M. l’abbé FELTEN, Lutrebois – Losange

Testimonies collected in 1993 and 1994 by Patricia Lemaire and Robert Fergloute. Published with permission of Patricia Lemaire.

Testimony of Father FELTEN, civilian, 18 years old in 1944.
The Germans arrive at Losange on December 20 around 11 a.m. They take possession of the dwellings: the castle, a farm and its outbuildings and the manager’s house. It is in this last building that we have taken refuge.

The area on a 1943-dated map.

We eat in the kitchen quietly. A Feldwebel then appears, pointing his revolver at us. And he starts a speech in German, a language I know quite well. They tell us, among other things, that the Germans are already in Paris, that we are their prisoners, that we cannot leave the room… But in the evening, this detachment disappears.

On the 21st, artillery fire. On the 23rd, a reconnaissance plane circles around the castle. Christmas Eve: Germans sing, eat and have fun. On the 26th, the sounds of the battle get closer. On the 27th at 10 a.m., air attack: heavy bombs, huge craters; no residence is affected. Isn’t there a headquarters at the castle? Anti-aircraft fire strongly hampers the planes. The raid lasts more than a quarter of an hour.

On the night of the 27th to the 28th, the intensity of the battle increases. The Germans appear in the cellar where we have been sheltering for a few days and they chase us away. So here we are outside. It’s around midnight. The castle worker and his family join us; we are about twenty civilians, including many children, in the cold, in the snow, in the din! We then remember another cellar that the Germans have not yet discovered. Its entrance is more discreet. We spend the rest of the night there.

GIs of the 51st Armored Infantry Battalion in the Losange area, Dec. 30, 1944.
Photo US Army – PFc. D.R. Ornitz 165.

The day after December 29 promises to be very tough. Violent artillery fire shakes the houses (caliber 105 or 150?). The movement of air is powerful: I lie down, I block my ears, I open my mouth. The castle does not have the same luck as us, it is affected; the damage is enormous. The firing ends after a quarter of an hour. During the morning, the Germans are busy, nervous. Some manage to find our cellar and take refuge there. Around 1 p.m. the sound of small arms approaches. I address the soldiers and ask them to leave the place because it is not worthy that they remain hidden, while their friends are being killed. Miracle! They leave. Everywhere the battle is raging. The assault wave arrived around 3 p.m. A good hour has already passed. Isn’t there an American throwing a grenade in our direction? Dumbfounding! But it explodes prematurely; no one is affected. We shout and we go out. For a few moments, we witness the battle, live. They fight from window to window. Very quickly, we reach our shelter. It is 5 p.m., the fighting is calming down.

Château de Losange in 1945. Photo: internet.

December 30 is still a very critical day. A German counter-attack tries to cut the N4. The shock seems to focus on Lutrebois, which the Americans had liberated as well. The Germans overrun through the woods; corpses were found a few dozen meters from the three houses. But the attack, begun at 9 am, did not succeed; at 3 p.m., it’s over.

The following days, a few shells fall, scattered. The Americans supply us; it’s needed. But, miracle: no killed, no wounded. Losange was, for us, an oasis in the turmoil.

Château de Losange today. Photo by Erwin Verholen.