Received 18 November 2015; accepted 11 January 2016; published 14 January 2016
It was the invitation of Mr. Guy Suquet in his book (Suquet, 2009) : “The reader is invited to accomplish a memory duty by going to ascertain on the terrain, up to when they subsist, the material proofs, that exist today not only at Erigné, but also on the Normand and Atlantic Coasts in France and in Europe, of this bloody episode of our history in order to provide witness” that pushed me to visit Mûrs-Erigné near Angers (FR). When walking in Mûrs-Erigné, nothing suggests that on the present Domaine de La Doubinière during the 2nd World War existed an important German military base, which, together with others, discomforted the life of this small French municipality. In general, history, structure and life in the German bases in France during the period of the Occupation are not well known because of the past military secrecy and the present lack of surviving witnesses and relevant documentation. However, in the case of the German base at Mûrs-Erigné much information is now available through the researches of Mr. Suquet and my ascertainment on the terrain of the preservation state of its vestiges following said memory duty proposed by Mr. Suquet.
2. History of the German Base “the Bank”
The Domaine de La Dubinière, actual venue of the Séminaire des Missions Ouvrières Jean-Léon Le Prevost, was acquired in 1937 by the still existing French Crédit Industriel et Commercial (C.I.C.), a bank establishment founded on 1859. On the Domaine, near the castle de La Doubinière, the C.I.C. opened a yard for the construction of a big, five floors building having two floors aboveground and three floors underground. The building had a cross shape centered on the lift conduit. A concrete layer of 1.25 meters of thickness separated the aboveground floors from the underground floors. For hosting the substances of the clients as well as the archives of the C.I.C, the building was provided with eight safe rooms in the aboveground floors and with other twenty-four in the underground floors. Part of the first underground floor hosted the heating system and its fuel tanks (Suquet, 2009) .
The bank activity in the building began in 1939 with the arrival of C.I.C. employees form Paris and the recruitment of employees from the Angers area. The bank activity for managing the substances of the clients continued also after the arrival of the German Wehrmacht on 1940 up to the end of 1942 when titles and values of the clients were conditioned in sealed jute sacks and transferred to the central venue of the C.I.C. The gold stock was evacuated at the beginning of 1943 by night trains, which were charged also by inhabitants of MûrsErigné called for help (Suquet, 2009) .
The Germans took possession of the Domaine and the C.I.C. building at the end of 1942 for organizing a military base. The population of Mûrs-Erigné indicated indifferently as “la Banque”, i.e. the Bank, as the C.I.C. building as the Domaine, consequently the German base was known as the “Bank”. The Bank comprised an important set of buildings: the C.I.C. building, the castle de La Doubinière with its dependences, three or four other buildings built by the Germans for hosting rooms for eighty beds, instruction rooms, kitchens and cantinas, an infirmary, a maintenance store, offices and garages. A great pool, nowadays filled by ground, assured a reserve of water in case of fire as well as a swimming pool. At the arrival of Admiral Schirlitz, the two aboveground floors of the C.I.C. building were restructured for hosting instruction rooms,lodgement rooms and offices of one or the two of the Feldkommandantur 588 and Kreiskommandantur 599 (Suquet, 2009) .
The Bank was protected on three sides by high walls surmounted by rolls of barbed wires. The passages in the walls were surveilled continuatively by armored sentinels. Some machine gun casemates were located at the north and the south of the Bank so as to take in enfilade the roads towards Angers, Nantes, Cholet, Brissac et St. Melanie. A 20 mm double gun was placed on the terrace roof of the C.I.C. building so as to ensure an antiaircraft defense. Its actions caused several reprisal allied air attacks (Suquet, 2009) .
At the moment of evacuating the Bank in August 1944, the Germans dynamited the C.I.C. building in the attempt of destroying it. The explosions damaged the lift conduit on the length of six meters and created an empty space of about ten meters of length and six meter of bright in the underground floors, but the 1.25 meter thick concrete layer contained the explosions and avoided the destruction of the two aboveground floors (Suquet, 2009) .
After the end of the war the C.I.C building and the Domaine were acquired by the agriculture cooperative Agriloire, which sold them to the Congregation des Frères de Saint-Vincent de Paul, named “fathers of the Bank”, that organized their Séminaire des Missions Ouvrières (Suquet, 2009) .
3. Vestiges of “the Bank”
My visit of the site of the Bank (Figure 1 and Figure 2), was organized thanks to father Gérard Fouquet of the Congregation, and took place on 23 August 2011. It permitted the visit of the aboveground and the underground floors of the C.I.C building. The aboveground floors preserve the security doors and the original safe rooms used now for the library and the activities of the Congregation. A passage in the 1.25 m thick concrete layer allows descending in the first underground floor (Figure 3). The original heating system and its fuel tanks disappeared substituted by a modern gas heating system (Figure 4). A large opening in the first underground floor, caused by the explosions, allows to have a vision of the other two underground floors devastated by the explosions.
A wood stair, robust, but fragile in the appearance (Figure 5), allows the descent to the second floor and, walking on the debris, it is possible to reach the third underground floor (Figures 6-16).
Many questions concerning the C.I.C building have received reply by a Mr. Suquet’s personal communication (Suquet, 2011) . Mr. Suquet attests that the lots of metal scrap in the third underground floor were produced by
Figure 1. The Bank―after war image; on the left: C.I.C. building with emplacement of the antiaircraft gun on the roof still visible, pool and water tower; in the middle: castle of La Dubinière partially masked by trees; on the right: garages and the three barracks for hosting soldiers and different services―visible, between the first and the last barrack, is the demolished barrack.
Figure 2. The Bank and the Domaine de La Dubinière (47˚24'4.3''; 0˚31'36.6''W): (1) main entrance; (2) C.I.C. building; (3) pool-nowadays filled by ground; (4) water tower; (5) garages; (6) castle of La Dubinière-lodgment of German officers; (7)-(9) barracks―lodgement of soldiers, infirmary and different services; (8) place of a demolished barrack; (10) dependences of the castle; (11) Saint Vincent road; (12) Louis Rabineau road; (13) emplacement of a 20 mm antiaircraft double gun; (14) machine gun casemate disappeared; (15) machine gun casemate disappeared; (16) machine gun casemate disappeared; (17) machine gun casemate disappeared; (18) antitank obstacle disappeared-[Flash Earth].
Figure 3. C.I.C. building: (a) descent stair through the 1.25 m thick concrete layer to the first underground floor; (b) opening in the first underground floor and vision of the second and third devastated underground floors.
Figure 4. C.I.C. building: first underground floor―rooms of the heating system and fuel tanks disappeared, on the left side the modern gas heating system.
Figure 5. C.I.C. building: (a) second and third devastated underground floors, on the left wood stair; (b) first underground floor, father Fouquet during the descent to the third underground floor.
Figure 6. C.I.C. building: devastated second underground floor and vision to the third underground floor.
Figure 7. C.I.C. building: (a) devastated second and third underground floors; (b) father Fouquet in the deep of the third underground floor.
Figure 8. C.I.C. building: (a), (b) damages in the second underground floor seen from the third underground floor.
Figure 9. C.I.C. building: (a), (b) safe rooms in the third underground floor.
Figure 10. C.I.C. building: (a) damages in the third underground floor; (b) damages to the second and first underground floors seen from the third underground floor.
Figure 11. C.I.C. building: damages in the third underground floor.
Figure 12. C.I.C. building: (a) corridor in the third underground floor; (b) vision of the ceiling of the second underground floor curved by the pressure developed by the explosions.
Figure 13. C.I.C. building: (a) rests of beds of the German soldiers; (b) kitchen furniture of probable German origin.
Figure 14. C.I.C. building: kitchen furniture of probable German origin.
Figure 15. C.I.C. building: rests of a pulley for rolling cables of the lift.
Figure 16. C.I.C. building: bottles of mineral water Perrier survived to the explosions, the fire and the inundation in the third underground floorr.
the explosions that caused a violent fire lasting three days; the explosions also destroyed the water pumps causing the water to invade the three underground floors up to the 1.25 meters layer for a period of ten years. Important stocks of ammunitions not reached by the explosions and in perfect state of preservation and therefore in a very dangerous state were evacuated by the French Civil Protection Service (Figure 17). The beds date actually of the period of the war and were used by the German soldiers. The kitchen furnitures are probably of German construction (Figure 13 and Figure 14). The German soldiers have well appreciated the mineral water Perrier according to the great number of bottles dating of the period of the war that survived the explosions, the fire and the inundation of the underground floors (Figure 16).
The preservation state of the C.I.C. building is rather good. The two aboveground floors are currently in use for the activities of the Congregation, although the renovation of the roof caused the disappearing of the emplacement of the antiaircraft gun. The garages, the barracks and the dependences of the castle (Figures 18-21) due to their rather large dimensions are still, although partially, in use. The water tower (Figure 20) is still used by the municipality of Erigné. The castle of La Dubinière (Figure 22) is a private property and not accessible to the public, however, many bullet holes on the facade witness past combats.
The relatively small dimensions and the structure of the Bank indicate that it was not intended for hosting an operative German military unit. Because of its distance from the Atlantic coasts, probably the Bank was not in-
Figure 17. C.I.C. building: (a) German ammunition box; (b) German ammunition box with ammunition band.
Figure 18. Garages.
Figure 19. Barrack for lodging German soldiers.
Figure 20. (a) Interior of the soldier barrack; (b) water tower.
Figure 21. Castle dependences―the great doors on the facade suggest a possible vehicle garage or repair store utilization of a portion of the dependences.
Figure 22. Castle of La Dubinière―lodgement of the German officers of the Bank.
volved in the construction and the defense the Atlantic Wall (Dupont & Peyle 1994; Chazette et al., 1995; Duquesne, 1976) . Because no headquarter was hosted at the Bank, probably it was not involved in the direction of military operations. Because of the presence of the Kommandaturs, lodgement barracks and garages, it is possible to suppose that the Bank was involved mainly in activities like military administration, logistics, depot of materials and ammunitions, storage and maintenance of vehicles and in the military control of Mûrs-Erigné. The German military units on duty and their actual activities at the Bank remain for the moment largely unknown.
Concerning the Bank at Mûrs-Érigné, I think to have accomplished the memory duty proposed by Mr. Suquet. But, evidently, many other material proofs of the period of the war exist at Érigné and on the French coasts defended by the Atlantic Wall that still wait for similar memory duties.
The death of Mr. Suquet in May 2013 has not permitted me to ask him directly the permission of using the information in his book (Suquet, 2009) in this article, which is crucial for reconstructing the history of the Bank. But I am grateful to Mrs. Marie-Therese Suquet that has given me said permission.
This article represents the English, revised version of the corresponding already published German article (Tomezzoli, 2015) .