A True Resistance Hero
Gustave was born in 1904 in Waterloo. In 1942 he was a farmer in the village of Le Roussart just to the east of Waterloo. He was an active member of the Belgian Resistance and served with Waterloo Zone IV, South Sector, Belgian Legion, Secret Army. This section was using the Hotel Saint-Michel as their headquarters. The whole hotel was actually commandeered by the occupying German forces at the time, but they did not actually use any part of the building. Only Joséphine Van Durme and her sister Jeanne ever visited the hotel acting as cooks and housekeepers to the ‘guests’. After some time the Germans informed the Hotel owner that they would soon start using the building and asked him to make sure everything was ready for them. That meant something entirely different to him; the Resistance would have to get out at very short notice. They moved just across the courtyard to part of the attic of an elementary school. One end of this attic was the flat for the caretakers, the other end was used by the Germans to store ‘confiscated’ furniture and between the two was a large water storage tank. The resistance quickly erected a partition in the German storeroom and turned the middle space into three sections, a dormitory, living quarters and an armoury. Although the conditions were more than a little restrictive, this arrangement worked well enough, the Germans and the school users, apart from the caretakers, remained completely unaware of their presence.
On the evening of the 2nd of November 1943 Jean Barette, one of members of the group, was arrested by the Nazis as the result of a careless lapse. News soon reached the rest of the group, and they immediately dismantled their hiding place, even replacing the dust from the floor that had been carefully preserved. Some members dispersed to other safe places, and Alexandre Léonard and Francois Barette went out to find a truck to move all the weapons and personal possessions. However the Germans appeared before the truck arrived. The caretakers waited in the kitchen of the school while everyone else made their escapes. Alexandre Denayer and René Menada jumped over a wall straight into a group of soldiers, Denayer was swiftly apprehended but Menada was shot and killed while still trying to escape. Jules Colle, Joséphine Van Durme, Jules Bouquieaux and Jean Flacon also ran into a German guard. Jean Flacon, who was the only one of the entire group to have trained as a Secret Agent in Britain, overpowered and killed the soldier while the other three made their escape. Flacon also escaped and served out the rest of the war in Belgium, and later in Denmark, where his code name was Georges. In the midst of all of this chaos and confusion the truck turned up, fortunately the two men heard the gunfire and shouting and made their way to a safe house instead.
Jules Colle, who was the leader of the Resistance Sector, and his fiance Josephine Van Durme were arrested a week later in Brussels. Joséphine survived her ordeals in the various concentration camps she was sent to. Jules was not so fortunate. After prolonged interrogation and torture at Breendonk, (the former Belgian Army Fort Breendonk, which the Germans had taken over to use as in interrogation centre,) he was sent to Poppenweiler camp near Ludwigsburg. He was executed there on the 30th of September 1944 with Joseph Poelaert, another member of the same Resistance group.
Gustave was arrested on the following day (3rd November 1943) with André Jadin. These two, together with Jean Barette, Alexandre Denayer who had been caught at the school, also endured a very unpleasant stay in Fort Breendonk. On the 29th of April 1944 they were convicted for membership of the Resistance and storing arms. All were sentenced to death. They then transferred through a series of concentration camps going from Bruchsall to Brandenburg and from there to Sonnenburg (now Słońsk in Poland) in early January 1945.
On the night of the 30/31st of January with the Russian Army approaching from the west the German SS assembled 819 prisoners who were mobile in the rear courtyard of Sonnenburg camp including Gustave, Jean Barette, Alexandre Denayer and André Jadin. The Germans systematically machine gunned them all, only four prisoners survived until the Russians arrived just two days later, two of them seriously wounded. All of the rest, including our four Resistance Heroes, now lie in one of the two mass graves dug by the relieving Russian soldiers at the site the following morning.