The book will be out in a few weeks. Only three more pages to translate and rework out of a total of 454 pages. So close! Clearly I saved the most difficult bits for last. The smoke screens Knittel and his defence counsel created were complex but the manuscript will be completed by the end of this week. My editor is working very hard to correct my Dutch-English and my map maker does a great job. A nice example of the detailed maps he prepares for the book. The murder scenes in Parfondruy...
The Investigation Committee of the Belgian National Defence Ministry concluded that the Germans arrived in the Parfondruy area between 14.00 and 15.00hrs, where their appearance had completely surprised the villagers. Due to the close proximity of the hamlet to Stavelot, SS-Untersturmführer Kollaschny suspected the presence of the enemy. He therefore ordered his Fahrradzug and the squad from the Nachrichtenzug to systematically fire at the windows of the houses as they passed. The fearful inhabitants had been nervously listening to the battle noises since the previous day and had prudently found shelter in their cellars. Approximately twenty people had gathered in the basement of the Hurlet farm. 58-year old Léon Crismer’s house was the first they encountered at the village entrance, he was immediately seized by the SS. A bit further down the road, 54-year old farmer Jules Hurlet and his wife were in their barn tending their cattle when Kollaschny and his men approached. Alarmed by the sound of smashing windows they went out into the street and came eye to eye with approximately one hundred German soldiers. Mrs. Hurlet begged them not to fire at the houses as she was in great fear for the safety of the villagers. In response, the soldiers asked the couple if there were Americans in the area. Ignoring their denials, one of the soldiers aimed his machinegun at the belly of the farmer and forced him to accompany them in the direction where they suspected the presence of the enemy. Mrs. Hurlet beseeched her maid Léonie Angèle, a 26-year old refugee from Luxemburg who spoke German, to intervene and this seemed to work: the German soldiers allowed Mr. Hurlet to return to the farm. As the Germans continued its advance into Parfondruy, they forced the farmer’s pregnant daughter-in-law, 26-year old Fernande Hurlet-Nouprez, to come with them in order to open the door to her house, together with Léonie Angèle who had to act as an interpreter. Meanwhile, Léon Crismer was mown down by the SS men for no apparent reason.
Fifteen minutes later, two other German soldiers came down the road from the direction of Coo. In the Hurlet’s kitchen they found the women and children who had spent the night in the basement of the farm seeking shelter against the American artillery. They then seized Jules Hurlet and this time forced him and his wife to go into the shed next to the house, followed by the other people from the kitchen. As if she knew what was about to happen, Mrs. Hurlet hurried for the door on the opposite side of the shed which led into the garden, but she did not manage to open it. All the people in the shed now gathered near the backdoor, as if driven by instinct. Their worst fears were realised when one of the soldiers entered the shed, machine pistol in hand. Callously he kicked aside two women who begged him for their lives and opened fire: several salvos caused his victims to fall on top of each other and under the weight of their bodies the backdoor flew open. Before they left the scene of their crime, the two soldiers set the Hurlet farm on fire.
The tally of victims continued to mount, outside on the street in front of the farm lay the body of the maid, Léonie Angèle. Eyewitness accounts state that she and Fernande Hurlet had been shot in the back as they walked back to her parent’s farm. The mortally wounded pregnant woman had managed to crawl back into the kitchen before she succumbed to her injuries. Her body was later found in the burned out farm. Her 3-year old daughter, Christiane had died in the shed, together with 34-year old Marie Beauvoix-Pondant and her 6-year old son Paul. Additionally, 31-year old Julia Thonon-Adam, 14-year old Josée Mors and 7-year old Émile Collin were murdered there also. After both perpetrators had left, Mrs. Hurlet, who had been nearest to the backdoor and as such had been shielded by the unfortunates who stood between her and the soldier, managed to free herself as she had only been wounded. She took little Yvan Beauvois in her arms and grabbed his sister Marcelle, had been hiding behind the farm, and fled into the woods with the two small children. Her husband, who had been standing next to her, had also been protected by the bodies of the other victims and realised that the bullets had miraculously only hit him in his right foot, hands and knees. After the German soldiers had left, he managed to free himself from under the corpses and crawled out the backdoor. One of the servants, Jules Blaise, had been in the hayloft when the Germans arrived and had luckily managed to stay hidden. He found the wounded farmer and together they took refuge in the cellar of the Gillard home. When Mrs. Hurlet returned to the farm two days later, she found 2-year old Monique Thonon in the shed, miraculously still alive, covered in blood and shivering with cold, next to her dead mother, Julia Thonon, who had been heavily pregnant with her second child due in mid-January. Little Monique was later brought to the hospital in Dison by the Americans and thankfully survived. Her father, who had been in Huy since before the start of the battle, returned to Parfondruy on the 30th of December and rushed to Dison once he learned about the massacre and the fate of his wife and son.
Meanwhile, more villagers fell victim to the SS as Kollaschny and his men advanced further up the road towards the centre of Parfondruy. 69-year old François Terf, his 36-year old daughter Jeanne Klein-Terf and her 9-months old baby Bruno were murdered in their family home. On the opposite side of the street, 71-year old François Mignon met the same fate. In the Chemin Sous Bailleu, the road which led from Parfondruy down the hill to Knittel’s command post in the Antoine farm, 69-year old Joseph Georgis and his 64-year old wife Adolphine were shot in front of their house. An SS soldier then entered the farm of their neighbours and after demanding Ferdinand Bolette and his family to come out of the cellar, had shot dead the 86-year old farmer. As the soldier aimed to shoot the farmer’s daughter, Mrs. Terwagne-Bolette, his weapon jammed which gave the terrified woman ample opportunity to escape. Meanwhile, Bolette’s son had remained in the safely of the cellar and as the German had not dared go down there, instead he only fired a salvo down the stairway and so the terrified boy had managed to remain unharmed. Good fortune would not hold out for others though. Across the road, a soldier entered the house of the Sougné family. In mortal fear, 29-year old Jeanne Kapsitz-Sougné tried to explain to them that her husband served in the German army but it is unclear if the boy even listened to her. 68-year old Lucie Sougné-Gruselin rushed into the room after she heard the shots which killed her daughter and was also murdered. Then the soldier went after the other daughter, 31-year old Madeleine Lemoine-Sougné. He chased her through the house before mortally wounding her. A visiting villager, Mrs. Breda, managed to hide herself and thus escaped death. In the house at the end of the street, just 600 meters from Knittel’s command post, 67-year old Mr. Joseph Denis was also brutally shot. Still the killing continued, in the centre of the hamlet, 69-year old Henri Dessonay was murdered as he chopped wood next to his house near the Ruy, the small creek that ran though Parfondruy down to the Amblève River. Six farms in total were set ablaze that day. Out of a total population of just over one hundred people, twenty-six had been murdered seemingly without pity.