Thursday the 19th of September 2019, after a full life, Clement Quentin died in the hospital of Cholet. He passed away only a day after the celebration of his 99th birthday, surrounded by his family.
Born on September 18, 1920 in Fuilet, at the age of five, he attended the public school from which, his whole life, he kept a very good memory of his teacher who thought children "democracy, the republic, freedom, the sense of honor, the homeland, the respect for the human being and the welfare of others, honesty, probity and many other values ", he says in his testimony-book (" Stück 72889 - Human Guinea Pig in Dachau "). While in St Joseph College boarding school, in Ancenis, at 16, he decided not to continue his studies. Alongside his father and his uncles he learned and became a cattle dealer. At 18, he wanted to become an officer and serve his country. After the declaration of war, being still under age, his father, a veteran of 14-18, refuses to authorize him to engage in the war. He will fight differently. For Clement Quentin Life was less and less bearable under the German occupation. He tried to leave for Algeria via Spain but his attempt failed. He tried to reach London by boat but it is a second failure.
He started looking for people who had the same ideas as him, who respected the values of freedom, equality and fraternity. At the end of 1942, he found a contact and joined the movement "Liberation North", then, in early 1943, he also becomes part of the network Cohors Asturias of Basse-Loire under the pseudonym Quérian, a network closely linked to the movement Liberation North. Clément Quentin was in charge with the recruiting and training of agents to be specialized in intelligence, sabotage and parachuting. The goal is to report on troop movements, stationed soldiers, convoys, power plants, fuel depots, requisitions, the behavior of the mayors Gendarme. In 1944, Clément Quentin found himself at the head of 4 teams collecting information.
The evening of April 26 1944, at his home, Clement Quentin was arrested by two Gestapo agents. Incarcerated in the prison of Angers, he remains in solitary confinement and the interrogations, he underwent for a month and a half, began the 6 of May, but Clément did not give in. Even under torture, he refused to denounce his friends. Sentenced to death on June 8, he thought he will be shot but instead, two days later, he was sent, alongside other members of his network, by bus, to Paris and Compiègne.
After a week at Compiegne, the 18th of june,he left for Germany in a cattle wagon, one hundred per wagon. After four days and three nights the doors opened. He arrived at Dachau station. At the back of the first row of prisoners, surrounded by SS and dogs he walks on a small road and arrives at the camp where the deportees become "mere numbers". He is assigned a registration number. He is now the Stück 72889. Looking at the camp inmates, Clement Quentin realized what was ahead of him.
"I see walking corpses, oddly dressed, people with only skin over their bones. Distraught looks from eye sockets looking at you without seeing you."
He endured humiliation, cold, hunger, sickness. Assigned to Dickerhoff's outer kommando, he had to carry bags of cement and beams, wading in the mud and in the rain. He manages to be assigned as a turner in a Kommando working for the BMW factory in Allach. He is sheltered from bad weather, but he catches diphtheria. He must return to Dachau camp and directed to the Block for contagious, of the Revier. In addition to diphtheria and its complications, he gets a double bronchi-pneumonia, a Vincent angina, then a pleurisy of the right lung. Dr. Marceau, a French deported, helped him as best he could. But he is transferred from Block 11 to Block 5, the block of experiments where SS "doctors" were practicing. The Nazis practiced terrible pseudo-medical experiments on him, he was inoculated daily with several strychnine injections, he becomes a guinea-pig, receives electric shocks; he survived out of pure luck.
The beginning of January, at the end of his strength, he was relocated, at block 30, for the invalids, not far from the crematorium, doomed to die because no guinea pig was known to come out alive. He is waiting for his death. But he survived this Dantesque hell.
The camp was liberated on April 29, 1945 by the Americans. Clement Quentin is repatriated and weighs little less than 25 kilos. He is not yet 25, but describes himself as "an old man". He suffers from typhus and tuberculosis. Returned to France, he is treated by Dr. Bernou, president of French Phtisiologists. In May 1946, he went to the rest home of Giversac in Dôme, Dordogne. He can not return to work until 1947. He got married in 1948 with Monique. The return to normal life will be long. Anxiety attacks and nightmares are frequent and persistent, uptil 1972. Professionally, he starts from scratch. He has several trades before creating a poultry farm. Always animated by a spirit of solidarity, he will co-found the first poultry cooperative in France, in 1956, before becoming vice-president of the Federation of French poultry cooperatives.
Dachau is a cornerstone of his family history. Clément Quentin was always eager to share his experience. A torch taken over by his descendants, generation after generation. Two of his sons got involved: one as CRS and mountain guide, died on duty, the other, Serge, lieutenant-colonel of Gendarmerie, is vice-president of the French association of Dachau and member of the Executive Bureau of the CID. His grandson Wilfried, Sergeant of the Gendarmerie is flag bearer of the French association and the international committee of Dachau: "What he has transmitted to us, beyond the duty to remember, is to go forward, without complaining about the little hassles "(Wilfried). His grand daughter Sandra is active in the French association. His great-grandson Pierre-Antoine was in Dachau with him in 2010 at the commemoration ceremonies of the liberation of the camp. His great-granddaughter Irene went to Dachau for the first time in 2016.
Clément Quentin has made out of the passing on of his memories a guiding line of his whole life. Not only in the family but also for the young people. When he stopped his professional activities, he visited high-schools and colleges to share his commitment. It is estimated that he has met with between 25 and 30,000 school children, says his son Serge.
On March 1, 2013, in front of an audience of nearly one hundred former members of the National Assembly, Clement Quentin recalled his journey as a member of the resistance and a deportee and outlined how necessary it is not to forget that peace is fragile, that freedom is never won and "sleepers" are not always where we expect them to be. It was before the standing parliamentarians that he was awarded the medal of the National Assembly.
Last year, in September 2018, the city of Cholet named a street after him in order to pay tribute to this exceptional man.
Let us recall the message of Clement published early 2013 in the newsletter of the French association:
" The spirit of resistance does not belong a particular category of citizens, it belongs to us all.
The struggle for the respect for human dignity must not weaken. (...) At the threshold of this third millennium, it is necessary to look at the century that has just ended, so that the events of the past will be present in the memory of the men and women who will tomorrow be in charge of the future, so that they can develop a more just and humane society, marked by justice and freedom, because freedom is a value of which we are aware only when we have lost it. I am optimistic, and I am sure that you, the young generations, will know how to maintain this flame of the Resistance and that you will not let it go out. "
translation Cornel Lustig.