French family’s extreme sacrifice for Kiwi pilot
The last human freedom is the right to choose your own response to the circumstances in which you find yourself.
In the case of many French families in World War II that meant choosing between collaboration or putting themselves in grave jeopardy by aiding downed Allied airmen.
Wellington author Keren Chiaroni said some paid an awful price for their choice.
Her book The Last of the Human Freedoms was launched at Unity Books recently with many descendants and family of surviving fliers attending.
The Patris family of Laines-aux-Bois took in New Zealander John Sanderson in 1944, fed and sheltered him, and sought treatment for his injuries. But the doctor they called chose differently and turned them in to the Gestapo.
They were arrested and Emil Patris died on the way to Dachau concentration camp. His wife Yvette was eventually released. Chiaroni said her interest was piqued when the Patris’ daughter visited her family in Wellington.
She had come to meet Chiaroni’s partner and his son Oliver, Sanderson’s son and grandson.
‘‘It started with meeting the French family who saved John Sanderson during the war,’’ she said. They had travelled to New Zealand to meet the family of the airman their parents had tried to help.
‘‘The woman’s father had died a very terrible death,’’ Chiaroni said. ‘‘I found I wanted to record something of this story for Oliver.’’
Chiaroni, who teaches French at Victoria University, travelled to France to learn more of Sanderson’s story and, once there, she found more stories of airmen who were assisted in occupied France.
‘‘When I went to France, because I can speak French, this story widened out.’’
She learned from the papers belonging to a widow who had died, of the doctor’s treachery.
‘‘ Here was this long testimony of what happened, naming the doctor,’’ she said.
Chiaroni also learned of other New Zealand airmen, including Raymond Glensor.
Glensor’s daughter Tricia Glensor of Wellington was at the launch, and so was his nephew, Peter Glensor of Korokoro.
Glensor had been assisted by local families, given false papers and helped to escape from occupied France by the same resistance network that helped another Wellingtonian, Nancy Wake.
‘‘It was just a very rich and interesting story,’’ Chiaroni said. ‘‘One of the discoveries I made was that you can’t learn history from a distance.
‘‘The main thing for me has been the discovery that history is hugely exciting, and the sacrifices of the past impact very heavily on the present, not always of generals, but of ordinary individuals. Theirs’ [sacrifices] are often the most inspiring.’’
French Ambassador Michel Legras launched the book.
Last of the Human Freedoms.
‘‘ This book, The Last of the Human Freedoms is about human beings maintaining their integrity in times of political and human turmoil,’’ he said.
The Last Of The Human Freedoms, by Keren M. Chiaroni, $39.99, published by Harper Collins.
Family history: Peter Glensor, left, his cousin Tricia Glensor and Keren Chiaroni, author of The
Ms Glensor’s father was among the New Zealand airmen whose stories are told in Chiaroni’s book.