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François Kerdal 1888 - 1945 Edit

Born 8.11.1888 in Nantes
Died 23.4.1945 in Ebensee

Biography

François Kerdal had been married to Lucie, née Giron, since 16 December 1911 and was father to one daughter, Francine, born on 13 April 1912 in Paris. He was machinist and cutter by trade and worked in the factories of the Morane-Saulnier company at 3 Volta Street in Puteaux. On 3 September 1939 he and his wife moved to 32 rue du 19 janvier in Buzenval, Rueil-Malmaison (Seine-et-Oise).

On 19 January 1940 he arrested at his place of work by officers from the Puteaux municipal police station on suspicion of Communist conspiracy and possession of illegal weapons. His arrest followed the capture of the politically active Communist Marcel Duhoux, who resided at 5 Boulevard Aristide Briand in Suresnes and worked in the town at the Latil factories. During Duhoux’s arrest a letter was found which he had addressed to Kerdal and which contained a leaflet and an invitation to the general assembly of the Communist section of the Latil factory. During his interrogation, Duhoux was forced to reveal Kerdal’s address. When François Kerdal’s flat was searched, a 6 mm calibre pistol was found as well as Communist Party newspapers and brochures and a bust of Lenin.

On 15 March 1940 the First Military Court of Paris sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment for Communist conspiracies. Before his trial he had been held in the La Santé prison, then for a few days in Fresnes before being transferred to Poissy after sentencing. In this prison he had the prisoner number 7383.

The end of his sentence coincided with a period when the German rulers were looking for 35,000 fit men to send to the concentration camps. The Wehrmacht had come to a standstill in the east. In order to replace those Germans called up to serve at the front and to support the Reich’s war effort through increased arms production, Himmler published a decree on 14 December 1942. This was passed on to the regional headquarters of the Gestapo by Gestapo chief Müller on 17 December 1942. This decree was the basis for launching operation ‘Meerschaum’, which was initially planned for 30 January 1943 but in the end was pushed back to June 1943.

This decree was behind numerous arrests made by the police and had the effect of extending prisoners’ sentences even if their time had already been served. The inmates’ files were reviewed again with the aim of lengthening their incarceration. So it was that at the end of his sentence on 21 October 1942, François Kerdal was not released from prison and on 9 April 1943 the German authorities requested his transfer. From 10 April he was held temporarily at the Fort de Romainville under prisoner number 2043 in preparation for deportation and, on 19 April 1943, he was transferred to Front-Stalag 122 in Compiègne Royallieu. He left France on 20 April 1943 together with around 1,000 men on the last of the two ‘Meerschaum’ transports to Mauthausen; on 22 April 1943 he walked through the gates of this fortress hewn from granite, where he was assigned prisoner number 28196.

Kerdal only remained in Austria for a short time and on 19 May 1943 he was dispatched to Buchenwald, where he arrived three days later. In this camp he had prisoner number 8444. At the end of January 1944, very likely already ill, he left Buchenwald and was transferred to Lublin, where he was registered under prisoner number 6786 on 26 January 1944. He was there when the camp was evacuated at the end of July and on 1 August 1944 he finally arrived in Auschwitz.

For the past year, François Kerdal had been able to make contact with his family several times: they received three postcards from Buchenwald between November 1943 and January 1944 and several letters from Lublin between January and July 1944. But then silence descended. In January 1945 he was evacuated again when he and several thousand other prisoners left the Auschwitz camp. The journey took place under the most appalling conditions and lasted several days – above all the cold of the harsh continental winter had a devastating effect on the prisoners’ already weakened bodies. Kerdal arrived in Mauthausen again on 25 January 1945, was assigned prisoner number 119911 and was taken to quarantine. Only four days later, on 29 January 1945, he was transferred along with 2,000 other newly-arrived prisoners to Ebensee. In this camp he was used as an unskilled labourer. He died in Ebensee on 23 April 1945.

On 3 July 1952 François Kerdal was awarded the distinction Mort pour la France (Died for France) and the title déporté politique (political deportee).

Adeline Lee

 

Translation into English: Joanna White

Sources:

Service historique de la Défense, files MED 21 P 468574, MA 7/11, 17/1, 23/2, 12/4, 23/2 (List compiled by the researcher in Czechoslovakia), 26 P 1133.

Archive of the Mauthausen Memorial, Häftling-Personal-Karte [Prisoner index card].

 

References:

Association française Buchenwald-Dora et Kommandos (ed.): Le mémorial [The Memorial] (Paris 1999ff.).

Henry Clogenson / Paul Le Goupil: Mémorial des Français non-juifs déportés à Auschwitz, Birkenau et Monowitz. Ces 45000 tatoués oubliés de l’Histoire [Memorial for French non-Jews deported to Auschwitz, Birkenau and Monowitz. These 45,000 tatooed people, forgotten by history] (Lunéray 2000).

 

Thomas Fontaine: Les oubliés de Romainville, un camp allemand en France (1940–1944) [The forgotten of Romainville, a German camp in France (1940–1944)] (Paris 2005).

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