Bonjour everyone! It’s a wonderful French Friday here at French Pemberley and today I am sharing a previous post that tells the tale of a wonderful book…by the author himself! I am talking about David Leroy’s book, “The Siren of Paris“, which was worth sharing again!
As you may or may not know, I have been plodding away at a second Master’s in History and my most recent class was on the French Revolution and I am a voracious reader, so I was thrilled that David Leroy, the author, offered to do a guest post for us! David did extensive research on the German occupation of France for this debut novel. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War Two. The Siren of Paris will appeal to serious history buffs (like me) as well as fans of action/adventure novels and lovers of historical fiction.
Here is a guest post written for my readers by Author, David Leroy!
The words “French Resistance,” conjure up, in the modern imagination, daring heroes blowing up trains, intercepting enemy secretes, and taking clever escapes from the Germans. This myth largely ignores the less glamorous forms of resistance, which was the birthplace of the movement in the first place: underground newspapers. Resistance did not begin by blowing up anything but with a typewriter under candlelight, or a stenograph borrowed from the university to print up a few copies of a tract for the “neighborhood.”
For a moment, my dear reader, let’s assume you are one of these daring souls venturing into the world of the clandestine press. First, you need paper, and that can be a problem, because extra paper is very hard to come by during the occupation. But determined, you find a way to secure a supply of paper on the black market in Paris. Second, you need something that can duplicate. Luckily for you, there is a stenograph at the university which no one seemed to notice missing when you were dismissed from your job. Now, with paper and a method of duplication, you need some collaborators in this underground paper, so you, of course, turn to your trusted friends who share a hatred for the fascist occupation. They help you write articles, edit them, and distribute your paper under the doorways of the apartment complex, in the market, and on seats of the metro. Of course you will also need courage, luck, and a little bit of blood, and you actually succeed beyond your wildest expectations.
Raymond Deiss had paper, a stenograph, and experience with printing. He also had friends, luck, and courage. His previous experience with publishing was in the world of musical scores. He managed to get 16 issues of Pantagruel out to his fellow Frenchmen before he was arrested in October 1941. He was beheaded, in 1943, in a prison in Cologne, Germany. Sixteen copies is not a bad run for an up and coming resistance paper.
Agnes Humbert, a middle aged single woman, also had access to all of the necessary tools and alliances to bring about an underground paper, due to her position working at the Library of the Museum of Man. This paper, titled Resistance, only had 5 complete issues before all of the members of this resistance cell were under arrest. However it marked the official start of the “French Resistance” because nearly everyone the leadership was betrayed, resulting in a huge public trial. Agnes’s luck enabled her to survive the war. However many male members of the Groupe du Musee de l’Homme died. If you are ever in France, and you see an obscure small plaque with names on it, chances are it is in memory of people who died in the Resistance. , (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupe_du_musée_de_l%27Homme ),
Instead of becoming a deterrent, this triggered a landslide of underground papers, such as Combat, Defense de la France, Le Franc-Tireur, L’Insurge, Valmy, Liberation Nord, Liberation Sud, and an unknown number of small individual short run periodicals. “They were all in love with dying and they were doing it in PARIS,” is what Butthole Surfers-Pepper would sing about this special period of French journalism. These papers provided information about the war that went counter to the official government position. They also provided a source of contacts for larger resistance networks. The core objective of this press was to encourage the population and offer hope. This may seem harmless enough, but the Germans were hypersensitive to not encouraging any sense of nationalistic pride in France; thus even the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as all other Catholic bell towers, were silenced throughout the war . Examples of actual resistance papers are rare, because eventually most were destroyed. Just being in possession of such a paper could cost you your life.
By the time of Liberation, many of these papers had grown in size and distribution with circulations reaching 200,000 to 250,000 with several regional editions. The short novel Le Silence de la Mer was written and published during this time. The increase did not come without a cost. For instance, looking at just the Defense de la France network, 688 of its 3,000 members were arrested, 127 executed, 322 were sent to camps and 132 never returned. Jean and Georges, characters in my book The Siren of Paris, are among those 132 who died.
As success increased, so did the danger to all those involved. In the spring of 1944, the Germans, along with the French Malice, began a systematic program to clamp down on these papers. Of the 2000 undercover agent positions advertised in Paris that year, over 6,000 hungry collaborators applied. Many of the underground resistance papers were operated and written by young university students or even teenagers. Once arrested through some betrayal, they would be tortured in the basement of a house over on Victor Hugo, giving the asbestos walls a signature handprint. Survivors would then go to 180 Rue De La Pompe, to be further tortured in the nude while entertained by classical piano to drown out the screams. The lucky ones were just shot.
The mythical image of the French Resistance is based upon the Maquis. This is a band of rouge guerilla fighters, well armed and trained, living in the mountains away from the cities. They are estimated to have grown to around 30,000 members. None of the Maquis appear in The Siren of Paris.
Young men, destined for forced labor in Germany, discovered through the underground press that they were welcome to join the Maquis. But the underground papers were run by people with no guns, living in cities, surrounded by the constant danger of betrayal from collaborators who were rewarded with outrageous sums of money.
The daring young paperboys provided by Volunteers of Liberty and Defense de la France, who disappeared from the streets of Paris in 1943, and 1944, do appear in The Siren of Paris. For their courage, they gave their blood, usually during a concert of classical piano. The very few who did survive went on to a memorable holiday at Buchenwald.
So, my dear reader, do you happen to know anyone with a stenograph, and perhaps some paper they can spare? Of course, we need to practice utmost discretion. This will be just between us. I am sure if we careful, we will be able to get at least 16 issues out before our luck changes, because these words we write do kill, and most likely ourselves. 21×27 cm will work fine, and we will print just on one side so they can also be placed on walls as posters. Anything smaller we can spread through the metro in between stops. I can tell by your smile that you are going to be a hero. ~~David Leroy
Thank you David for your guest post today.
So dear, readers…are you intrigued? You can purchase The Siren of Parisfrom amazon in Kindle e-book format or paperback. You can learn more about this author and novel at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/. This post contained amazon affiliate links, and if you purchase this book or anything else from amazon from the links in this post I will receive a small income which helps support the French Pemberley Blog.