Mattie Gilloteau: Growing Up During WWII

Mattie Gillouteau Sabol

This is the story of two children who lived through the Second World War; a young French girl, Mattie Gilloteau Sabol and a young German girl, Waldi Gault. The story compares the lives of these two children.

Their histories are archived at the Oldham Country History Center. Both of the children spend the first few years of their lives caught in between two warring sides. They both experienced death, famine, and the loss of their homes. Mattie’s family was running from the German invasion of France and Waldi’s family was displaced by the Czech invasion of her hometown, Eger, which was once under Austrain-Hungarian monarchy.

This Week:

Madeline (Mattie) Geninne Gilloteau Sabol

Mattie was born in Bressuire, France in 1939 and lived her childhood in constant fear. The German armies pushed her family from town to town during the Second World War. When she turned 16, Mattie met David Sabol, an American Soldier. They married when she turned 18 years old.

Mattie spoke to the Courier Journal and told the site how the Germans arrested her father because they believed he was Jewish. They took him to a concentration camp in Zurich. According to her mother who went into the camps said it sights were unbelievable: there were bones stacked up–Jewish bones.

Mattie’s father spent six months inside the concentration camp before the Germans realized he was, in fact, not Jewish and then he was released.

When Mattie was young, she had to search for food for her family. She said how the Germans would take the butter, chocolate and coffee, and left them with lard and chicory. The Germans would take all the good food and leave them to forage for food. Mattie tells how her family lived off of dandelions and stolen eggs.

If near starvation wasn’t enough, her family lived through bombings. She tells the story of how a bomb fell and her family buried it in dirt. All the neighbors came to them running, seeing if they were alright.

She recalls how the small village was so happy when the Americans began moving in.

When Mattie was asked about her memories as a child, she said her childhood and her teen years were taken away. She feels that the experience has made her a strong woman, it made her determined. To her, she believes the experience makes you a person.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE