Museum of the Resistance, Fort Lobau, Bondues, France

Museum courtyard.

Museum courtyard.

Between 1943 and 1944, in the small sunken courtyard at Fort Lobau, Bondues, France, 68 men were tied to a tall wooden post, blindfolded, then shot by a line of field grey uniformed German soldiers. Today, although out of sight, less than 100 yards away is a soccer field where you can clearly hear parent’s cries of encouragement, and young kids yelling to each other to pass the ball. The juxtaposition is powerful and striking: the men who were shot here for resisting an occupying power died so that these children could play on these fields today.

To stand in the small courtyard where so many Frenchmen were shot is a profound experience that you will never forget. It still haunts me. This museum pays tribute to the bravery of the men and women who worked for the Resistance. Through objects, documents and four theme-based rooms it does a superb job of bringing home the grim reality of the sacrifices made by the resistants.

Memorial plaques on the wall of the execution courtyard.

Memorial plaques on the wall of the execution courtyard.

On the corner of a busy road leading into the small town of Bondues are large rusted iron letters by the roadside proclaiming Musee de la Resistance. Nearby stands a tall white memorial made of concrete blocks. Carved in its center is a gaunt chained and bowed person, head drooping on chest, with hands bound in chains. This is in memory of the 68 French resistants shot in the fort. On the reverse side are carved the names of these people who were executed for fighting for their country’s freedom.

Entering the curved red brick arch leading to the small museum housed in the walls of an old fort, visitors will find artifacts and discover much more.

Used as an ammunitions warehouse and a pilot garrison for the airfield located nearby during WWII, it was also used as an execution center between 17 March 1943 and 1 May 1944. Its grim purpose was only discovered after the Germans retreated in September 1944, when local inhabitants discovered the execution posts and the cemetery with numbered headstones. Mounted around the walls of the courtyard are two rows of white stone plaques, each with the name, age and date of execution.

The Museum

The enthusiastic young curator who has an obvious respect for the sacrifice the resistance members made here, told me that only about 2% of the Frenchmen chose to do things the hard way and actively resist the Germans by acts of sabotage, ambushing and killing Germans, printing anti-German literature and newsletters, and spying on German fortifications for the allied forces across the Channel.

The tour of the four galleries begins with an introduction of the 68 Resistance members who were executed here. The second gallery tells why the resistance fought the Germans and the third gallery segues into the story of the first acts of resistance, beginning in December 1940, and, finally, the dangers the Resistants faced are depicted in the fourth gallery.

Museum of the Resistance (Rue du Bosquiel, Bondues 59910, France; phone +33 [0] 3 20 28 88 32). Allow 1-2 hours. Signs in French only; ask the helpful attendant for a copy of the 5-page English brochure that explains the museum.