Hidden History WW2: Yvette Lundy and the Possum Escape Line

Yvette Lundy was born April 22nd, 1916 – the youngest of seven children. Her family had a farm near Epernay. It was in the Champagne-producing department of Marne, in north east France.

She trained as a teacher and taught in a local school during the occupation of France in WW2. And during the war also helped at the local Mairie. Working there she discovered, and joined the Possum Escape Line.

Yvette Lundy with her pupils

Yvette Lundy with her pupils
Image credit: https://l/hebdoduvendredi.com

The Possum Escape Line was one of the French Resistance networks operating across northern France and would save hundreds of lives by the end of the war. 

Work Camps and Factories

In June 1942, the Germans introduced the STO – Service du Travail Obligatoire. This was a work program, set up in collaboration with the Vichy Regime, that sent French workers to Germany as forced labor. They replaced the local manpower being sent to the Front lines.

At first it was voluntary and the Nazi’s added a sweetener – for every three French workers that went to Germany, they would release one French POW.

However, the Vichy Regime introduced a law requiring French citizens, between the ages of 18 and 50, to work wherever the Regime demanded.

Between June 1942 and July 1944 almost 650,000 were rounded up and taken to Germany.


French citizens being rounded up for transportation to work camps and factories in Germany 1942
Image credit: German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

Many never returned.

As the working conditions in the German factories became widely known, many of the French people destined for Germany, jumped trains or simply disappeared before they were due to leave.

In doing so they went on the run for the rest of the war – it wasn’t safe to return to their families and friends – so many became French Resistance Fighters.


WW2 French Resistance Fighters

French Resistance Fighters WW2
Image credit: AP Photo

False Papers and Safe Houses

As part of the Possum Escape Line, Yvette Lundy created false papers and documents for citizens trying to evade forced labor trains. She supplied fake travel documents for Jewish families, escaped POWs and Allied aircrew needing to return to the UK.

And she looked after many people who hid at her brother’s farm until it was safe to move on.

But the Gestapo learned of the Possum Escape Line and started searching for the key people.

Ms Lundy was arrested in June 1944 while teaching in her classroom and sent to the Ravensbruck all-female camp in northern Germany.

There she was interrogated by SS officers, then transferred to Buchenwald camp. This was one of the first, and largest of the concentration camps in central Germany.

Aerial view of Buchenwald Concentration Camp 1945

Aerial view of Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Germany

Image credit: U.S. Air Reconnaissance. National Archives Washington

And it was brutal.

But she survived and escape came in the form of Allied troops who liberated the camp in 1945. She returned to France.

For many years after the war ended Ms Lundy never spoke of her work with the French Resistance.

Nor her ordeal in the camps.

However, in the late 50s she began teaching French and German students the importance of peace and reconciliation.   And often visited schools, speaking about her experiences.

In 2012 she co-wrote her memoir, ‘Le Fil de l’Araignee’ with Laurence Barbarot-Boisson.

And in 2017 at the age of 101 she was awarded France’s highest civilian award, the Légion d’honneur.

Yvette Lundy died November 3rd, 2019 at the age of 103.

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