Cherbourg Memorial

October 20, 2014

In March, 1942, the Nazis with the assistance of French fascist collaborationist government began deporting Jews in France to slave labor and death camps. The first were foreign born Jews followed by Jews born in France and having French citizenship.

In February, 1943, the Nazis imposed Service du Travail Obligatoire (S.T.O.) (Compulsory Work Service). Ethnic French resident of Cherbourg were deported from their homes for slave labor in occupied France and Germany.

Cheryl A. Robinson and I visited the Cherbourg memorial to those and other victims during our 2014 trip to France for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Normandy.

DSC01341Memorial in Cherbourg to those executed, deported, resistance fighters,and hostages. (Fusillés, Deportes, Maquisards, Otages.)

2014 photo by Cheryl A. Robinson

DSC01342  Plaques on the ground with the names of the slave labor and death camps to which victims were deported.

LEFT: Ravensbrück was a concentration and slave labor camp.

RIGHT: Neuengamme was a concentration and slave labor camp.

Schandelah was a satellite slave labor camp of Neuengamme.

2014 photo by Cheryl A. Robinson

In 1944 Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, served in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Cherbourg.

Links with sources and for more information:

The 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Normandy

Felix A. Cizewski WWII Cherbourg photos

Rommel’s image in popular culture

October 17, 2014

70 years ago on October 14, 1944 the Nazis forced Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to commit suicide.

In popular culture in the U.S. Rommel has a positive image.

Among the reasons are:

  • His competence as a military commander.
  • Unlike other German commanders especially on the Eastern Front, his adherence to the international standards of the treatment of POWs in North African from 1941 t0 1943.
  • His association with the plotters of the July, 1944 attempted assassination of Hitler and coup and his statements of dissent about Nazi conduct of the war.

When his career is placed in its full context, his image is much less positive.

1933 to 1944

From the Nazis rise to power in 1933 until 1944 Rommel did nothing to oppose Nazism or to stop the Holocaust.

During those 11 years Rommel enjoyed the benefits of Nazi rule.

He failed to act in 1938 or 1939 when the Nazis were more vulnerable and would have been much easier to overthrow than in July, 1944.

For five years from 1939 until 1944, Rommel implemented the Nazi ideology of aggressive wars. Among the conquered populations were the majority of the victims of the Holocaust.

In 1939 among the earliest victims of the Holocaust were Polish Jewish officers and enlisted personnel executed when captured by Germans.

During the Polish campaign Rommel was commander of Hitler’s bodyguards (the Führer escort headquarters) as Hitler toured the Polish front.

From that position Rommel had to have been aware of the murder of Polish Jewish POWs.

During the 1940 Battle of France, troops under Rommel’s command motivated by the Nazi’s racial ideology executed captured French Senegalese troops.

French Senegalese soldiers 1940: Senegalese soldiers preparing to defend France against the Nazis..

Public domain image from Tales of War, page 239.

French Senegalese soldiers
1944: French children with their Senegalese liberator.

Public domain image from Amére patrie, devoir de mémoire et de vérité

Cemetery gate carvingCarving on the gate of the French military cemetery in Chasselay with Senegalese soldiers massacred by Nazi troops including some under Rommel’s command..

The cemetery is designed in the traditional Senegalese burial grounds..

Fair use of image from by Petra Pulles at Tata Chasselay France – A WW2 Cemetery on French soil for massacred Senegalese troops

From 1941 to 1943 in North Africa Rommel reportedly refused to implement Nazi orders to execute Jewish and other categories of POWs. Many Jewish soldiers were serving in the British and Polish forces in North Africa.

That is further confirmation of the depth of Rommel’s knowledge of Nazi criminality.

While Rommel may have prohibited the execution of Jewish POWs at the front, no evidence exists that he did anything to stop the Nazis behind the front from rounding up of Sephardic Jews in Nazi occupied parts of North Africa for deportation to slave labor and death camps.

In 1943 when Rommel was given command of Normandy, he used slave labor to construct fortifications.

Stopping the Holocaust or protecting ethnic Germans?

By July, 1944, Rommel recognized that Germany was militarily defeated. Germany no longer had the military capacity to defend its borders.

To continue the war meant that the Soviets would overrun Germany.

Was Rommel’s 1944 dissent motivated by his concern for the potential sufferings of ethnic Germans at the hands of Soviet troops or to stop genocide?

July, 1944 status of the Holocaust

By July, 1944, most of Nazi Holocaust murders had already occurred.

The July 1944 assassination and coup attempts were much too late to save most victims.

Rommel’s role in the attempted coup and assassination

Rommel may not have supported assassination or a coup.

He may have hinted that after others killed Hitler and overthrew the Nazis he would be available to serve in the post-Nazi government and armed forces.

He may have looked the other way while members of his staff planned the coup and assassination. He refrained from alerting the Nazis of the plots to what if anything he knew.

As his troops were being defeated in Normandy he said to his superiors including Hitler that the time had come to negotiate an end to the war.

On July, 17, 1944 Rommel suffered a serious brain injury when British aircraft attacked his car near the Normandy front.

That injury seemed to have decreased his inhibitions on speech.

His comments became less guarded, more frequent, explicit, and strident.

On July 22, 1944, a coup and assassination Hitler were attempted. Both failed.

On October 14, 1944. the Nazis force Rommel to choose between torture, a show trial followed by an execution, and violent retaliation against his family or suicide.

To shield his family from retaliation, Rommel chose to execute himself by committing suicide.

My amateur historian’s assessment of Rommel’s legacy

  • 11 years of personally benefiting from the Nazi’s policies.
  • 5 years of waging the Nazi’s wars of aggression during which the majority of the Holocaust victims were captured.
  • Being present in Poland when Polish Jewish POWs were executed.
  • Being in command of troops who executed French Senegalese POWs.
  • Use of slave labor to construct Normandy fortifications.
  • After D-Day in 1944, stating that the Allies and Soviets had militarily defeated Germany and that Germany should end the war.
  • Concerned more about protecting ethnic Germans from the Soviets rather than to stop genocide.
  • Doing nothing to increase the chances of the success of the July, 1944 assassination and coup attempts.
  • Dissent motivated more to protect ethnic Germans from the Soviets than to stop genocide.

3110th Signal Service Battalion and Rommel

From February to July, 1944, the 3110th Signal Service Battalion, my late father Felix A. Cizewski’s unit, and Rommel faced each other across the English Channel (La Manche in French).

Rommel was preparing to continue the Nazi occupation of France and the 3110th was building communications infrastructure to facilitate the supplies to the forces preparing to liberate France.
Links with sources and for more information:

(French) le maréchal erwin rommel se suicide le 14 octobre 1944: Site where I learned of the 1940 massacre of French Senegalese POWs by troops under Rommel’s command.

(French)  Le Tata sénégalais

In depth historical background and context: An occasional feature of my family history blog.

Revised: October 18, 2012

Café de l’hôtel de Ville in Cherbourg: 70 years ago and today

October 13, 2014

Among the places I have documented that Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, visited while serving in Cherbourg with Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion was the Café de l’hôtel de Ville.

The Café de l’hôtel de Ville is located just south of the l’hôtel de Ville (Cherbourg city hall).

Researcher and friend Claude Letelier shared these photos of the Café de l’hôtel de Ville from WWII and today.

The WWII photo is not only of the Café de l’hôtel de Ville but also documents the Nazi crime of slave labor.

wwii now
Sometime after February, 1943.

On the right of the photo on the side street is the Café de l’hôtel de Ville.

Note the sign above the doors.

On the main street Nazi troops are escorting ethnic French residents of Cherbourg for slave labor.

The column is moving in the direction of the Cherbourg train station.

The angle of this photo suggests the photographer is taking this photo clandestinely.

This documentation of slave labor may have been an act of resistance.


The Café de l’hôtel de Ville today is the Bar de l’hôtel de Ville.

Photo by Claude Letelier

In February, 1943, the Nazis imposed Service du Travail Obligatoire (S.T.O.) (Compulsory Work Service) on the people of Occupied France.

The photo above is of the deportation of ethnic French residents of Cherbourg for slave labor mostly in Germany.

In the Nazi racial hierarchy, ethnic French were among those to be enslaved rather than completely exterminated such as Jews.

The French Jews of Cherbourg

French Jews of Cherbourg are not among those in the photo.

Prior to February, 1943 enactment of the S.T.O. law, the Nazis deported to death and slave labor camps as many French Jews of Cherbourg as they could capture.

Some survivors returned to Cherbourg after liberation.

Links with sources and for more information:

(In French) La France sous l’occupation: Le S.T.O.

(In French)  Le S.T.O. (loi du 16 février 1943)

(Includes English): Louis PESNEL’s account from Mémoires de guerre: WWII stories, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie

The 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Normandy

Felix A. Cizewski WWII Cherbourg photos


The War of 1812 in Wisconsin

October 9, 2014

Two hundred years ago the only battle in Wisconsin of the War of 1812 was fought from July 17 to 20, 1814 at Fort Shelby, Prairie du Chien.

In the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War and granted American independence, Britain recognized as part of the U.S. all territory south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River including present day Wisconsin.

Among the causes of the war was the British failure to evacuate troops from the many sites including Wisconsin.

In 1814, America sent troops to the Mississippi River valley expel the British and secure the borders.

American troops constructed Fort Shelby on St. Feriole Island in the Mississippi River to secure Prairie du Chien.

The British sent a force of regular troops, Indians from America and Canada, French settlers from Canada and the U.S., and Metis of French and Indian ancestry.

The British force arrived at Prairie du Chien on July 17, 1814 and ordered the Americans to surrender.

The Americans refused. The British responded with a three day siege.


Fighting at Fort Shelby

On July 20, 1814 the Americans surrendered.


Diorama of the surrender of Fort Shelby

Fair use of image from the Fort Crawford Museum

The British held the Fort Shelby until May 25, 1815 when they received word of the treaty ending the war. The British burned the fort when the evacuated.

The French and Indian Allies of the British

In 1763 the British captured New France which included Wisconsin.

The British allowed the French residents of British North America to keep their language and practice Roman Catholicism.

The British had better relations with the Indians because the British were more observant of their treaties with the Indians than were the Americans.

Therefore both Indians and French settlers in Wisconsin, other parts of America, and Canada were willing to fight with the British against America.

Flags in downtown Prairie du Chien

In honor of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the 1814 Battle of Fort Shelby lamp posts on Blackhawk Street, the main street in downtown Prairie du Chien, have the U.S. 15 star flag and the early 19th century British red ensign.

us%20flag[1] British-Red-Ensign-Flag[1]

Links with sources and for more information:

Why are those flags flying downtown?  Prairie du Chien Courier Press June 23, 2014.

Bicentennial Celebration to honor the War of 1812 Battle of Prairie du Chien

The War of 1812 in Prairie du Chien, Fort Crawford Museum.

Prairie du Chien’s St. Feriole Island, an abundance of history

Site of the fort and battle

The War of 1812 in the old Northwest


"I am beautiful"

October 1, 2014

When I practiced with friends delivering my Tamerville speech I looked just over the top of their heads rather than at their eyes to minimize my anxiety.

I planned to do the same at Tamerville.

On May 31, 2014 when I got up to the podium to speak in the front of row in line with me was a French Air Force general with a wonderful, warm, kind, and supportive face.

 afgeneral.jpgFrench Air Force general at the Tamerville ceremony.

Photo by Julie Waldner

At that moment I decided that instead of looking over the heads of the audience, I would look right into his eyes and make my remarks as if I was giving them only to him.

At the reception following the ceremony with Bertille (granddaughter of Remy Agnes, researcher and witness of WWII in Tamerville) translating I told the general how he helped me.

He smiled and said he realized that was what I was doing. He added I made the right decision because referring to himself he said “I am beautiful!”.

Bertille translating Georges Dennebouy’s speech.

Bertille is the granddaughter of Remy Agnes, researcher and witness of WWII in Tamerville. She helped many of us converse with our French hosts.

Photo by Julie Waldner

Link with sources and more information:

Northern France Campaign: Includes details of the 3110th Signal Service Battalion’s service in Normandy.

Infantry, Air Force, Medical, and Signal Corps Units in Tamerville and Valognes

Another post in an ongoing series about our trip to France for the the memorial in Tamerville, part of the observance of the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of France.

My late father Felix A. Cizewski served in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Tamerville and Cherbourg providing communications and logistical support for the liberation of Normandy in 1944.


Sideville, Normandy 1944 and 2014

September 22, 2014

70 years ago in the summer of 1944 while serving in Cherbourg in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion, Felix A. Cizewski and four other GIs were photographed at Bois du Mont du Roc, Sideville, Normandy.

Sideville is about 5 miles (7.8 kilometers) southwest of Cherbourg.

70 years later researcher and our friend Claude Letellier photographed the exact spot where my father and his fellow GIs stood.

sideville[1]Summer, 1944, five GIs next to a Nazi guardhouse, Sideville, Normandy.Felix A. Cizewski is standing in the back row, first on the left.

Original photo and all rights have been donated to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.

138[1]Summer 2014: Nazi guardhouse today.

Photo © Claude Letellier

At Bois du Mont du Roc, Sideville the Nazis had built a pool and recreation facility. Perhaps after liberation the Americans used it.

Today the site is a park.

Links with sources and more information:

Sideville: Histoire et Patrimoine (In French)

Sideville in Felix A. Cizewski and WWII


The Robinson Family and the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812

September 18, 2014

Two hundred and one years ago on February 27, 1813 Pearly Gates died of wounds received in an War of 1812 battle. He was 46 years old.

Pearly Gates is a Robinson family ancestor.

He was born about 1767 and lived in Rushville, New York.

He is my wife’s Cheryl A.Robinson 4th great-grandfather and my son Eli’s 5th.

The most likely engagement in which Pearly Gates suffered his fatal wounds was the British victory in the February 22, 1813 Battle of Ogdensburg, New York. Ogdensburg is 193 miles (311 kilometers) northeast of Rushville.

Pearly Gates probably served in a militia unit.


Lt. Col. George MacDonnell directing the British assault on Ogdensburg, New York.

From the display at Fort Wellington, Canada where the assault on Ogdensburg was staged.

Fair use of image © Parks Canada.

The 250 defeated American regular and militia troops suffered 20 killed, 6 wounded, and 70 captured. Many of the captured were wounded.

In all wars prior to the discovery of antibiotics, death from complications of wounds were extremely high. Wounded soldiers were also at much higher risk of dying from disease.


Baldwins Corner Cemetery, Rushville, Ontario County, New York where Pearly Gates is buried.

Fair use of photo by Paul G. Healy on Find a Grave

Orpha (Scott) Gates, wife of Pearly, lived until she was 97.

She was born on November 10, 1767 in Waterbury, Connecticut and died on July 19, 1864 in Rushville.

Ophra and Pearly had at least one child, a son Enoch from whom the Robinsons are descended.

Ogdensburg War 1812 Map[1]

Map of Ogdensburg during the War of 1812 from Benjamin Lossing’s Field Book of the War of 1812.

Public Domain image from: The North Country’s Forgotten War of 1812 General, February 15, 2012, The New York State History Blog.


This is a continuation of the family research that Delia (Hobart) Robinson,  Pearly’s 3rd great-granddaughter. and the mother of  my late father-in-law Ralph E. Robinson.

Marjorie Robinson, my mother-in-law, shared a copy of the reply Delia had received in 1972 from the Town of Gorham (Ontario County, New York) Historian.

That letter contained references to family oral history regarding Pearly Gates.

I did not find Pearly Gates in any of the online digitized War of 1812 documents nor did I find record of a widow’s pension for Orpha.

I plan to do further research.

Link with sources and more information:

Casualty figures are from the Wikipedia article: The Battle of Ogdensburg which cites:

The documentary history of the campaign on the Niagara frontier by E. A. Cruikshank.

Fort Wellington, Canada where the assault on Ogdensburg was staged.

An Account of the Battle of Ogdensburg N.Y., February 22nd, 1813 British Lt. Col. George MacDonnell’s report edited by Robert Henderson


Revised: September 19, 2014

The Continuing Journey of Company C: Paris and Cherbourg

September 16, 2014

Seventy years ago on September 15, 1944, Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion changed its duty station from Cherbourg to Paris. Companies A and B were already in Paris.

Company C sent 4 officers and 32 enlisted men to Paris.

The rest of Company C remained in Cherbourg detached to other Signal Corps units.

Two officers and 64 enlisted men were detached to the recently arrived Company A, 810th Signal Service Battalion.

Company A, 810th Signal Service Battalion operated the telephone and teleprinter sections and the repeater station of the Cherbourg Switching Center.

Company A and the detached men from Company C also constructed a building to house communications equipment along with recreation hall. That work was done during heavy rains.

Questions For Further Research:

What are the other units to which members of Company C attached?

When did the detached units rejoin the rest of the battalion in Paris?

Where and with which unit was Felix A. Cizewski, my late father? In Paris or with one of the detached units in Cherbourg?

Morning Report for Company C for September 15, 1944:

View this document on Scribd


Thanks to retired U.S. Army Colonel Hugh Foster for assisting by for working with me on the September 15, 1944 Morning Report for Company C.

For more information:

Source for the information about the 810th Signal Service Battalion: Ytterdal, Kelda, Hold Firm: World War II – 810th Signal Service Corp  Kindle Edition.

Northern France Campaign: Includes details of the 3110th Signal Service Battalion’s service in Normandy.

Infantry, Air Force, Medical, and Signal Corps Units in Tamerville and Valognes


Companies A & B, 3110th Signal Service Battalion Deploy to Valognes

August 25, 2014

When Company A with Felix A. Cizewski deployed to Normandy Companies A & B remain in southern England providing communications support for the liberation of Normandy.

Seventy years ago on August 24, 1944, Companies A & B crossed the La Manche (the English Channel) to Utah Beach in LCI(L)-417 (Landing Craft Infantry [Large}).

Six days earlier Company C had left Tamerville for redeployment to Cherbourg.

Another Tamerville Liberator
Charles Raymond (Ray) Davidson
1907 – 2004

Company A, 3110th Signal Service Battalion, Army Service Forces

Company A had about 200 men and officers responsible for operation, repair, and maintenance of telephone equipment.

Company B was responsible for the operation, repair, and maintenance of teletype and cryptographic equipment (cipher machines).

In a letter home, Ray Davidson described being bivouacked in an apple orchard.

He states that rather than work in the Valognes communications facilities, they were temporarily bivouacked until their deployment to Paris on September 5.

He observed that “some of the …towns and countryside around here…might have seen some action at one time or other”

The Army Service Forces headquarters and faculties were moving from Normandy to recently liberated Paris.

For more information:

Northern France Campaign: Includes details of the 3110th Signal Service Battalion’s service in Normandy.

Infantry, Air Force, Medical, and Signal Corps Units in Tamerville and Valognes



Revised August 25, 2014

Penknife from the "Café de l’hôtel de Ville de Cherbourg"

August 21, 2014

Seventy years ago between August 18 and September 15, 1944, Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, obtained a penknife (canif) from the Cherbourg Café de l’Hôtel de Ville (city hall). He was serving in Cherbourg in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion.

I found it after my father died in 2004.

I took it with on our trip to France.

After the Tamerville ceremony, I gave to the penknife to researcher Claude Letellier.

From left to right:

Not in photo to the left: Remy Agnes’s granddaughter who translated as I gave Claude the knife. Remy is a researcher and witness of WWII in Tamerville;

With his back to the camera: Mickaël Simon, researcher and author;


Unidentified Tamerville area resident;

Behind unidentified resident: Julie Waldner, granddaughter Sgt Francis Hugo Schultz. Sgt. Schultz’s C-47 was shot down on D-Day near Tamerville and he was captured;

Remy Agnes;

Claude Lettelier;

With her back to the camera, Joanne Schultz, Sgt. Schultz’s daughter and Julie Waldner’s aunt.

Until we got our rental car, Claude was our chauffeur and guide.

Among the places he took us was to the Signal Corps bivouac site.

With his metal detector Claude found artifacts that helped confirm that he and the other researchers had identified the bivouac site of Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion, my father’s unit, and other Signal Corps units.

Claude gave me one of the many 18th century French coins he had found with his metal detector.

He showed us a concrete structure built by the Nazis to hide their rockets. It is now being used as a farm machinery shed.

He pointed areas of Valognes that had been destroyed and rebuilt.

He drove us to the Cherbourg train station to pick up our rental car.

He shared that scenes from the 1964 movie Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) were filmed at that station.Just prior to our trip and as part of our study of French, Cheryl and I had watched it.

Claude assisted the rental car company staff to set the GPS navigation to English and to enter the location of our bed and breakfast in Valognes.

Claude became the friend who would best appreciate my dad’s Cherbourg Café de l’Hôtel de Ville penknife.

Seventy years late in June, 2014: Leonard at the Cherbourg l’Hôtel de Ville where his father Felix obtained penknife in August or September, 1944.

Photos by Cheryl A. Robinson

August 20, 1944: General Charles de Gaulle speaking from the balcony of  l’Hôtel de Ville.

My father and Company C had arrived two days earlier on August 18.

Public domain photo from U.S. National Archives.

For more information:
Cherbourg 1944: port de la victoire published by La Presse de la Manche.

Northern France Campaign: Includes details of the 3110th Signal Service Battalion’s service in Normandy.

Infantry, Air Force, Medical, and Signal Corps Units in Tamerville and Valognes

Another post in an ongoing series about our trip to France for the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Liberation of France and the memorial in Tamerville

My late father Felix A. Cizewski served in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Tamerville and Cherbourg providing communications and logistical support for the liberation of Normandy in 1944.



Revised: August 22, 2014


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