The exile of the Moselle people in Mussidan (November 1940 – April 1945)

11th November 1940: demonstration of students in Paris to commemorate the victory against Germany in the First World War.

17 November: night raid by 150 Luftwaffe aircraft on Southampton (England).

17 November: expulsion of 247 inhabitants of Vigy (Moselle) to Mussidan.

18th April 1945: the expellees of Vigy return to their native land.

No clause in the armistice signed on 22nd June 1940 mentions the fate of Alsace and Moselle. Three departments, the Haut-Rhin, the Bas-Rhin and the Moselle, were nevertheless de facto annexed and integrated into the Reich on 25 July 1940.

A German administration was set up at the end of June and the old border markers of 1871 were immediately reactivated. The prefect of the Moselle, Charles Bourrat, was arrested on 16th June and then sequestered, before finally being expelled on 8th August. From then on, the German Gauleiter* Josef Bürckel, appointed civil administrator of the Moselle, ran the department

When he entered Metz on 21st September, Josef Bürckel rode on horseback through the streets littered with torn French books before being solemnly handed the keys to the town by the former German mayor of 1918. The signal is clear. All references to French culture are banned. Books written in this language were destroyed and the practice of French was forbidden. And all ‘undesirables’ and ‘non-assimilables’ were expelled.

This did not prevent the Moselle population from demonstrating its attachment to France on several occasions. On 15 August 1940, the Assumption celebrations gave rise to large-scale patriotic demonstrations on the Place Saint-Jacques in Metz.

The Nazi reaction was swift. More than 57,000 Moselle residents were expelled between 11 and 21 November 1940. In a few months, 40% of the inhabitants were forced to leave the department. They were replaced by German settlers from Bessarabia or the Palatinate. The accelerated Germanisation of the territories annexed to the Reich had begun.

Those expelled from Vigy arrived at Mussidan station on 26 November. In its fortnightly report from 16 November to 1 December, the Périgueux postal control commission stated that « the arrival of the Lorrainers produced a real wave of hatred against Germany and also triggered a strong feeling of admiration for the expellees, whose courage and love for France are truly magnificent ».

The new arrivals quickly integrated in the Dordogne. They were soon followed by Mosellans who fled from forced incorporation into the ranks of the German army after serving their time in the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD). All of them know that they are there for a long time. Many of them worked in local factories and on the surrounding farms. Le Trait d’Union, the newspaper of the Moselle community, played a major role in maintaining the link with its region of origin.

Moselle experienced four particularly difficult years under the Reich’s authority, between the forced relocation to Silesia or Czechoslovakia of the « non-assimilable » French speakers, and the forced incorporation of young people into the German army (the « Malgré-Nous »). As for the expellees, they experienced, like all the other Mussidaners, the tragic events of 1944. Several of them were deported to concentration camps following the round-ups on 16 January and 26 March.

and 26 March. Eight of them were among the 52 victims of the massacre of 11 June in Mussidan.

The Dordogne was officially liberated on 25 August 1944. But the Moselle exiles did not return to their homeland until more than six months later. The fighting that continued until April 1945, the destroyed communication routes and the supply problems were all obstacles to their return.

The unbreakable links between the two communities during the dark years were not broken. The twinning committee created in 1990 between Mussidan and Vigy is proof of this.

*Gauleiter: district chief.

Inhabitants of Vigy leaving Mussidan on 18th April 1945.

Mr Genevaux’s Lorraine class in Mussidan in 1941.