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Link between the generations

Didier Vignolles visited the International Tracing Service (ITS) to see the original documents from Buchenwald concentration camp regarding the fate of his great-grandfather Guillaume Carles. Guillaume Carles was arrested with two comrades in early 1943 because they had established a secret cell of the Communist Party in their hometown of Langon in France. They were held in French prisons as opponents of the regime and then deported by the Nazis via the Compiègne transit camp to Buchenwald. Didier Vignolles now wants to follow these traces of his great-grandfather together with his partner, Sophie Gachet. “It’s important to us to visit the ITS and the memorial in Weimar while we’re in Germany.”

Didier Vignolles’ great-grandfather was already 60 years old when he was arrested. He survived 15 months of imprisonment in Buchenwald. The ITS archive holds a number of documents about his fate, including prisoner index cards, personal effects cards, work cards and a variety of lists. “I knew my great-grandfather, though I was very young when he died,” Didier Vignolles says. “I can remember that, after his imprisonment, he was just a shadow of himself.”

In the spring of 2017, he began to research the injustice and suffering to which Guillaume Carles had been subjected – and he quickly found information: “I’ve had two very emotional moments over the past weeks,” he explains. “The first was when I was sitting at my computer and got the email from the ITS with the copies of the documents – but the moment when I saw the originals was even more emotional.”

His great-grandfather’s fate was not often discussed in the family. Only his mother shared a few remembrances. But his personal family history was too important to Didier Vignolles for him to leave it at that. “I want to pass on this story to my children and grandchildren. I feel like a link between the generations that will keep alive the memory of the victims of Nazi persecution.” He plans to publish his research on the internet. He had the documents explained to him in detail by the ITS so that he could read and interpret them properly, and also so that others can benefit from his research. “I want to understand and encourage others to research their family history.”