The pocket of La Rochelle, 1944-1945

The fate of LA ROCHELLE, was played from August 20, 1944, when the colonel who commanded the place PREUSS La Rochelle is replaced by a naval officer education PRUSSIAN Admiral Ernst SCHIRLITZ. Meanwhile, in England, General de Gaulle calms allies who want to continue and I quote, "soften the pockets with carpet bombing". Dunkirk, Brest, Lorient, NEWPORT NEWS, and many other cities are more than fields of ruins but still held by German troops.

At the same time, the resistance across the south-west tributary around LA ROCHELLE for "The battle with the enemy". They are also the ones who will take ONLY the first weeks of the seat pocket of La Rochelle. The French troops landed in Provence on August 15, a portion goes up the Rhone valley and the other goes up the south-west, and will be operational in La Rochelle until early October. In these circumstances, the situation is explosive: 18,700 heavily armed men holed up in the city and its periphery facing some hundreds of resistant .... The French command, which has realized the strategic importance of La Rochelle, decides with the informal agreement of General de Gaulle, to attempt negotiations with the occupier of Frigate Captain Hubert Meyer, negotiator in the soul, is designated and entered the city on September 6 for his first interview with Admiral SCHIRLITZ.

And then, the improbable happens: he not only was enthralled by the beauty of the city, but OF THE FIRST LOOK, SOMETHING PASS BETWEEN THESE TWO SAILORS, despite a first contact a little 'rough' where the two men deadweight The dialogue moves quickly and the prospect of an agreement is not in doubt.

On September 18, 1944, General de Gaulle on a visit to Saintes confirms its support to Meyer and renews the allies instructed not to bomb the city.

Unfortunately, a dramatic blunder that occurred two days before in a small town in the outskirts of La Rochelle, could jeopardize everything: in a clash between soldiers and German Resistance, several civilians were cowardly murdered.

So in a climate of extreme tension MEYER SCHIRLITZ meet for their third meeting on September 20, 1944. There, the German leader agrees to immediately initiate an investigation so the perpetrators of this massacre be punished. (Which he did with the consequent conviction of the guilty.) But not only, very quickly, the two men decided that ALL resistant wearing armbands marked 'FFI' will be treated as regular soldiers and not as TERRORISTS. Similarly, TAKEN FOR ALL CIVILIAN ESPIONAGE OR SABOTAGE cons will be exchanged for German prisoners of war.

Admiral SCHIRLITZ agrees and will ensure compliance with this agreement until the end of the siege.

It was during this meeting, a half-hour after this unprecedented agreement, unimaginable a few weeks earlier, that the admiral saying that raise the status of European citizen because it is not the soldier who speaks, but man "NOW WE ARE WORKING FOR OUR CHILDREN."

Certainly, war is not over, but it is clear that this man thinks about the future and that human life matters to him. And he closes the interview by saying: "BETWEEN SAILORS, IT IS ALWAYS EASY TO UNDERSTAND."

Meyer take over a part of this sentence as the novel recounting these facts it would publish twenty years later.

With this breakthrough, the French command decided to continue talks in hopes of an agreement protecting civilians; MEYER SCHIRLITZ September 30 meeting, and together they developed a convention that sets out simple rules for both sides wage war as they please in a combat zone perfectly defined by a red line and blue side German French side. Thus, 20 October 1944, Admiral SCHIRLITZ sign the 'convention of October, which will help save many lives.

En Juillet 1947, l'Amiral obtient un NON LIEU dans le procès de la bavure de Septembre 1944 suite au témoignages du Général DE LARMINAT, du représentant de la Croix Rouge Suédoise et du Capitaine de Frégate Hubert MEYER. Libéré en Octobre 1947, il rentre à KIEL où il retrouve sa femme et sa plus jeune fille, miraculeusements épargnées par le terrible bombardement du 3 Avril 1945.

En Janvier 1948, Hubert MEYER est fait "Citoyen d'Honneur de La ROCHELLE" au cours d'un conseil municipal extaordinaire. Le maire lui demande alors pourquoi un homme originaire de NANCY, qui ne connaissait ni la ville, ni ses habitants, avait pris tant de risques, mis tant d'ardeur à sauver La ROCHELLE. MEYER répond que c'est la ville qui l'a inspiré et le dit en ces termes: "Quand je suis venu pour la première fois, en Septembre 1944, quand j'ai vu sous un beau soleil se dresser vos tours, votre port d'où sont partis tant d'hommes vers l'incertitude de la vie maritime, j'ai été saisi par la beauté des choses qui s'offraient à moi et j'ai eu aussitôt l'ardent désir de sauver cette ville."

Le vieux port et sa flotille de pêche tels que MEYER les découvrent le 8 Septembre 1944.

In August 1954, Captain Hubert Meyer, pursuing a brilliant career, both diplomatic and military, do not forget the past, he manages to return, through the German General SPEIDEL, his Honour and Dagger weapons to his enemy as honorable, as these two sailors visionaries had predicted 10 years earlier, EUROPE is built in the restored peace. Held by military secrecy, Meyer will have to wait 20 years before publishing a novel called "BETWEEN MARINE" which he sends a signed copy to Admiral in SCHIRLITZ Avril1966.

These two exceptional men, who have always maintained contact by mail, not met again only once in August 1976, when the spouses were received MEYER KIEL in the Admiral and his wife; opportunity for women in tears to finally fall into the arms of one another and for men to talk again at length about their common adventure.

Death strikes MEYER September 8, 1978 in a car accident which seriously injured his wife survives. As soon as she can, Ms. Meyer announced the terrible news to the Admiral SCHIRLITZ, who was ill, died in his sleep the night of 27 to 28 November of that year, may be 'squeezed' to join .. . 'HIS BEST ENEMY'.

This story has remained more or less in the boxes until the early 2000s, when two historians decided to investigate this incredible episode of La Rochelle pocket and decide to make a book published in 2005 for the 60th anniversary the liberation of the city.

One wonders at the ease with which Admiral SCHIRLITZ has agreed to negotiate the preservation of the city, the answer lies in the writings of Admiral historians have found in his personal archive: When he arrived August 20, 1944 in La Rochelle, Admiral SCHIRLITZ felt the same emotions vis-à-vis the city, Commander Hubert Meyer few weeks later ... ..

Film Clip and Map of La Rochelle pocket after the 'Convention of October'.


Click to watch film clip (In French)



WW2 Recon Pictures of Sub Pens at La Pallice


Army Kaserne's at La Rochelle


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