1943 – 1945: an eyewitness report on a purge
1 hour - Pathé collection
This collection offers rare images of the Liberation of Paris, produced by a group of amateur filmmakers. Features include an item on Pétain and Laval, and an extremely violent piece that captures the lynching of Vichy militiamen that took place in Cusset, just outside Vichy, in June 1945 .
While the first two films were easily identifiable, the third wasn’t as simple .
When Evanghélou donated these 35-mm films, which were given to him by a distant relative, the cans were labelled :
Vichy : Pétain/Laval – October '43
The liberation of Paris
The liberation of Vichy : the hanged
Given the historic nature of these images – and the violence and brutality they portray – it seemed appropriate to at once verify their content in order to place the films in their context and assess their value .
Some of the buildings in the film enabled us to recognize the small town of Cusset. Research carried out in local and regional archives and the local press provided us with a different perspective on the images :
The De Cusset prison harboured a certain number of traitors awaiting trial or already sentenced to death in absentia, like the famous Georges Gouverneur. Hearing of this, a gang of young prisoners recently released from Dachau took justice into their own hands, and were supported by the people of Cusset. The ringleaders undertook not to execute Poinsot, from whom we are still awaiting revelations. He will avoid a full-scale lynching by the skin of his teeth. Journal de Valmy, 4 June 1945
Pierre Poinsot, manager of the security branch of the police force in Vichy and former close colleague of Maurice Papon in Bordeaux, was attacked by the gang and then put in jail. He was sentenced to death by the court of justice in Allier .
The piece clearly shows two hangings. The first is most certainly that of Sénati; the second man is probably Gouverneur .
Georges Gouverneur, who denounced the resistance movement in his area and joined the militia, was hanged by his feet on two occasions before escaping. Sentenced to death and then to life imprisonment, he died a free man in 1984 .
Senati, foreman at the Château des Brosses (the militia’s training centre), was killed by hanging after being removed from hospital .
While it is very difficult to identify the two people hanged as well as the others portrayed, we nevertheless suggest that these images be broadcast with caution .