Channel Islanders Imprisoned in Montluc Prison:
Albert Raymond Durand
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander is known to have been imprisoned in Montluc Prison (Prison de Montluc) in Lyons, France. Montluc Prison was built in 1921 to meet the demands of the military courts at the time, but by 1932 the prison had fallen into disuse and was closed. It was re-opened in December 1939 for use by the French military courts, but was also used to imprison members of the French Communist Party, which had been banned after the non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. After the Nazi invasion of France in June 1940, the prison was used by the collaborationist French Vichy Regime to incarcerate insubordinate members of the military and political prisoners from the French resistance. The Nazi Gestapo secret police took complete control of the prison in February 1943 and began filling it with political prisoners and persecuted Jews. An estimated 9,000 to 10,000 prisoners passed through Montluc Prison between February 1943 and August 1944.
Native Jerseyman Albert Durand was arrested in France in August 1943 and testified about his experience in his application for registration as a British victim of Nazi persecution:
I was arrested on the 3rd of August 1943, whilst travelling by train using false papers. I was arrested by the German Secret Police, who questioned me, first at Valance, then at Lyons. I was then turned over to the German Army, who having questioned me, at Oullins, near Lyons, surrendered me to the Gestapo. All this questioning was to try and prove that I was an English spy. That was why I was placed in the category of NN prisoners… Prison of Montluc, Lyons: a French military prison, taken over by the Germans. I was in the same cell as a Lutheran Minister of Swiss nationality, Pastor Roland de Рurу, who mentions the fact in a book he published after the war. The prison was just simply filthy: full of bugs, no water, and very little food. We were allowed out in the yard, once a day, for exercise and also for washing. — Albert Durand, 14 July 1965
Durand was taken as an NN Nacht und Nebel (‘Night and Fog’) prisoner. This was part of a secret hostage program devised by the Nazis as a means of controlling potential resistance in occupied territory. The NN program was declared a crime against humanity at the post-war Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.
Montluc Prison held a number of famous prisoners from the French resistance, including Jean Moulin, who died in July 1943 either from the results of Gestapo torture or a suicide attempt. Cells intended for one prisoner housed up to eight prisoners, who were regularly tortured and had to withstand brutal living conditions. 42 Jewish children from a refugee centre in Izieu, France were held in Montluc Prison in April 1944 before being deported to their deaths Auschwitz Concentration Camps. After the allied invasion of France in June 1944, at least 682 prisoners were moved out of Montluc prison and shot by the SS and Gestapo in a series of retaliatory massacres.
Montluc Prison was liberated by forces of the French resistance on 24 August 1944. By 1947, the prison was used by the city of Lyon to incarcerate criminal offenders, and a prisoner sentenced to death was executed by guillotine in Montluc Prison in 1958. The prison was used to incarcerate Algerian nationalists during the Algerian war between 1958 and 1961 and an additional 11 Algerian members of the National Liberation Front were executed by guillotine there in that time period. France abolished capital punishment in 1981.
Klaus Barbie, the SS Gestapo chief and de facto director of Montluc Prison during the occupation, managed to escape to Bolivia after the war but was extradited back to France in 1983. He was briefly detained in Montluc Prison prior to being convicted of crimes against humanity. Barbie was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment and died of cancer in a Lyon prison in 1991. A number of autobiographical books by former inmates Montluc Prison were published after the war, including a work by the Swiss Pastor Roland de Pury, mentioned by Albert Durand as a cellmate in the prison. French director Robert Bresson also made a film in 1956 called A Man Escaped about an escape from Montluc Prison based on the memoirs of French Resistor André Devigny.
Albert Durand was incarcerated in Montluc Prison for less than two months and was afterwards deported to Natzweiler and Dachau Concentration Camps, where he was liberated in 1945. He later testified: ‘As a result of all this, I am suffering from ‘Asthenia’ and above all for the last year, under doctor’s care. My memory is also bad, as I still get trouble even while preaching. It all depends how tired I am.’ Asthenia is a medical term for conditions characterized by a general weakness and lack of energy. Like many other who survived prisons and concentrations camps, he too probably suffered some of post traumatic stress disorder as well.
Montluc Prison closed in 2009 and was opened to the public as a memorial centre in 2010.
Bresson, Robert (film): A Man Escaped (original title: Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut). On DVD with English subtitles and additional features, The Criterion Collection.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Pury, Roland de: Journal de cellule, 30. mai – 20. octobre 1943, La Guilde du Livre, Lausanne, 1945 (in French).
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO 950/1698 (Durand)
Wiener Archives, London (International Tracing Service documents)
(Durand) 3163678, 9956693, 10028270, 108314449.