03 September, 2012

03 September 1945

No letter today. Just this:


about Gérardmer

Lake Gérardmer in 2001
Originally Gérardmer was probably a hamlet of fishermen and hunters. Various objects discovered near Longemer Lake in 1959 suggest it was already a lacustrine settlement in Neolithic times (between 5,000 BC and 2,500 BC).

The hamlet was first called Gérardmer in the 11th century thanks to the Duke of Lorraine, Gérard of Alsace (Duke from 1048 to 1070). Delighted by the site, he had a tower built there (near the existing cemetery on Boulevard d'Alsace) that he used for overnight stays and as a hunting lodge. The hamlet was called Giromeix (Gérard's garden) which became Gérardmeix (from the medieval Latin meix - a small manor or group of houses in the country with working fields) and then Gérardmé or Gérardmer (pronounced Gérardmé).

In the 18th century, roads were built through the forest opening up the area around Gérardmer. At the time it was a farming community (stock raising) with some clothmaking (each family had a loom to satisfy its own needs and sold the surplus), and with a number of woodcutters and sawyers. The archives also mention a tannery and paper mills (a craft industry transforming linen cloth into paper using water-power).

From 1830 on, textile and wood industries grew fast, becoming the driving force behind town's expansion. These are still the town's main industries with dynamic companies founded by craftsmen in times gone by, as well as by newly arrived companies.

During World War II, Gérardmer was taken by the German Army on 22 June 1940. It was during this battle that the city church was destroyed by fire due to the explosion of a truck parked outside. On 17 November 1944 the Germans, who had established a headquarters there, gathered all of the population in an islet in the town center. They then set fires and dynamited homes and other buildings throughout the city. That evening, as Gérardmer continued to burn, it was covered by a cloud of thick black smoke. What didn't burn exploded. City water reservoirs as well as the power transformer were destroyed, leaving no electricity and no running water.

The Grand Hotel of Gerardmer, as seen today, was spared.
It served as German Headquarters and hospital during WWII.

The German headquarters was abandoned during the evening of the 17th, following the exit of General Otto Schiel and his staff on the night of 15-16 November. On the morning of 18 November, a group of soldiers went about Gérardmer, automatic weapons at the ready, and set fire to the houses that had not yet been "sufficiently" destroyed.

In the afternoon, there were no German soldiers left in Gérardmer. Civilians moved freely about and saw the damage made by so few men in so little time for no good reason. By 19 November 1944, Gérardmer had become a heap of smoking ruins. Within 14 hours the first French soldiers arrived and went to the town hall. 85% of the city had been destroyed by the Germans.

In spite of the damage caused during World War II, Gérardmer remained a dynamic industrial town. Several companies - weavers, carpenters, building chalets and timber frames, bleachers and manufacturers of household linen, are known all over France and even abroad.

Today, Gérardmer is the location of many athletic and social events. In fact, there seems to be something for everyone! Here are some photos of some of the things that go on...








Click here to see all of these and more pictures like them.

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