Saturday 15 October 2011

Louise Pétron - Resistant and Concierge

There a some heroes whose story seems destined never to be told. This would have been the case for Louise Pétron, if a campaign to have a plaque erected in her honour in 2004 had not been successful.

The city of Paris eventually accepted the request, and the story of Louise Pétron joined 1200 others around the city, 900 of which - like that of Pétron - commemorate events that took place during the second world war.

Louise Petron was the concierge of a non-descript building stuck out on the edge of the city in the 17th arrondissement. It was a quieter post than her previous job where she'd been caretaker at the Moulin Rouge - at least until war broke out and Paris was occupied by German forces.

Her ground-floor home and office looked out towards la zone. Today this deep cutting is filled with the roar of the périphérique motorway, but in the 1940s it still remained empty as a reminder of previous conflicts, or rather previous attempts to keep them away from the city. This was the trace of the 19th century Thiers fortifications, and Pétron once again found that they offered no protection from invading forces.

It was a simple life, but one worth fighting for. The building was new, in crisp brick and gleaming stone, and there was an attractive shared garden surrounding it. It was typical of the social housing that was springing up around the city, and it was something to be proud of.

It is not clear how she became involved, but Louise Pétron's concièrgerie became an important letterbox for the Paris resistance movement. It was a clearly defined and recognised role (she is described as a sous-lieutenant on the plaque) and she performed it conscientiously. Far from the centre of the city and the eyes of the occupiers, she was able to pass on important messages with seemingly little regard for the danger it put her in.

She managed to stay off the radar for much of the war, but as the liberation of Paris drew closer, her luck was to run out. On July 17th 1944, the gestapo came to her home and arrested her in front of her terrified children. She was interrogated and tortuted, but revealed nothing about the network she was working for. With her husband ill and hospitalised in Paris she was sent alone to the Ravensbrück camp on the last such train to leave Paris, only days before the city's liberation. She died at the camp of typhus early in 1945, just months before the end of the conflict.

For many years she was simply another victim of the war, but in 2004, a date marking the 60th anniversary of the Paris uprising and liberation, a plaque in her honour was finally unveiled. Present at the event was her tearful son, his mind surely full of memories of the last time he saw his mother in this spot.


cocopuff1212 said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I love it. I'd like to see more on these unsung heroes.

chasing lightning bugs said...

these individual stories are so heartbreaking. i wish we knew more.

Rache said...

Thank you for posting Louise Petron's story. My husband and I always look for these plaques when we visit Paris.

Joufpoi said...

Thank you for telling us this story. I drive in front of it twice a day and was always asking who that courageaous woman was ad what did she do to resist.

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