Sellier, André 1920–
Sellier, André 1920–
PERSONAL: Born July 1, 1920, in Amiens, France; son of Louis (a carpenter) and Jeanne (Vallée) Sellier; married Hélène Chlique, December 12, 1940 (divorced January 7, 1957); married Simonne Vermare (a civil servant), June 14, 1959; children: Jean-Colette Sellier Lallemand, Pierre, Caroline. Education: Univeresity of Lille, licence ès-lettres, 1941; attended École Nationale d'Administration.
ADDRESSES: Office—9 rue Paul Eluard, 80480 Salouël, France.
CAREER: Teacher of history and geography in Cambrai, France, 1940–43, 1945–47; interned in prisons and prison camps in France, 1943–44, and Germany, 1944–45; Ministry of the Economy, commercial counselor at French embassies in London, Rome, Abidjian, and Algiers, and as civil servant in Paris and Lille, 1950–86; retired. Conseil Supérieur des Français de l'Etranger, member, 1982–91.
MEMBER: Union of Commercial Personnel of French Embassies and Consulates (president, 1968–86).
AWARDS, HONORS: Croix de guerre, 1945; French Legion of honor, named knight, 1965, named officer, 1982; Prix des Écrivains Combattants, 2000.
(With Jean Sellier) Atlas des peuples d'Europe centrale, Éditions La Découverte (Paris, France), 1991, 4th edition, 2002.
(With Jean Sellier) Atlas des peuples d'Orient. Moyen-Orient, Caucase, Asie centrale, Éditions La Découverte (Paris, France), 1993, 4th edition, 2002.
(With Jean Sellier) Atlas des peuples d'Europe occidentale, Éditions La Découverte (Paris, France), 1995, 2nd edition, 2000.
Histoire de camp de Dora, Éditions La Découverte (Paris, France), 1998, translation by Stephen Wright and Susan Taponier published as A History of the Dora Camp: The Untold Story of the Nazi Slave Labor Camp That Manufactured V-2 Rockets, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2003.
(With Yves Le Maner) Images de Dora, 1943–1945 (exhibition catalog), La Coupole (Saint-Omer, France), 1999.
Sellier's atlases have also been published in Spanish. His memoir of the Dora Camp was translated into German.
SIDELIGHTS: André Sellier told CA: "I was born in Amiens, the capital of Picardie. I took my degree at the University of Lille and taught history and geography at a lycée in Cambrai. My father was a carpenter, like his father before him. He was a non-communist trade union leader. In late 1940, my father was a member of a group of trade union leaders that created the Libération-Nord resistance movement; he was in charge of Libé-Nord in Picardie and was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. My brother-in-law, Daniel Chlique, and I were arrested at the same time. We were imprisoned in Amiens and then sent to the camp in Compiègne from which the convoys left for concentration camps in Germany."
"We were not deported at the same time. I left first, in January, 1944, for the Buchenwald camp, located in Thuringia, in the middle of Germany, and then I was sent to Dora. Daniel also arrived in Buchenwald, but he was sent to the Mauthausen camp in Austria and the Gusen Kommando. My father was the last to leave France by a convoy that went to Auschwitz; then the members of the convoy were transferred to Buchenwald. By the time my father arrived there, Daniel and I had been gone for several months.
"We were liberated in the spring of 1945. My father was the first to be liberated on April 11 by the Americans at Buchenwald. He returned to France a week later. Daniel was also liberated by the Americans in early May in Austria. For me, that period was much more complicated, because the SS had ordered the 'evacuation' of the Dora prisoners in early April. The evacuation took place under terrible conditions. It was not until early May that I was liberated by the Russians in Mecklenburg, in the northeast of Germany. I was repatriated by the British Army and returned to France at the end of May, 1945. It was unusual for three deported prisoners from the same family to all come home alive.
"We went back rather quickly to our occupations. My father once again became the head of his carpentry business. Daniel finished his studies and became a mining engineer. I went back to Cambrai to teach.
"In 1950 I became a diplomat, which had been my wish for a long time. From then until retirement in 1986, I pursued a career as a commercial counselor, either in foreign embassies, or in Paris, or on assignment in the French provinces. During the second half of this activity, I was also the president of our trade union, representing colleagues of every rank in their dealings with the administration.
"Throughout my career as a diplomat, I continued doing historical research, particularly the study of the territorial modifications and the centuries-old problems raised by national minorities in Central and Eastern Europe. It is a subject that also interested my son Jean. When the political structures of those countries collapsed in the early 1990s, we were ready to present to the public an overview of their history, in the form of Atlases. I was working on this when some of my comrades from the Association of Dora Camp Prisoners set up an historical commission to group together documents on the history of our camp, especially first-hand accounts. As a published professional, I was put in charge of studying the available documents and writing a text. After years of research and writing, the book titled Histoire de Camp de Dora, was published in 1998.
"The initiative of our association was spontaneous and independent. It is interesting to note that identical initiatives were taken elsewhere during the same years, including one by my very good friend at Dora named Milan Filipcic, who later became a well-known journalist. It is not surprising that the last survivors of the concentration camps wish to leave a trace of their experience. What is striking is their concern today to achieve historical rigor, beyond any possible question. For forty years, there have been plenty of books published on this period, but many of them were oriented toward glorification or commemoration, or toward condemnation or at least questioning. Their ideological underpinnings were often more or less obvious.
"For the last fifteen years, genuine historians have dominated publishing in France as well as in most other countries. There is now a true consensus among historians, regardless of their nationality. I was naturally led to write about Dora for two reasons. The first was that a set of good quality, extremely varied firsthand accounts of the camp was available in French. From the creation of the camp in 1943 until its dispersion in 1945, French and Belgian deported prisoners continued to arrive from Buchenwald to replace German civil workers. The second reason was the fact that I myself was among those French prisoners. I was lucky enough to come out alive, but I might just as easily have died early on. My own stay in Dora has allowed me to subject the firsthand accounts of my comrades to the scrutiny of a critical, though understanding, eye.
"Dora was typical of the camps set up in the final period of the war, when the workforce had considerably increased. There was significant loss of life among prisoners. The sight of the bodies lying everywhere near Dora was one of the most shocking experiences the American troops had when they arrived in Thuringia in 1945. At the same time, the Americans discovered the huge underground Dora Tunnel factory, the only factory devoted exclusively to manufacturing V2 rockets by prisoners (including myself), under the supervision of German engineers and technicians (including Von Braun). All of the V2s used to bomb London and Antwerp after September, 1944, were made at Dora.
"The special importance of Dora is the fact that it combined, in a single place, both the construction of secret weapons and the extermination of thousands of prisoners. It was necessary that this story be told.
"The international network of scholars doing research on the subject includes French historian Yves le Maner, director of La Coupole, the Center of Memory and History set up in a large, unfinished German bunker in the north of France, from which the V2s were to be fired. With my help, Le Maner mounted an exhibition inside La Couple, with drawings by prisoners and color photographs taken in the underground factory by an official German photographer. A Dutch version of the exhibition was shown in Antwerp, and then a German version went successively to Munich, Peenemünde, and Berlin. The French exhibition catalogue was published in 1999. Le Maner and others will continue to cooperate. They are still young; I am now eighty-four years old."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Sellier, André, Histoire de camp de Dora, Éditions La Découverte (Paris, France), 1998, translation by Stephen Wright and Susan Taponier published as A History of the Dora Camp: The Untold Story of the Nazi Slave Labor Camp That Manufactured V-2 Rockets, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2003.
Library Journal, July, 2003, Frederic Krome, review of Histoire de camp de Dora, p. 104.
UNESCO Courier, September, 1993, Edgar Reichmann, review of Atlas des peuples d'Orient. Moyen-Orient, Caucase, Asie centrale, p. 47.