Today we remember the sacrifice of two French jocist leaders, who both died in Nazi concentrations during World War.
Here is their story:
André Vallée was a JOC leader from the Orne region in France, who volunteered to replace another man who was being sent to Germany for forced labour. Arrested for his working organising Catholic Action study circles, he was sent to Flossenburg Concentration Camp. He died while being transferred to another camp.
André Vallée was born at Mortagne au Perche in the Orne region on 9 November 1919. After completing his studies he became a machine operator at the Oeuvre de La Chapelle-Montligeon in 1934. Simultaneously, he joined the JOC, becoming a federal (regional) leader in the Orne region from 1941.
In June 1940 he was mobilised for military service then made a prisoner of war at Poitiers. Freed later, he was sent to a youth camp in Auvergne. In November 1942, he took the place of a family man who had been called for compulstory labour and was sent to Gotha in Thuringia.
Immediately after his arrival, he identified three other Catholic Action leaders with whom he launched an initial reflection group. The JOC groups that he launched with his brother, Roger, a seminarian, grew to 60 members. Group members shared out the solidarity work among them with André taking on the task of visiting the sick in hospital.
He also became particularly involved in the library that they founded despite the fact that the sending of books from France was prohibited. He also organised singing practice, masses of support for the French with contacts every two months among JOC leadersin other regions, all of which was done clandestinely since all religious groups were prohibited.
Roger Vallée, André’s brother, was born in Mortagne on 13 December 1920. Following his primary school studies, he joined the minor seminary in 1933 and entered the major seminary in 1940, taking minor orders in June 1943.
Called up for compulsory labour service in August 1943, he joined his brother at Gotha to assist him in his apostolate. He became involved in developing weekly study circles, local recollections to support jocist leaders and also took part in regional meetings.
On 22 December 1943, police ordered them to no longer celebrate mass for foreigners.
They were arrested at Gotha on 1 April 1944, interrogated by experts in religious matters before being imprisoned at Gotha along with ten other companions arrested for the same reason.
The reason for conviction was the same in each case: “A danger to the state and the German people by his Catholic Action among his French comrades during his Compulsory Labour Service.”
André arrived at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 12 October 1944 where he was given the number 28910. He was transferred to the Leitmeritz commando, dying en route on 31 January 1945 according to eye witnesses. His death was registered at the Flossenburg camp on 15 February 1945.
Roger arrived at Flossenburg on 12 October 1945, was given the number 28909 then transferred to Mauthausen, given number 108,811 where he died on 29 October 1944.
We remember their sacrifice and that of so many more jocist martyrs, who died during World War II, including Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet, both members of the “founder trio” in Belgium.
André Vallée (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)
Fernand Tonnet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)
Paul Garcet (Paul Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library