Tag Archives: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, Sept. 2020

The reason we did a detour to this small town at the foothills of the French Pyrenees? My uncle Xaver has been stationed here for a couple of weeks as part of the German occupying forces during WW 2 in April/May 1941 (he has been killed in the war around Wolchow/Russia, Sept. 1942). Since I still have a postcard and two photographs from that time, I´ve been very eager to come to this place and to see for myself – 79 years later. To be honest, this has been the most emotional experience during the whole three weeks of traveling. As always, this story is told by the photos I took…Enjoy!

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The original postcard from 1941…notice the bridge and the road leading towards St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the main road at that time, the railway tracks to the left, crossing the road at the small building off-center right. We have been on the search for this location where the photo has been probably taken for a couple of hours…the tick in the image probably marks the place of his guest family he lived with…

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Backside of the postcard, which I unfortunately can´t decipher…

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My uncle Xaver (right) with his guest family…

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I´m not sure where this young lady fits in, maybe a romance…

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Like all places of the Basque Provinces, St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port also got two names – a French one and a Basque one. Most of the French names of the places along our tour have been made unreadable, not wanting to be recognized as French…

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We went uphill to the vineyards around St.-Jean, searching for the location where the postcard might have been taken and ended up at a very steep gravel road, overlooking the whole area…

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Pano of 23 images, overlooking the vineyards and St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port…

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While heading down to town, I noticed a wine grower in one of the fields. I stopped, turned back, grabbed the postcard and photos and went towards him. He has been pretty stunned to see a German tourist with his Sprinter traversing the vineyards I reckon. I greeted him politely in french and showed him the postcard, not speaking any French at all, in hope he could point me towards the right location the postcard might have been taken. With hands and feet I tried to explain him the meaning of this all, I even wrote 1941 into the soil with a stick and showed him the other photographs. As I mentioned the word “Onkel” (German), and since the translation and prononciation for it in French is almost the same – oncle – he suddenly realized I was on the search for my uncles past. The moment he realized it, his eyes got wide open and he smiled at me, something like: good on you. At that very moment, my eyes got wet and I almost started crying. He gave me directions where to look for and wished me a good day. All that happened in an blink of an eye and unfortunately I got no image of the farmer, but this moment will be with me forever.

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The brigde from the postcard is still there…

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The old main road with the bridge leading to St.-Jean…

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We finally found the site where the postcard have been taken, but overgrown with trees and buildings – who wonders after almost 80 years…mission completed…

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