The testimony of Josette Molland: scenes from life in the Nazi camps

Josette Molland, who died aged 100 in France on February 17, was a young member of the French Resistance during World War II when she was captured by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Nazi women’s forced labor camps. She survived, after witnessing and enduring repeated episodes of brutality. Later, after her return to France, she spoke to students about her experiences over the years.

However, in the 1980s, worried that her story would not reach them, she concluded that telling young people about her life in the camp was not enough. She would have to show them. So she began to paint, from a painful memory of hers, scenes of the harsh imprisonment that she and many other inmates had suffered. She produced 15 paintings in total, in folk art style. Here are five of them, with the text she wrote to accompany them.

‘Bathroom’

“Place where one washed. No soap, toothbrush or towel. “Cold water flowing into a sort of narrow, uncomfortable channel.”

’50 Hits of “Gummi”’

“Almost always fatal if the woman was thin. Here the beatings are administered by our block captain, a German common law prisoner (Green Triangle).”

‘At the dentist’

“Naked, so that nothing could be hidden under clothing. She is looking for gold (used during that period). She takes out the crowns, with her tooth. Here the bucket is full of gold.”

‘She had just cut down a tree’

“She collapsed from fatigue. The “auseherin” (guard) finished her off with a shot to the back of the head.”

‘Liberation of the countryside by Polish partisans on horseback’

“They had surprised the SS, ready to flee, and having mined the camp.”