I was on the most frivolous of errands on one of our last days in France (trying to find drugstore beauty products that were worth bringing home) when I came across this marker.
My rudimentary understanding of Latinate word roots gave me to believe this commemorates the death of Seraphin Torrin, a member of the French resistance during WWII. A little googling confirmed that was, indeed, the case. You may have to auto-translate a few web pages, but the gist is this: Seraphin Torrin and a confederate, Angelo Grassi, were executed by the Nazis – hung, specifically – and their bodies left swinging from the light posts on a wide public plaza for several hours, as a lesson to others. This was in July 1944. If the two had survived another month, they might have hooked up with this fella:
The fella being Roger Derringer, my husband’s father, who rolled through this area on a mission of liberation in August of that same year. Note the camera around his neck; it was taken from a German officer, a POW, and Roger, Bud to his family and friends, used it to take some photos. (Then he was wounded, and woke up in a military hospital without it; he always assumed some doctor who outranked him appropriated it.)
I’ve written a little about him here in the past. He was an infantry paratrooper during the war, a position roughly the same as special forces today. They jumped in ahead of the forward forces and did what they could. Most of his battalion, the 509th, didn’t make it home, but he did. The few photos that survived are kinda amazing, although the scrawled pencil notes on the back are incomplete, alas.
This castle – those are German helmets on the ground – is now an art center outside Nice, which I regret to say closed for the season a month ago. It’s privately owned, by Americans, which seems fitting. But this may be my favorite picture of all:
The note on the back only reads “German emplacement.” Check out the swastika; Jerry was planning to stay a while, it seems. He put up a sign.
I’m sorry we didn’t get up to the art center/castle. It was a ways out of town and it might have been fun to find that vantage point for another photo. What is the purpose of war, after all? To win back the peace, and make the world safe for art centers again. More pictures were of victory parades in Nice, Cannes and elsewhere around here:
That toddler on her mother’s hip would be very old today, if she still lives:
And it all happened here. We’re at a strange time in history, in the history of all the world. It’s good, sometimes, to look back at these sepia memories and remember that in some sense, it was ever thus.
Back to America very soon.