If we’re ever together and you just want to piss me off, turn me into Humorless History Girl Who Takes Things Too Seriously, make a surrender-monkey joke about the French. Remind me how we poured French wine down sewers and renamed the fries in the cafeteria Freedom Fries and talked all day long on TV about how the French are pussies who make cheese and run at the first sign of a fight.
She made false documents; received and transported weapons and money; planted explosives where Germans gathered. One time, she pasted plastic explosives on the wall of a movie theater in Paris where the SS was meeting. “We heard the boom,” she recalled. “It worked! Imagine!”
Among Charlotte’s many responsibilities was guiding men to Toulouse, where passeurs took them to the Spanish border. “Here at night they crossed the Pyrenees to the Spanish frontier and were brought to bordellos as safe houses,” she said. “Some spoke only Yiddish. Some went to join the Resistance in North Africa.”
She recalled riding her bike, with its basket loaded with weapons and weapon parts, when German soldiers confronted her. At that split second — with no time to think — she let her bicycle fall at the feet of the soldiers. They assisted her in getting to her feet, and she rode off.
Often, situations arose that required an instinctive response. One day, she boarded a train for Nice, carrying a suitcase with weapons. Her journey required a train change in Marseille. She chose to sit among the German soldiers because it was far more common for the French soldiers to inspect French passenger bags. The Germans talked with her and helped her off the train in Marseille. They checked her suitcase with their own luggage in the train station, as there was a wait for the connecting train to Nice. “If you want to see a real French football match while we wait for the train, I will take you,” Charlotte told the soldiers.
With that they all went off to the game. When they returned to the station, the German soldiers removed her suitcase — green with a double floor for hiding weapons and money — from the baggage check. They handed it to her and boarded the train for Nice.
People who rag on the French for not signing on to every military misadventure for which we send them an Evite not only forget things like this, they forget WWI, they forget the immediate aftermath of 9/11, they forget Lafayette, they forget everything except the rage in front of them. Which is how wars start in the first place.