Most former prisoners of the Vietminh had immured themselves in silence after their liberation, because they carried a wound within themselves – that of having been subjected to such inhumane captivity but also the wound caused by the suspicious indifference they surrounded by.
When they gathered in 1986, their renewed solidarity gave them their self-confidence back and a significant number of them started to write books so as to testify to the horror they had gone through and to free themselves from the weight that oppressed them.
But not everyone was able to write a book. And yet many more felt the increasing need to give vent to their feelings and to be witnesses to the living hell that was meant by life in the camps.
When general Bruneau , who was ANAPI’s national president in 1997, realised that a lot was being written he decided to gather the testimonies, study them, organize their conservation and distribution.
At the request of Gilbert Rémy, the regional president of the Charentes branch, the board of directors; which met in Biarritz on May 22nd 1997 during the national congress, set up a “reading committee” which was composed of 12 volunteers. He asked André Saint-Georges to head the committee.
The 12 volunteers were Hubert Bapst, Claude Bergerat (who died in 1998), General Eugène Bruneau, Roger Cornet, Jean Lomer, Jacques Nicolas, André Petithomme (who passed away in 2000), René Rabut, Gilbert Rémy, Jean Roux, Jacques Teisserenc and François de Vaugiraud.
The authors of the testimonies sent their writings to André Saint-Georges who had them copied and sent to each member of the committee. The committee then met in Paris to assess each testimony and decide of its future.
They were all classified in the ANAPI’s national archives.
The most valuable and well-documented were sent to the three national centre of historical heritage (mémoire historique) where they can be consulted.
- la Délégation à la mémoire et à l’information historique (Fonds documentaires de la Bibliothèque)
- Secrétariat d’Etat aux anciens combattants - 37 rue de Bellechasse - 75700 Paris 07 SP
- les services historiques de l’Armée de terre (Fonds privés)
- Fort de Vincennes - B.P. 107 - 00481 Armées
- la commission d’histoire de la guerre,
Lastly the best testimonies were sent to journals and reviews so as to be published. Le Déporté, le Journal des Combattants, le Casoar, l’Epaulette, le Journal des enfants de troupe, la Charte, la Koumia, Képi Blanc, Historia, Rizières et djebels, Col bleu and SNAAG Actualités.
- Fonds privés des archives départementales du Rhône - 92 rue de Marseille - 69007 Lyon.
Five meetings were organised in Paris on March 10th 1998, March 2nd 1999, March 21st 2000, March 12 2002 and March 8th 2004.
The conclusions of the first 4 meetings are as follows.
- 58 testimonies were gathered and classified in the ANAPI national archives
- 51, out of which 45 were written by former Vietminh prisoners and 6 by former prisoners of the Japanese were passed on to researchers and historians in the three historical heritage centres.
- 17 out of the 51 testimonies were sent to the 12 journals and reviews previously quoted, 16 of which dealt with Vietminh camps and 1 with Japanese camps.