Saturday, September 5, 2015

Madeleine Truel (1904-1945)

Family Portrait (Madeleine Sitting)
Madeleine Truel, the youngest child of Alexandre Léon Truel and Marguerite Larrabure, was born in France on 28 August 1904. Both of Madeleine's parents died before she was 20. Due the absence of their parents, the Truel children decided to return to France in 1924 at the request of family members in Paris.

In June 1940, The Germans invaded Paris. Pierre and Annie Hervé, friends of Madeleine, introduced her to the Resistance. Madeleine´s job was to forge documents, especially passports, which were delivered to Jewish fugitives and allied soldiers that had parachuted over the French capital. She used the pseudonym Marie.[In January 1942, Madeleine was knocked over by a Nazi army truck. She was diagnosed with multiple fractures to the cranium and legs and spent a long time in the hospital. Due to this accident she had to endure a limp that stayed with her to her final days.]

Madeleine was captured by three German agents on 19 June 1944 when picking up ink in one of the Resistance's hideaways. Days before, a resistance comrade (called Annie) was captured and, with information gathered from her, the agents set a trap which led to Madeleine's capture. After her arrest, she was brought to the SS office located on the Foch Avenue before being incarcerated at the Fresnes prison. She was tortured in an attempt to uncover details about the plans and people of the Resistance, but she resisted and gave no details away, assuming all responsibility for her acts.

In 1945 she was transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where she lived in a heroic charitable manner. She distributed the small amount of food that she received to help those who needed it most, maintained good spirits in spite of the hardships and enlightened her cell mates with nice stories she remembered about Peru. For this reason she received the affectionate name "Bird of the Isles".

The end of the war was near: The Soviet army was approaching from the east and the U.S. military from the west. German troops became disorganized and started to flee. In order to hide evidence of the brutality suffered in the camps, thousands of Sachsenhausen prisoners were sent over 100 miles away to 
Lübeck in what became known as the "Death March". Many of them, exhausted by malnutrition and bad weather, died along the way. A German soldier impatient with the slowness of the marching prisoners began to beat some of them with a steel rod. One of his victims was Madeleine.

A few hours later the Germans abandoned the marching prisoners and striped off their uniforms to hide from the Russian troops that were on their gaining on them. Madeleine lost consciousness and was carried on a stretcher by her fellow prisoners. In spite of her small stature it took six people to do the task. The group of survivors arrived in the small German town of Stolpe. When she came to consciousness she suffered a strong headache and a high fever. Shortly afterwards, she died.

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