Tag Archives: France

Life inside a German POW camp

French POW’s filmed their time in the camp with camera parts smuggled in sausage.

The Austrian camp, close to the border with Czechoslovakia, was originally built for troops taking part in military exercises.

There were 40 barracks, 20 each side of a central aisle. The land was bound by two lines of barbed wire, the perimeter illuminated by floodlights.

Escape seemed almost impossible. Almost…. and it is remarkable that we can see it.

Through some extraordinary ingenuity – and cunning – the men filmed their efforts.

Their rarely seen footage is called Sous Le Manteau (Clandestinely). So professional is it that on first viewing you would be forgiven for thinking it is a post-war reconstruction.

It is in fact a 30-minute documentary, shot in secret by the prisoners themselves. Risking death, they recorded it on a secret camera built from parts that were smuggled into the camp in sausages.

The prisoners had discovered that German soldiers would only check food sent in by cutting it down the middle. The parts were hidden in the ends.

The camera they built was concealed in a hollowed-out dictionary from the camp library. The spine of the book opened like a shutter. The 8mm reels on which the film was stored were then nailed into the heels of their makeshift shoes.

It gives an incredible insight into living conditions within the camp. The scant food they were given, the searches conducted without warning by the German soldiers. They filmed it all, even the searches, right under the noses of their guards.


The Tour de Francis

Can an amateur handle the Tour de France?  Dan Francis gives it a try.  There is a great scene in there where he is actually driven back by 12 metre high snow and a risk of avalanche.  It gives you an idea of how high they go in the Alps.  Not only is he an amateur, he does it without teammates or a peloton.  The Iron Cross, a time trial in Paris traffic, the cold, the cobblestones…  Dan Francis is one tough dude.  Impressive and fun documentary.  Here is an interview with Dan Francis on the experience.

Someone think of the hamsters

Especially in France where they have been found guilty of not protecting the Great Hamster.

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the European Union’s highest court, ruled Thursday that France had failed to protect the Great Hamster of Alsace, sometimes known as the European hamster, the last wild hamster species in Western Europe. If France does not adjust its agricultural and urbanization policies sufficiently to protect it, the court said, the government will be subject to fines of as much as $24.6 million.

It was a tough loss to swallow for French politicians.

The chief of staff for Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, France’s minister of ecology, sustainable development, transport and housing, said Thursday evening that Ms. Kosciusko-Morizet would make no comment on the ruling.

The editorial staff of jordoncooper.com was pretty choked up about it as well.

That’s it?

As I mentioned earlier, the Conservatives are allegedly trying to portray Michael Ignatieff as an elitist because he has a home in France.

Conservative strategists, seeking to exploit Canada’s populist political culture, have tried to portray their top rival as a privileged, Upper Canada College-educated elitist out of touch with ordinary Canadians.

"It’s no big deal" to have a home in Les Martins, she said. "I wish it was!"

The realtor, who recognized Ignatieff because of his BBC documentaries on current affairs and culture while he lived in Britain, wouldn’t venture a guess on the value of the villa.

She said a Les Martins property could cost anywhere from 100,000 euros (about $158,000) to more than one million euros ($1.58 million).

Ignatieff’s sleepy French neighbourhood, 35 kilometres east of Avignon and 75 kilometres north of Aix-en-Provence, is indeed modest by Provence’s standards that have attracted the likes of Elton John, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Ignatieff’s three-bedroom residence, for example, is comparable to the home for maintenance staff at the massive Elton John compound on a hilltop in Villefranche, near Nice.

One of the road entries to the hamlet, which appears on few maps and would be near-impossible to find without a GPS navigation device, has a chunk of wood nailed to a fence with "Les Martins" hand-written with a black marker.

A dirt road, where dogs run loose and a lone rooster breaks the breezy countryside silence, leads to the Liberal leader’s large family property.

Across the dirt road is a field, bone-dry after a typically hot Provence summer, and a few trees. That land, owned through inheritance by Ignatieff and his younger brother Andrew, features an unattractive pile of cement pieces and scrap metal partly covering an old carpet next to a neighbour’s fence.

A blue ceramic sign welcoming guests to "Le Puits" at the entrance gate is broken, adding to the rather unimpressive facade that included an old three-metre stone wall that connects to the yellowish back section of the lengthy villa.

(Before Ignatieff’s late father George bought and started renovating the property in the early 1960s, around the time he was Canada’s ambassador to NATO in Belgium, it had been the hamlet’s local water source, leading to the home’s name. Le Puits means "The Well.")

A peak past the gate, however, hints at an idyllic summertime retreat that the Ignatieffs constructed over many years of building and renovation after the purchase.

If I were the Liberals, I would send over a camcorder and a photographer the next time he was over to his childhood home and have him tell the story of childhood memories, his dad building it, and old friend of the family that saw him grow up there.   I would embrace this story rather than try to make it go away.

This story has been bothering me since I first heard about it.  This isn’t about Michael Ignatieff, this is about a house that his father built while the ambassador to NATO.  I don’t have the back story but I doubt I am over stretching if while posted there, he heard of a sleepy place in France and decided to buy some land there.  Apparently the place only had three walls when he started (although that could be a figure of speech) and he fixed it up quite nice (although still modest from what I can tell).  What’s cool is that he left it to his two boys and their families and what is even cooler is that they still keep it despite the pain of it being a bit a flight and drive to go visit it.

So my question is, is this what happens to any of us if our sons and daughters run for elected office.  Do my architectural tastes and desires reflect on Mark and Oliver and if they decide to keep our cabin at Arlington Beach, do they get attacked for having property in a community which has a family history as well?  Arlington has ties to the Canadian Sunday School Mission and later the Free Methodist Church.  Does that become fair play?

I don’t think this is a big issue but I don’t think the architectural dream of Michael Ignatieff’s father is fair play either.  I’m done ranting now but I still think the Ignatieff’s should do a house tour for Apartment Therapy.