The charming old city of Annecy where Maurice’s Aunt and Uncle live.
It is always interesting to hear stories from the past and to learn things that made people who they are today. I don’t think there is too much of interest in my own family history unless you count the fact that I might be related to Helen Keller (my grandmother said she was a cousin) and Pocahantas–really!! The last time I was with Maurice while we visited some of his family, I enjoyed learning some of the things about Maurice that I didn’t know before. His Uncle, now in his 80’s and with a thing for the ladies (his last girl friend was younger than me) told us about the closing days of WWII where the Germans were retreating and shooting people as they left. Maurice’s uncle was shot in the streets of Nice by a German from just 4 feet away. He lay dying in the street and was saved, by all people, by a woman who was a member of the Gestapo. She took him to a hospital and he survived. He later testified in a trial what she had done for him and saved her from execution.
It’s hard to imagine all that went on in cities and villages of France as those horrible days drew to a close. The Resistance was killing people as well and anyone who had collaborated with the Germans during the occupation were killed or subjected to having their heads shaved, especially women. Uncle Rene spent two years in a hospital recovering from his injuries. He pulled out his x-rays and showed me the metal in both of his legs holding it all together. He still limps badly and uses two canes now to walk. He could make me laugh, even though I didn’t understand all of his French, with just his facial expressions, his hand movements and different sounds and whistles. He said that one day during his time in the hospital the patients were visited by girls from the Crazy Horse. They didn’t do the can can or wear topless outfits but did some entertaining while he, being 24 years of age, could only lie there and dream of all of the possibilities.
Maurice’s father, Uncle Rene’s brother, was killed in the war two months before Rene’s injuries. I asked Maurice what his father was like-what he had heard as he was growing up-and he really didn’t know. I imagine it was too painful to talk about for a long time. One releative did tell me that Maurice’s father loved to laugh. That’s a nice thing to know. I saw a photo of him on the bureau of Maurice’s Aunt. He is wearing his army hat at a rakish angle covering his wavy hair, and a leather jacket tied at the waist with a long leather belt. His mouth is just like Maurice’s, as is his nose. It was interesting to sit with Maurice and his Aunt and Uncle and see the same nose here, mouth there. One of Maurice’s sisters recently gave me photos of Maurice as a child. A closeup of his four year old face shows me the familiar facial resemblance to his grandchlildren.