At The Normandy Project, our mission is to tell compelling stories rooted in the drama and reality of history. Our first feature film, The Girl Who Wore Freedom, documents the profound impact that DDay has had on the people of Normandy, then and now. It tells the stories of the liberators and the liberated, of the love and gratitude that was born out of that day.
In this endeavor, we’re privileged to encounter like-minded storytellers who are committed to preserving the realities of history in creative ways. Among these is Douglas Bond, author of The Resistance, a thrilling novel set in World War II France.
The Resistance begins in the cockpit of a crippled B-17 engaged in a bombing mission over enemy-occupied France, early spring, 1944. Bailing out of their doomed Flying Fortress, Pilot Eli Evans and his navigator Charlie Tucker must evade a relentless Nazi manhunt. French Resistance operative Aimée, a Jewess, hides them at La Forge and tells them the triumphs and the tragedies of the Resistance, while the Waffen SS closes in.
“…Have you ever been truly afraid?” asked Aimée. Her voice had a way of sounding defensive and defiant at the same time.
Evans looked at her sideways. “Uh, we were just shot down and bailed out over enemy-occupied France, remember? Even more scary, I put myself under your knife on a kitchen table. I think I know a thing or two about fear.”
Nodding her head sideways, Aimée smiled. “C’est juste. That is fair. Now it is my turn to be sorry.”
“Maybe y’all are being too hard on yourselves,” said Tucker. “There’s this thing we’ve been briefed about, thing called the French Resistance. Heard of ‘em? I can’t say whether they’re afraid or not, but one thing’s sure, they ain’t cooperating with the Nazis, now are they?”
Aimée shook her head.
“All I can say is,” he continued, “war does bring out the worst in some fellers, but it brings out the best in others.”
“He’s right,” said Evans. “You don’t cooperate with Hitler. Is it because you’re not afraid?”
Aimée studied the flame of the candle, her features softening in its glow. “I am afraid. The Nazis are ruthless. What they have done is unspeakable. Yes, I am afraid, more for my little brother than for myself, very much afraid.”
“But you do it anyway.”
“However afraid I am, or however destitute we become—they offer us a large quantity of Deutsche Marks when we turn over Jews, or our own Resistance leaders—we are poor and hungry and, I admit, it is tempting.”
“How much for a couple of down-and-out flyers, like us?” asked Tucker.
Aimée smiled. “You two would be worth 30,000 francs if we turned you in.”
“Well, I’m fixing to stay low in the hole,” murmured Tucker, “and behave myself.”
“However much they pay us,” continued Aimée, “it is a world not worth living in if we give in to the Germans.”
“Or however much it costs you?” said Evans.
Aimée stared unblinking into the flame, as if she were recollecting faces from the past. “They say the average life expectancy of a French Resistance fighter is three months. Oh, it costs us a great deal, it costs our families a great deal.”
Absently, she ran her fingers through a lock of her hair as she continued. “It was immigrant Jews living in Paris who started it. Immigrant, Jewish, French children, to be precise. Sixteen-year-old Thomas Elek sent his twelve-year-old brother Bela to the Rivegauche Library, a favorite place for Nazis to gather, its book collection entirely controlled by Hitler. In his short pants and school uniform, Bela was invisible to Nazi soldiers; the boy walked into the library and memorized the floor plan. Meanwhile, Thomas built a homemade bomb. After carving out a place for the bomb inside a large book, he sent Bela back in with instructions where to place the device for maximum effect. Moments later Thomas’s bomb exploded and the library was engulfed in flames.”
“The little feller,” said Tucker, sitting up in the hay, “he wasn’t hurt, was he?”
“No. Bela escaped in time. The Germans never suspected a young schoolboy. As you can imagine, Thomas and Bela were exhilarated by their success, and joined with other resistance-minded French immigrants. Later, they enlisted their little sister Marthe to carry grenades and improvised bombs in her violin case.
“Then, in 1941 a German officer was shot at a railway station in Paris. Street battles with the Germans followed. But reprisals were brutal.” Eyes wide and staring, she shuddered. “For every German killed, the Nazis seize and execute ten French—even children.” She broke off, her eyes fierce and resolute
“What happened to them?” asked Evans.
“Thomas was taken—and executed.”
Hay rustled as Tucker sat up, leaning toward the candle light. “And Bela and Marthe? Surely even the Krauts wouldn’t hurt little kids?”
“They do,” said Aimée, her voice flat. “But Bela and Marthe managed to go into hiding. They were wanted simply for being Jews, but now, all the more, for openly resisting the Nazis. Germans published gruesome pictures of French Resistance executions, but it did not have the desired effect. More French people joined, not fewer, some who had initially cooperated with Hitler. More began resisting Nazi evil, in defiance of the cost.”
Evans chewed slowly on a mouthful of baguette and cheese.
“The worst and the best,” mused Tucker. “Do you reckon that all the Germans are rotten clean through, like Hitler? Or might war be bringing out the best in any of them fellers?”
Aimée shrugged. “Je ne sais pas. I am inclined to doubt it.”
“Not sure it matters much,” said Evans. “In combat there’s little time for sorting that out. The enemy’s wearing his uniform and shooting at us, and we’re wearing ours and shooting at him. That’s war.”
“I’d agree,” said Tucker. “Pause in the thick of it to sort out whether the feller shooting at you is wholly on board with Hitler, and you’ve just laid down your life for your country.”
“I have heard that some of Hitler’s army are Polish,” said Aimée. “Forced to wear the Nazi uniform and fight for Hitler.”
“Forced?” said Evans. “They made their choice.”
“Under great constraint, however. Some of his own soldiers hate Hitler so much they desert, if they get the chance. They are shot if they get caught.”
“I’m not saying I don’t feel bad about it,” said Evans, “but if I were in their shoes, I’d rather be shot.”
“Fight with the French Resistance,” said Aimée, “and that will very likely happen for you.”
“Thanks for the invite,” said Evans. “We have a date with the RAF tomorrow night. How far is the landing place from here?”
“The less you know,” said Aimée, “the better it is for us if you are caught…”
Want to dive deeper into the drama of the World War II French experience? Here’s how:
- Get the full novel now!
- Become part of the story! Donate now to help us finish The Girl Who Wore Freedom, a compelling feature-length documentary that recounts the Normandy people’s D-Day story and their enduring love and gratitude for their liberators.
- Read more on France, war, and the importance of remembering from Douglas Bond.
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