11/01/2017 Archival Research

Important records revealed

On October 27, 2017, when Roland Roumilhac would have been 108 years old, his son Jean-Claude, his daughter-in-law and his three grandchildren visited the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial for the first time. They brought amazing documents from his father’s time in Neuengamme with them.

Roland Roumilhac belonged to a group of French inmates who had been taken as hostages to the Neuengamme concentration camp in July 1944. Many of these special prisoners were French celebrities, including former ministers, senators, prefects and mayors. Roland Roumilhac, however, was a common craftsman from the municipality of Marennes, who, while working in Paris, was arrested. Why he was selected as one of these special hostage-inmates is still a mystery to his family.

These hostage-inmates were housed in a special area of ​​the Neuengamme concentration camp. They did not have to work, so consequently they used their time in the camp to train each other, with some secretly making records. Roland Roumilhac somehow saved his records, and the family today owns a pocket diary and another small notebook with his notes from prison. Some of those notes apparently describe his time in Neuengamme. This research will be further explored now that the archive has access to two CDs with document scans of Roland Roumilhac’s writings.

In addition to these CDs, the family also brought a variety of significant documents, including one message he had thrown out of the window of the train deporting him to the German Reich. The letter was found and sent anonymously to his fiancée, signed only with the enigmatic “a true Frenchman.”

Roland Roumilhac survived his imprisonment and returned to France on May 19th, 1945. When he returned home, he was 36 years old and weighed only 35 kilograms. He died in March 1981.