“I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
― Lucille Ball

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Episode 3: "Du bist mein guter Freund!"

This map was not included in the original book,
but may help international readers to understand
the route they traveled.

"Du bist mein guter Freund!"

In Bordeaux, south France, Levie is seeking for optician Dubois, the overnight address provided by Jules Haeck. He is finally able to find the address, using his limited French language capability.
A big disappointment and throw-back hits him. Mr. Dubois is not living there anymore, he is deceased.
The suspicious dweller sends Dubois to the bus station, where the other three are as well.

By "wood-gas" bus - with a trailer with wood fuel - the reunited four are heading to the heavily guarded line of demarcation between occupied and free France. The other passengers are particularly German soldiers. They have brought cases with liquor and some French girls are joining them. They endured two difficult and unpleasant hours in the bus, especially when one of the drunk soldiers suddenly hits Levie's shoulder and shouts: "Du bist mein guter Freund" or translated: "You are my best friend". "I almost had a cardiac arrest", Levie writes later.
But it finally ended satisfactorily. The four get down, roam the snowy roads and finally arrive at a remote farmstead, all according to the route description of Jules Haeck. A peasant woman opens the door and immediately admonish the visitors to be quiet. It's not for nothing, as after a while German soldiers are investigating the surroundings of the farm and knocking on the door with a riffle butt, shouting: "Open the door". When they don't get any reaction, they decide to end their action and leave.

After a good meal the four continue their trip towards the line of demarcation. The border is fitted with barbed wire, has gatehouses and (as they later discovered) land mines. However no single German soldier shows up when they pass the line, so that they get easily over this last substantial hurdle.

As soon as they are on free territory, the two French pilots have to report themselves in the demobilization center in Chateauroux. When this is accomplished, they are all heading to Clermont Ferrand (west of Grenoble), the residence of Robert David. Finally after 2 years the pilot meets again with his wife and daughter, who is a bit afraid for her father, ascertains Levie. Now the four can relax for a while and have a good French meal, a stew with potatoes, carrots, turnips, herbs and cow stomach.

Rene le Blas, the other pilot, goes from there alone to his residence Marseille. Robert David escorts the two brothers from Hengelo by train to Perpignan (south-west from Marseille near the Mediterranean and the Spanish border). He buys the tickets for them for the mountain train into the Pyrenees, and they say goodbye. They have been together for a month and survived a dangerous journey through occupied territory into free territory.

Translation by Leo Kolwijck, 2014


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