spring was in the air on March 21, 1942. It was a welcome relief. In
France, that winter had been one of the coldest in living memory. But by
mid-March, the frost had lost its grip and the pale yellow tips of
Easter Lilies poked timidly out of the soil. On the sidewalks, cafés and
brasseries, life went on as people were at a loss to decide which
winter garment to toss as they soaked up the sun and warmed their hearts
with news that the tides of war finally seemed to be turning.
At Mont Valérien, the prison fortress and Nazi place of execution
outside the city, winter remained in the hearts of prisoners and guards
alike. Early in the morning, the condemned had been removed from their
cells and transported to the place of execution. One by one they were
tied to the killing posts to await their death, as the firing squad made
ready. The first shots rang out at 4:01 p.m. The last at 4:23. The
famous coachbuilder Jacques Kellner and Georges Paulin, the gifted
designer of gorgeous aerodynamic cars, were dead. Three of their
comrades were also slumped on the ground. It was a routine execution,
all in a day’s work.
For the Gestapo-controlled court that had handed down the death
sentences and the German conscripts who fired the bullets, it was a case
of finishing the business, once the culprits had been caught and
“justice” metered out. Some names to cross off a list. For France and
the nascent French Résistance, it was the loss of heroes who had been
willing to give their lives to fight the Nazis and paid the price. For
their relatives and loved ones, it was the unbearable loss of what they
held dearest in the world.
The Kellner Affair tells the fascinating story of how some of the most
influential people in the French luxury car business before the War came
together and fought bravely against the Nazi occupation force in Paris.
It goes deeply into their talent, their work, their life and their
loved ones, relying on newly discovered archive material. It is the
first factual account of what took place before that beautiful spring
day and what came after: what happened, how it happened, who was to
blame, who was punished and who was not.