The morning of March 11, 1942 greeted the French POWs of Oflag XXI B in Szubin with sad news. Captain Jacques Blanc, called Commandant by the French POWs, had died during the night.
Jacques Alexis Blanc was born on May 14, 1891, in the village of Boulbon, France. He was a farmer by profession. In 1910, he volunteered for the French army. During World War I, he first served in the cavalry, and then, from 1916, in the infantry. He was wounded three times, including on September 27, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme – the biggest battle of World War I, which claimed over a million victims.
After World War I, he decided to pursue a military career, rising to the rank of captain. After the outbreak of World War II, he took part in defensive operations at the border with Germany and Luxembourg. By a decree of October 1939, he was appointed battalion commander in the 46th Infantry Regiment.
At the end of the first half of June 1940, Captain Jacques Blanc and his men struggled for days with German troops near Balham in northeastern France. At 11.15 a.m. on June 11, after exhausting ammunition, Captain Blanc, to spare his men in unequal hand-to-hand combat with enemy forces, decided to cease resistance.
After his capture, he was eventually placed in Oflag XXI B in Szubin, where he died of leukemia on the night of March 11, 1942. Captain Blanc was 50 years old at the time of his death.
Captain Blanc's funeral took place the next day, Thursday 12 March. He was led out in the freezing cold of 13 degrees after the evening roll call, at about 6 p.m.. It was the first time in the French history of Oflag XXI B in Szubin that the Germans allowed a delegation led by Colonel Alambert, commandant Blanc's trusted man, to accompany the deceased to the cemetery chapel. They also funded a funeral wreath. Commandant Jacques Alexis Blanc was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Szubin in the war grave number 19.
In 1948, preparations began for the exhumation of the POWs' graves. Commandant Jacques Blanc was finally laid to rest in the French Military Cemetery in Gdańsk, Poland.
We sincerely thank Mr. Joël Buravand, a retired military officer and compatriot of Captain Blanc, for his help in reaching archival documents, and for his commitment to our common goal of commemorating the history of POWs, in particular, those who died in the camps and who were not given the opportunity to tell their story.