Understand – Refuse – Resist

Carrière des Fusillés Intro to poem
In the summer, I visited friends in Brittany. Amongst the places they took me to was near the town of Châteaubriant.
Just outside the town is a war memorial at the Carrière des Fusillés.
It is a Memorial with quite a story to tell.

In 1941, the Nazis occupied this part of France when a member of the French Resistance assassinated Feldkommandant Hotz,
the Commandant of the German Forces, in Nantes. As a reprisal, the occupiers arrested 27 hostages and took them to a nearby quarry where they were shot. All were members of the French Resistance but none were involved with the death of the German officer. A further 23 hostages were shot elsewhere.
On the morning of 22nd October, the hostages were driven from Choisel Internment camp to the quarry.
All refused to be blindfolded and as they travelled to their death, they sang La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem. The youngest were 17, 19 and 21 and the two eldest were 58.
After the war the Quarry became a place of memorial and today, there is a sense of quiet brooding there. All of the 27 men are commemorated in a moving display around the quarry, telling their story. Each display board commemorates three of the hostages – they were shot in threes and are remembered in that way. The path then leads to an amazing sculpture by the artist Antoine Rohal, completed in 1950. (See above; photo by Mr G)
For me, visiting the quarry was a profound experience and in the quietness at the end of the day it was possible to reflect on the human cost of war. The price so many paid in so many ways. Individuals, communities, countries and our world.
Every act of violence, every war, every hurt inflicted diminishes our humanity but also has immense consequences for all who share our planet with us.  As we are beginning to realize, there is a cost. There is also a debt. Those like the men who died in that quarry in 1941 have a message for us. I’ve tried to express this in the following poem I wrote the other day.

Understand – refuse – resist

Our voices cry out from the ground where we fell,
Comprendre – Refuser – Résister !
The principles of our stand,
written in the blood of our sacrifice.
The message from our yesterday to your today:
Understand – Refuse – Resist!

Your world accepts too much;
making compromises,
and so collaborating –
without heed to the consequences –
for you have forgotten to remember…

Our footsteps tread the ground behind you.
as you hurriedly try to flee your realities.

But we are your reality!
Do not try to escape the past
but in the stillness of our final resting place,
hear our urgent whisper –
for it is about your future and that of
your broken, fractious and fumbling world.

Let our message speak to your acceptance.
Remember and repent – turn away from
your hate-encrusted world and back to God.
Work together and take up our cry:

Comprendre – Refuser – Résister !
Understand – Refuse – Resist !

[Mr G]

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