“Life is only a spark between two eternities”, wrote Jean-Ernest Kempnich himself on his obituary, four years before his death, which occurred in 1978, at the age of 90. The story of this Moselle resistance fighter, during the German occupation, during the Second World War, is a source of inspiration, along with that of Alphonse Vergeau from Charente, for the actor Noël-Noël. The latter created the scenario and the dialogues of the film “The Quiet Father”. A film directed by René Clément (director of the famous “Forbidden Games”), released in 1946 and which attracted more than six million spectators in cinemas.
Yet nothing predestines Ernest Kempnich (with or without Jean) to become a hero. In civilian life, the man is a horticulturist. In 1908, he built his own greenhouses on the road to Thionville, in Woippy. Between 1914 and 1918, he was mobilized twice by the German army. Each time, he is freed from his military obligations to supply the troops with market gardening. A year after the end of the Great War, he became president of the Syndicat des horticulturists de Moselle. In 1924, according to the research of his grand-niece, Michèle Grandveaux, he received the honorary prize from the President of the Republic for an exhibition of cyclamen, during a banquet organized in Metz.
Florist by day, resistant by night
In 1941, in an annexed Moselle, Ernest Kempnich became a member of an escape network for French prisoners. A year later, he was denounced, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo at the Grand Séminaire, then released. From 1943, he became a member of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior). In particular, he will install a transmitter station through which information for London was sent three times a day. That same year, the authorities destined him for deportation to Czechoslovakia. He managed to escape to Strasbourg, before returning to Woippy. Appointed by the provisional government, deputy mayor of the city of Metz, he proceeded, on September 8, 1944, to a marriage. A clandestine ceremony, while the city will not be taken over by the Allies until November 22. After the war, he sat on the municipal council of Metz until 1959. For his actions in the resistance, he received the war cross from 1939-1945 and became a knight of the Legion of Honor in 1952.