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Leaving Alsace, their homes and all their long-standing habits to come to the Périgord Noir, which was still very rural in the 40s, couldn’t have been much of a pleasure trip for those 80,000 Alsatians compelled to flee to the Dordogne on 1 September, 1939, the day the Germans invaded Poland. What’s more, they were not to stay for one week; they were to stay for one year, until October 1940, when they went back to their devastated village, Marckolsheim, situated, alas, in the heart of the combat zone.
This influx of new citizens, speaking a different language – here Occitan was the spoken language and these French men and women spoke Alsatian – posed quite a problem for the local population who had been put on wartime rationing. But as time went by the country people, with their natural common sense, came up with solutions and friendliness and assistance finally prevailed…. so much so that the ties which were formed at that time are still fostered, half a century later, amicably and proudly, thanks to a town twinning initiative that has vowed to preserve the memory of those wartime days.


Paulette Bousquet, née Faure, born 31 July, 1935 in the little village of Vergnolle in Campagne, was 4 years old in 1939. She remembers the arrival of the Schmitt family: the father, Virgile, the mother, Louise, and their two children, Virginie, 19, and Romain, 17. She has an especially clear memory of the daughter, Virginie, a pharmacy student, uprooted like the others but with a fighting spirit - and who cycled all round the Le Bugue area with medicine and words of comfort for the refugees.
Paulette, who at the age of 76 glows with kindness and simplicity, recalls: “Virginie used to spoil me; she had taken me under her wing!”
As for the father and the son, they had found employment in the nearby kaolin mines on the road to Les Eyzies. The mother, Louise, looked after the little house that their farmer neighbours had let them use.
For one year they shared the same simple life, with the lavoir* and the farm animals, the sheep, the cows, the poultry. Country life, in harmony with the seasons.
Everything has remained intact 67 years on and it is still the same smiling face that greets you when you arrive at Paulette’s. She told us this beautiful story and allowed us to film her little Périgordin home that hasn’t changed one bit since those wartime years: a heavenly spot in the Périgord, which you will discover in our report.


On 3 May, 1986, Gérard Fayolle, the mayor of Le Bugue, and Léon Siegel, the mayor of Marckolsheim, officially declared the twinning of their towns. The refugees from Alsace were thus reunited with the families in the Périgord who had opened their doors to them in those war days and for 20 years they have been seeing each other again on exchange visits. Now the twinning committee is organizing school exchanges between the two villages to ensure that the memory of those hard times with its lessons of solidarity lives on.

In May 2007 a group of adolescents from Marckolsheim, aged between 11 and 13, came to stay with families in Le Bugue. It was the occasion to revive memories and to explain this chapter in history to the younger generation.
At a conference on 23 May, 2007 at the Collège Leroy Gourhan in Le Bugue, Paulette Bousquet spoke – there are few left who can do so - about those hard times when friendly relationships developed despite the difficult circumstances - a conference during which Madame Michèle Cibert, former headmistress of Le Bugue Primary School, reminded us of the events in a very clear manner. We wish to thank her, since she has been kind enough to give us a copy of her talk to enable our readers to fully understand the historical context.

« It is thanks to these lessons from History that we are able to conceive a plan for a European community and a world at peace” concluded Monsieur Gérard Campos, headmaster at the Collège du Bugue, anxious to pass on knowledge and savoir-vivre to the next generation of adults.

Sophie Cattoire

Nous remercions Dorothée Neubrand et sa mère Claudine Ober, conseillère municipale de Marckolsheim, pour nous avoir confié les photographies prises par Virginie Schmitt lors de l’exode de sa famille en Périgord de septembre 1939 à octobre 1940. Nous remercions Virginie Schmitt, épouse Lacombe, pour ces magnifiques documents d’histoire et nous remercions Paulette Faure, épouse Bousquet, pour l’accueil chaleureux qu’elle nous a réservé et pour son précieux témoignage.

Bibliographie :

« Marckolsheim, un siècle d’histoire » collection Mémoires de Vies
« Fragments d’Histoire » de Michel Knittel

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