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article imageLyon commemorates the liberation of its wartime Nazi prisoners Special

By Michael Cosgrove     Aug 24, 2009 in World
Fort Montluc in Lyon was a Gestapo prison for two years in WWII. Thousands of resistance fighters, Jews and others were jailed, tortured, or executed there. Others were sent to concentration camps. It was liberated by the Resistance 65 years ago today.
August 24 is a special day for the people of Lyon, as it marks the liberation in 1944 of the infamous Gestapo prison of Fort Montluc. The fort was built in 1831 and served as a military prison before the Nazis commandeered it and transformed it into a prison and interrogation centre. The picture below is of the building which served as the prison’s administration offices and interrogation centre.
The prison was also a holding facility for many Jews and Resistance fighters. Many of those who did not die there were sent to die in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Ravensbruck, Struthof and other concentration camps. Others still were sent to Nazi work camps in Germany.
It is estimated that over 15,000 people, men, women and children, were imprisoned in Montluc and over 900 of them were executed within its walls. Many of the others were tortured and they were held in appalling sanitary conditions.
Fort Montluc  Lyon France
Fort Montluc, Lyon France. This building was a Nazi interrogation centre.
Michael Cosgrove
Several of France’s most illustrious Resistance leaders were held and tortured there, including Jean Moulin, who was an emblematic resistance leader. Captured in Caluire near Lyon along with several other leading resistance figures and tortured in Montluc, he was subsequently sent to a concentration camp, thought to be Dachau, but died on the deportation train of his wounds. Marc Bloch, a famous French historian and army officer, was executed in Montluc.
A ceremony in remembrance of those who perished there and the deportees was held today at the very entrance to the fort through which hundreds of FFI French Interior Forces troops flooded on the evening of August 24 1944 in order to liberate 950 prisoners. They found over 40 bodies of others, less fortunate.
Fort Montluc  Lyon France
The main entrance to Fort Montluc, Lyon France
Michael Cosgrove
The Current Military Prefect of Lyon was welcomed to the ceremony by an ex FFI leader of the Lyon Resistance Branch. The prison's walls are in the background
Ceremony at Fort Montluc  Lyon France
The Local Military Commander and an ex Resistance leader at Fort Montluc, Lyon France, 24/8/09
Michael Cosgrove
Here are some of those who liberated Fort Montluc and who were present at the ceremony. Many were moved to tears at some of the speeches made by various local dignitaries and some of those who were present at the liberation.
Resistance fighters  Fort Montluc  Lyon  France
Resistance fighters, Fort Montluc, Lyon, France
Michael Cosgrove
Resistance fighters  Fort Montluc  Lyon  France
Resistance fighters, Fort Montluc, Lyon, France
Michael Cosgrove
The President of the Montluc Deportee Survivors Association, Georges Tassani, who was a Resistance fighter, was unable to attend due to illness. He was replaced by his grand-daughter who delivered a recital of how the prison was freed.
She related how the Colonel Köenig, leader of the liberation operation, profited from the chaos reigning in Lyon at the time to enter the Fort in a stolen German Army car disguised as a Gestapo officer and persuaded the Prison’s Kommandant to liberate some of the prisoners, saying that the order had come from the Gestapo Commander in Lyon, Klaus Barbie.
Speech given at Fort Montluc  Lyon  France
A Resistance fighter's grand-daughter giving a speech at Fort Montluc, Lyon, France
Michael Cosgrove
Barbie was known as the “Butcher of Lyon” and he gave the orders for the torture, execution and deportation of many thousands of people. He was personally responsible for torturing leading resistance figures and others. He also ordered the execution of 44 Jewish children who had been seized in a nearby town in April 1944.
He escaped from Lyon with a few hundred soldiers after having taken 109 Jewish resistance fighters as hostages from Montluc just before its liberation and the arrival of allied troops. Once at the suburban airport of Bron, he had them all machine-gunned to death in a field before getting into a plane and escaping.
He was finally caught in 1983 and imprisoned for life for crimes against humanity at his trial in Lyon. During the trial he was made to spend a night in what had been a prison cell in Fort Montluc upon the orders of the then French Justice Minister, Robert Badinter. Badinter explained his reason for his order by saying “The Butcher of Lyon will spend a night in Fort Montluc in order that he be reminded of the many times he went there to choose prisoners for deportation.”
Klaus Barbie died in prison in Lyon in 1991 of cancer at the age of 78.
This is part of a fresco dedicated to all those who suffered in Fort Montluc. It is painted on one of the prison's walls and represents Jewish children fleeing the Nazis.
Wall fresco  Fort Montluc  Lyon  France
Wall fresco, Fort Montluc, Lyon, France
Michael Cosgrove
Fort Montluc served as a women’s prison until recently, and is currently being prepared to be opened to the public as a reminder of the crimes that were perpetrated there between 1942 and the 24th of August 1944.
More about World War Two, Resistance fighters, Fort montluc, Gestapo, Nazi
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