours in Latin with singing and a procession in honor of Abbé Roger Derry who had been a priest at this church. In 1941 the Germans discovered that he worked with the Resistance and deported him to Cologne. In 1944 they decapitated him.

 So seventy years after the war, the church was full, a military honor guard attended, a taps service played a tribute and a parade of anciens combattants shuffled to the altar. From the old and middle-aged, to parents with babies and school-age children the outpouring impressed me. To quote Abbé Roger Derry's last letter to his pastor, Monseigneur Chevrot, 'I have a few days, maybe a few hours until my death. God is good and has given me great peace and a spirit of joy...'
 Hope you can see the plumes of incense - each of the 12 or so white robed attendant priests each swung that thing and we almost choked.
 The memorial with Abbé Roger Derry's photo.

Right after the long mass Naftali, always one on a mission, took me to St. Roch church over on the Right bank and showed me the tribute to another Catholic priest from that Church. On the wall was a memorial 'the Wall of Deportation' put up by de Gaulle's niece and Konrad Adenauer to the Camp victims. Because the plaque was put up in the 1957 the numbers are much less than we know now.
 Here it explains that Father Louis Courcel, a priest at Saint Roch, helped the Resistance network 'Bourgogne' that saved shot down British and American flyers. He was deported and died at Nordhausen.
 The sculptor who carved the wooden figures holding the gold raised pulpit is the sculptor of the Holocaust memorial statues Naftali helped erect in Pere Lachaise cemetary in honor of his father. His father was decapitated at Natzhof-Struweiler, sadly just before the end of the war.

Cara - Tuesday


  1. Thank you, Cara. What so many went through because of the indifference of so many to the warnings all around them, never fails to sadden me. Not just at the past, but for what that continuing mindset portends for the future. NEVER FORGET.

  2. What a good tribute to people who gave their lives for the Resistance to fascism. You always have such good posts about real heroes, living and dead. And you uncover anecdotes and resisters that most of us haven't known.

    I also give kudos to the hundreds who protested a Nazi war criminal's funeral in Italy, preventing it from taking place.

    It's so important to keep this "resistance" and opposition going today.

  3. As I walked along the Rue Suffren from UNESCO to the Hotel Pullman, I crossed the Rue de l'Abbe Roger Derry -- resistant. When I got to my room, I was curious and Googled Roger Derry. His story is at once so quiet and unassuming and so immense -- I am quite undone by the courage and conviction of those who have gone before us and in that Evil period on the Earth who endured so much suffering with such strength. I feel that we are quite inferior to them and I am grateful to l'Abbe Roger Derry, though I never knew him, and I am inspired by his life and his faith. Thank you!