The only French resister to be arrested at the Porte de Pantin in December 1943 (see earlier posts) was the leader of the group from Livry-Gargan. We’ll call him the grocer.

His arrest caused a lot of worry to his colleagues and everyone who was helping aviators in town because they expected the Gestapo to torture the grocer. Everyone was expecting a raid on the town, but it never came.

It turned out that the grocer was at least as good an actor as a resister. During the 29 days that he was in German custody he managed to convince his captors that he was insane. He also played up the injuries to one side of his body from a severe automobile accident in 1927 that left him partially crippled.

The Germans showed him photographs of 9 American and British aviators who had escaped from the Porte de Pantin but he convinced them he had never seen the men. They put him in a cell with a captured American pilot whom he had helped. The grocer acted like he’d never seen the man before. The unknown American also showed an admirable sang-froid in playing the game of not knowing each other.

The French resister talked so much nonsense that the Germans concluded not only that he was harmless but that there was no point in investigating Livry-Gargan. That was good news for everyone, because it would have been a catastrophe for the community if the Germans had rounded up everyone who had helped aviators there.