Espinasse massacre, Saint-Germain-du-Salembre (27 July 1944)

26 July 1944: Resistance fighters in the Dordogne intercept a train of the Banque de France carrying 2,280 million francs (426,857,248, 26 euros) at Neuvic station.

27 July 1944: the 1st American army liberates the towns of Lessay and Périers (Manche, Normandy); massacre in Espinasse of twenty-nine resistance fighters of the 4th battalion Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP) and four inhabitants.

On 26 July 1944, the baker in Chantérac noticed that a certain Duriez, living in Saint-Germain-du-Salembre, had a large number of bread tickets. Suspicious, he immediately alerted the Paul-Henri group of the Secret Army (AS), hidden at La Martinière, in the commune of Saint-Germain-du-Salembre. The same day, these maquisards arrested Duriez and took him to the camp. Staff Sergeant Schaffner introduced him to a chief warrant officer, Denis, who knew him and vouched for him. Duriez is then released. But he is a traitor. He was going to tell the occupiers where the camp had been set up.

On 27 July 1944, at dawn, the 3rd company of the 2nd battalion of the 50th Luftwaffe aviation regiment of Saint-Astier, guided by Duriez, headed straight for the La Martinière camp. It was supported by members of the North African Brigade, auxiliaries from the Parisian underworld. Once there, they attacked the Paul-Henri group. In difficulty, the maquisards managed to retreat, leaving one of their number, Raymond Raudier, seriously wounded. He was tortured and executed.

The Resistance fighters chose to fall back on the place called La cabane de Cranillère and set up an ambush. Cautiously, they called in reinforcements from their comrades in the neighbouring camps. As soon as they were informed, men from the Roland group, stationed at Les Jacques, set off. Other men from the Virolle FTP camp joined the expedition led by Guy Caulet (Barnabé) and René Daniès (Olive), his second in command. About fifty maquisards then set off in the direction of Saint-Germain-du-Salembre guided by Jean Magne, who knew the area well.

When they arrived at Saint-Germain-du-Salembre, they found neither their AS comrades nor any trace of the enemy. At around 2 p.m., at a place called La Fontaine de Maillepot, they came across a certain Bénard, nicknamed Paris Soir because he sold newspapers. Riding his bicycle from village to village for his business, he was known to everyone. Bénard suggests that they hide in the bed of the river Salembre, wait for the enemy to pass by, and attack him by surprise. Paris Soir, in the pay of the occupying forces, set a trap for them. As soon as he had given his advice, he rushed to report it to the enemy.

As time passed, Olive, the second in command of the expedition, found their position too dangerous. He convinced the leader, Barnabé, to go to the plateau where the hamlet of Espinasse stands. While marching in the open, the resistance fighters were quickly surrounded by German soldiers alerted by Paris Soir. In total, 29 men perished on the plateau or in the houses of the hamlet. To this must be added the executed inhabitants, Pierre and Augustin Grégoire, Élie Bonnet and Émile Beau, and the burning of their houses.

That same evening Paris Soir was caught at the scene of the massacre, busy looting the corpses. He was arrested and shot by the resistance fighters of the Paul-Henri group. As for Armand Duriez, he left the region. Found after the Liberation, he was arrested, tried and shot in Périgueux.

The Espinasse massacre left a deep impression on people. Every year, on 27 July, a commemoration is organised in front of the monument on which the names of the victims of this double treason are engraved.

The Paul-Henri group (AS) in the maquis during the summer of 1944.

Burnt houses in Espinasse.

Inauguration of the Espinasse monument on 27 July 1945.