“EVERY DAY IS HOPE, EVERY DAY IS A RISK. IF ONLY THE MEMORY OF THESE HORRORS BE WRITTEN INTO EVERYONE’S CONSCIOUSNESS AND SUPPORT THEIR WILL TO CREATE A FRATERNAL EUROPE IN A WORLD OF PEACE.”
In 1938, Odette was employed by a married couple, friends of her mother, Jeanne and André Goupill, who had four young children. In 1940 they adopted a war orphan and Odette took care of the house and this little boy. Henceforth she became part of the family. The Demarcation Line passed through La Haye Descartes. The whole family was involved in the resistance – that meant receiving refugees, people who refused to do forced labour, Jewish families, airmen and handing over information. Lucien Marchelidon joined the group. Together with Louis he was given the job of seeking out terrain suitable for dropping weapons by parachute. In 1944 the situation was difficult because the network was infiltrated. On the night of 15 February everyone was detained by the Gestapo and deported.The women were taken first to Romainville and on 18 April to Ravensbrück, where they arrived on 22 April. Odette was given the number 35253, on 4 May she was transferred to Holýšov in Czechoslovakia to the arms factory.
The liberation, as recounted by Odette:
Saturday, 5 May 1945 - 11 o’clock – Liberation. The Poles surrounded the camp and imprisoned all our wardens and wardresses. 17 May - We finally leave by truck, it’s 7 o’clock, it’s a great parade, we have 18 American trucks, we travel 300 km to Würzburg, where we meet people who had been deported, what they tell us is terrible, I can’t wait to get home to see what’s going on. 20 May – Train Offenbach, Frankfurt… 21 May – We only have 30 km to go and we will be in France, our hearts are pounding. Thursday, 24 May – 12 o’clock Paris!
The whole family was reunited between May and July 1945, Odette and Lucien were married on 6 November 1945!
To my mother, Ravensbrück represented hell, but she also met extraordinary women there. My parents, who had both gone through the same ordeal, knew how to keep silent with respect to each other, but they were also able speak to convey what they had experienced and the value of freedom.
Odette Métais Marchelidon’s daughter