During World War Two, some priests in occupied Western Europe chose the dangers of escape or intelligence work to fight for the cause, clearly knowing the consequences of discovery or betrayal.Many were arrested and deported or executed. When trawling back through information to track the movements and fate of these patriots through prisons and camps; the sparse matter of fact details become instantly striking. Often confined to just arrival, departure and death dates these are illustrative of the organised clinical regime the patriots were fighting against, and the mass dehumanisation process of offenders that the Nazis operated. The men featured in this post are shown only as a gallery of brief illustrations in one tragic aspect of the war.
|Father Vincent Mercier|
Father Vincent Mercier was thirty four and involved with the Comete Escape Line. Key operator Michou Dumon headed the Ugeux-Dumon cell in Belgium in 1943 and Father Mercier became active inside a sub-section of this known as ‘Lhoneux.’ Evaders were sheltered in the Putte Kapellen area of Antwerp before being moved south to the main assembly points in Brussels. January 1944 saw Mercier become a victim of the Comete Line’s collapse when he was arrested by the Gestapo, interrogated and tortured. Eventually transported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, Mercier died on 15 May 1945 soon after liberation by the Russians.
|Theresienstadt concentration camp Czecholslovakia|
|Father Joseph Peeters - Philippe Hamoir Esneux|
Father Joseph Peeters had been a priest since April 1920 and a pastor at Comblain-au-Pont in
|Block 24 Citadelle de Liege For Those Condemned to Death - maison de souvenir.be|
|Commemorative Stained Glass Window at Camblain au Pont|
Pastor of Limont Georges Moussiaux worked in the network ‘Clarence’ which was the largest intelligence gathering operation in Belgium. Other priests were also active in the same organisation, but did not shelter or transport evaders. On 8 July 1942 Moussiaux was arrested and incarcerated at St Leonard prison Liège, then later deported to Bochum. A familiar pattern followed with transfers to further camps and prisons, until he died on 3 May 1945.
|Abbé Julien Joseph LePlat|
A member of ‘Group Jam’ Abbé Julien Joseph LePlat was pastor at Heer sur Meuse and involved in aiding evaders when he was arrested on 7 January 1944. Sent to the horrors of Buchenwald, the priest died on 17 September 1944, six weeks after sustaining wounds in a bombing raid.
|Heer sur Meuse|
|Abbot Jules Grandjean|
Abbot Jules Grandjean was arrested on 15 May 1942 at Willerzie where he been a pastor since 1936. His involvement with moving evaders through a thick forest area on the Franco/Belgian border into the unoccupied zone had been discovered by the Germans. Imprisonment followed in St Gilles for fifteen months, before deportation on 28 August 1943 to Essen and subsequent camps at Munster, Cassel and finally Hamein. At Hamein, he was sentenced to forced labour and transferred to Brieg, Gross - Strelitz, and finally in May 1944 to Gross - Rosen. Grandjean died near Gross-Rosen on February 11, 1945 during the forced March of prisoners to Dora.
Additional SourcesThe US Medal of Freedom Awarded to Belgians for Services During WW2 – Peter Verstraeten
US NARA Files