Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 24 October |
Saint of the Day: St. Anthony Mary Claret
Aleteia logo
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Nazi flag on church in occupied France torn down by teens, including future priest

FRANCE-WWII-LIBERATION OF PARIS

AFP

Lauriane Vofo Kana - published on 07/12/21

When this French priest was a teenager, he undertook a courageous act of defiance against the Nazi occupation.

It’s an evening in 1942. France is under Nazi occupation, but the spirit of resistance is alive and well among the population. Alexis Hiessler and two 17-year-old friends are planning to do something that the occupation authorities will not appreciate: The teenagers want to seize the Nazi flag hanging on the bell tower of the basilica next to St. Columban School, where they are students.

They can’t bear to see this symbol, incompatible with their faith, enthroned on the tower of this church, St. Peter of Luxeuil-les-Bains, which was once part of an ancient and venerable abbey.

The friends climb a short ladder and reach the roof. From there, they manage to tear the flag down from the bell tower.

The mission accomplished, young Alexis keeps the flag. Of course, the absence of the Third Reich’s flag doesn’t go unnoticed by the German soldiers. They raid the school but cannot find the flag, which Alexis Hiessler has hidden. Later, he gives it to his mother, who puts it in a safe place.

This story was shared recently by Fr. Alexis Hiessler, who, years after the incident, was ordained a priest like his older brother before him. While tearing down a flag seems like a simple act, under the Nazi occupation—when any act of defiance could lead to severe punishment, even death—it was a particularly symbolic and heroic gesture.

As such, it was commemorated 79 years later by the Haute-Saône Combattant Museum on June 18, 2021, the anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s Appeal. The present-day students of the St. Colomban School were present to learn about this page of local history, recounted by Fr. Alexis Hiessler himself, his two friends having already passed away. The museum will keep the flag from now on.

French journalist Frédéric Buridant tweeted: 

In the winter of 1942, with two of his fellow students at St. Colomban in Luxeuil-les-Bains, Alexis Hiessler, who later became a priest, tore down a Nazi flag from the bell tower of the church in Luxeuil. An act of resistance underlined on this June 18 in front of the current students of the college.

His example can inspire us to act with courage and heroism when facing evil in our own lives.

Tags:
HistoryPriestWorld War II
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Marinella Bandini
Exclusive: Carlo Acutis as seen by his mother
2
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio replied to John Paul II’s letter with a miracle
3
Theresa Civantos Barber
St. John Paul II’s perfect advice for lasting love in marriage
4
POPE JOHN PAUL II
Cerith Gardiner
A collection of Pope John Paul II’s quotes on some of life’s most...
5
WEB2-Bishop_Michael.jpg
John Burger
Once considered for top post in Anglican Church, former bishop be...
6
peace
Philip Kosloski
How kindness begins in your heart
7
THE CONJURING
David Ives
5 More horror movies with Catholic sensibilities
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.