Haiti: April 26th 1963, Testimonies of Duvalier Massacre

Testimonies

The April 26, 1986 commemmorative march on Fort Dimanche [also known as Fort Death] was a huge march by the people of Haiti marking the overthrow of Duvalier on February 7th 1986. One of the organisers of that march was a young parish priest,Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Below are a few testimonies from survivors of the massacre which included many children.

TESTIMONY 1: GEORGES “Ti Joe” EDELINE

Indeed, Lt. Francois Benoit, married(15 Dec. 1960) to one of my 3 older sisters, Jacqueline , lost their first-born, Gerald “Gerry” Benoit(b.30 September 1961), on Friday, 26 April 1963, 11:00 am.

Gerry was taken out of the home of Lt. Francois Benoit’s parents (Judge Joseph & Mrs. Benoit), corner of Ruelle Jeremie and Bois Verna, by Captain Max Dominique, who led the macoutes, in the middle of the day, to arrest Lt. Benoit.

The latter, member of the Haitian sharp-shooting team, had been falsely accused, of being involved with the attempt to kidnap the president’s son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, then about 11-12 years old, as he was being picked-up from school.

Once Max Dominique cleared the gate, on his way to the waiting vehicles, the macoutes spread fuel on the house and the dead bodies of the people they had just massacred, i.e. Judge & Mrs. Joseph Benoit, a pregnant visitor who was mistaken for my sister, Jacqueline Edeline Benoit(Francois’ wife), 2 maids and a young male gardener; before burning it to the ground. The remains of the house, in that vacant lot, have not been touch since.

It seems as though Gerry Benoit(then 17 months) was taken directly to the palace, never to be seen again.

In the meanwhile, another truck full of macoutes, led by Lt. Edouard Guillot, headed to 18 Ruelle Robin, home of the Edeline family. My parents, Paul Rene(55) and Georgette(48) Edeline, were the only ones home, along with a couple of maids and a gardener.
My mother, by pure luck, saw a truck of macoutes through the window of the first floor and got suspicious. She shouted my dad’s name, and alerted him of the sight in the front of the house, screaming for him to come down and get away; but, he replied that he had not done anything wrong and had no reason to run. So she and the servants took off.

Lt. E. Guillot personally escorted my dad to the waiting vehicle, hitting him all along, as one of my 3 other older brothers(Jean-Robert “Bob”) watched from across the street, where he and a couple of neighbors were chatting. My dad was taken away, never to be seen again?

My mom jumped the wall in the back yard and escaped through the neighbor (Moravia)’s yard. From her hiding place, blocks away, she managed to gather several of us, from schools and work, and send us into separate hiding places, for the next four months.
When things calmed down, the ones of us who did not leave the country, were able to come out of hiding, go back to school, and work, as if nothing had happened; until nine months later (July 1, 1964).

Because of the Benoit Affair, 26 April 1963, my brother-in-law, Lt. P. Francois Benoit, had to take refuge at the Dominican Ambassy which, incidentally, the macoutes attacked in order to capture him. The latter, who was armed and very familiar with weapons, along with the Ambassy guards, defended themselves very successfully.
Juan Bosh, the Dominican president at the time, quickly contacted Papa Doc to tell him to keep his distance, if he did not want a war, and leave Benoit alone, which he did. Arrangements were then made for Benoit to be transferred to the D.R. Ambassador’s residence until they could make safely get him to the Embassy of Ecuador, where he stayed for over a year.

Papa Doc tried his best to keep Benoit on Haitian soil until he could get a hold of him. In addition, he held on to the false accusations, declared Benoit under arrest, judged, convicted and sentenced to death, and executed, all “in absentia.” He was not able to get out of the country until January of 1965.

Since my brother, then Captain Claude Edeline, was also part of the Haitian sharp shooting team, the macoutes went after him. At the time, he was staying at his in-laws’ home, in Pacot.
By then, it was in the middle of the night of 26 April. Because there were watch dogs barking inside the gated house, and both my brother and retired Colonel Max Bazelais, were armed, the officer in command, ordered the macoutes and soldiers, in a loud and alerting voice, to get back in the trucks and wait until day time to return.
We all still think that the officer may have been sending a message to my brother(29), and his immediate family, wife(Josselyne Bazelais, daughter of Colonel Max Bazelais), and 2 children, Patrick and Florence, both under 3.5 years old, that he was in danger.
So now Benoit’s wife, Jacqueline; plus her brother, Claude Edeline and his family of four; all went into hiding, until they could get into various Embassies and, eventually, leave the country. The rest of us, siblings and other relatives, had to go into hiding, as well. In those days, gender and age did not matter to the macoutes. They picked up anyone and everyone who happened to be with or around their targeted victims.

When things calmed down, months after the Benoit Affair, those of us still in the country, slowly started to venture out again. We went back to school, or work, and moved into another area altogether; since or house was taken over by “friends of the regime.”
Well, the calm period did not last very long; for, in the summer of 1964, my older brother, Claude, had moved from New York City, where he had been since the escaped a year earlier, to Baltimore, Maryland, for a new job. It just happened that a small group of Haitians, who had been living in and around New York, invaded the country. Without any evidence or proof, my brother was accused of being part of the invasion, which started in the south of the country, near a town where he was stationed as a young army officer. It seems as though one of the locals reported that he had recognized my brother among the invaders. So, the macoutes wasted no time in rounding up all the other members of the family, whom they had not picked up the first time. Well, all the ones they could find, anyway.
Consequently, they arrested my 49-year old mother, Georgette; two older sisters, Ghislaine Edeline Duchatelier(29), along with her husband, Maurice, their baby, Philippe-Maurice; an older brother, Bob(21); another older sister, Gladys(19); from their Delmas home, at lunch time. My 96-year old grand-mother, who lived with them, was shaken up but left alone. My 2 younger siblings, Guerda(15) and Edouard (10), though in the house at the time, were spared. Guerda, by pure luck, since she is the one who answered the door, when Lt. Harry Tassy showed up with his truck load of macoutes and sent her to get mom. The others were already in a car, pulling out of the driveway, to go back to work, after lunch.

As Guerda went back in to find mom, the latter was on her way to the front door. Tassy had her join the others (Maurice, Ghislaine, Bob and Gladys) in the car, and taken away; never to be seen again, along with the car. Guerda figured out what was happening, once everyone disappeared. She gathered younger brother Edouard (the 9th of 9 children); nephew Philippe-Maurice, along with 2 of Maurice’s younger boys from his previous marriage, who were visiting; and fled through the woods, behind the house.

They were barely into the woods when they heard the loud noise of the macoutes’ vehicles heading back to the house, apparently remembering that they had talked to Guerda but had failed to take her along.

The four children, then, ran into a neighbor’s house, to hide, which happened to be the home of Colonel Frank Romain’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Qualo. Colonel F. Romain lived right across the street.
Lt. Tassy, not having found Guerda in the house, decided to search the whole neighborhood, one house at a time. Mrs. Qualo realized what was happening, as the macoutes were only already entering her property. She instantly ordered the kids to run into the maids’ quarters, detached from the house, but kept the baby with her.
The macoutes demanded to have the baby before proceeding to search the property. Miraculously, they searched all the rooms in the main house, and all the ones detached from the home, the doors of which were closed; but not the one room in which the kids were hiding. They had run into that room so fast that the door remained ajar, behind them. The macoutes must have assumed that no one was hiding in a room with a open door; so they skipped it, as they moved on to search other houses in the neighborhood.
As soon as the kids were able to get away, they all fled through the woods and ran as far away as they could until they recognized some family friends. Within minutes, they were all thrown into a car and driven out of the neighborhood.

In my case, I was at my cousins’ house in Pacot when the news reached me, via words of mouth. As a lady came out of nowhere was still telling my aunt the story, an older cousin also rushed in, having left his car running in the driveway, and dragged me away from a scrabble game. Strangely enough, the last word that I placed on the board as we headed for his VW Beetle, was “deuil,” the French word for “mourning.” He had also heard the news, himself, and knowing that I had been staying there, he came to rescue me and take me to a safe place.

The youngest 3 of us, of nine children, were able to stay in hiding for 5 months, as arrangements were made for us to leave the country and, eventually, make it to the U.S. of A, which we have all, gladly, adopted as our new home.

To summarize, Papa Doc’s regime took away mom, dad, 2 brothers, 2 sisters, a brother-in-law, and 2 nephews, from my immediate family; not counting others related by marriage.

THE ESCAPE FROM THE CLAWS OF PAPA DOC’S MACOUTES, AFTER 5 MONTHS OF HIDING AND LOSING MORE THAN HALF OF THE IMMEDIATE FAMILY, IS ANOTHER STORY IN ITSELF…
Testimony Katherine Bouchereau Webster – Granddaughter of Jean Bouchereau and Max Bazelais
April 26th 1963 – April 26th 2013
50 years and 3 generations later

I don’t recall what it’s like to have a grand-father. I was robbed of both grand-fathers on April 26th 1963. What I know of my grand-fathers “papa Max” and “papi Jean,” I know through stories. Everyone, says they would have been great …grand-dads. I’m sure they would have as I had 2 great parents.

Papa Max, I recall vaguely. As a little girl, I remember he came home after “being away” for a long time. He was not home long, before my grand-mother and mother checked him into an end-of-life care facility. All I recall is them saying “This is not Max or this is not my Dad anymore.” Once he left our home, I only saw him I think one more time. He died in that facility a short while later.

Papi Jean, I never knew. I only know stories. Stories, I remember pestering my grand-mother to tell me (How they met, how he proposed and how they dance at “Belle-vue” and what she remembers of that day) and stories shared mostly by my aunts, his daughters. My dad Guy Bouchereau, his son, does not talk about him — ever, not to us. But one of my most vivid memories as a child is of my dad and his dad. It was my dad’s birthday. I guess he wanted a boat. We were all at breakfast, my mom handed him a present and says “here’s your boat” — we all laughed. My dad says “what’s this?” with a huge smile as he attempts to tear through the wrapping. He does not even get to the half point, when he bursts into tears (the ugly cry). The gift was a portrait my mom had commission of Papi Jean in uniform. That was the first and the last time I saw my dad cry like that — The portrait hangs in our home till this day. I know it will be passed down for generations as it priceless to us — and so is the memory of Papi Jean.See More

In Memory of April 26th 1963
Yesterday
Testimony Isabelle Cl̩ri̩ РGrandaughter of Jean Bouchereau
April 26th 1963 – April 26th 2013
50 years and 3 generations later

My grandfather, Jean Bouchereau, was the kind of man that left an impression. He was tall, slim, handsome with a high brow and dark hair. He had a pensive face and a kind smile, and was quite the disciplinarian. My mother remembers fondly her childhood with her eleven sib…lings and they’re many many “exploits”. I recall one particular story always told through waves of laughter, in which my eldest aunt came home from a friend’s house and found her siblings in line for a spanking. As she entered, my grandfather looked at her and said “get in line”, not knowing what mischief her younger siblings had committed she was outraged! She wasn’t even home! Her protests were met with a simple “If you had been here, you would have been part of it, so get in line.”

Every time I think of Papi Jean I can’t help but smile. He would have been an amazing grandfather, if only I’d had a chance to know him.
Fifty years ago, on April 26th 1963, an attempt was made on the life of a young Jean Claude Duvalier and in response his father, Papa Doc, had every officer of the former military arrested or killed. That was the day that Papi Jean was taken from our family. Fifty years later, we remain enshrouded in mystery and unanswered questions. What happened to him? When did he die? How did he die?

I may never have known him but what I do know is that his children speak of him often. I know that every morning, up until her death in 2006, my grandmother came down the stairs of the house her husband had built for her, crossed through the dining room and stopped at the mantle with a large picture of Papi Jean in uniform. Every morning she kissed his picture. Sometimes she stared at it longingly while caressing his printed features through the glass frame and sigh as if even the glass was a further separation to bear. Any man who merits such devotion from a woman like my grandmother must have been nothing short of amazing.

This year marks fifty years since my family was broken. Fifty years of waiting. Fifty years of stories. Fifty years of fond memories that Jean’s grandchildren have adopted as their own just to feel closer to our beloved Papi Jean.

Fifty years of unspoken memories, unsung protests, and unanswered questions. Our country is marred by dictatorships, massacres, and unimaginable injustices yet our silence prevails.

Let us not persist with this subordinate attitude. Let us not let our loved ones go unremembered and unsung. Let us remember always this scar in our history.

I remember Papi Jean. Through the eyes of my mother and my aunts and uncles I know the man he was, and I can imagine the grandfather he would have been. Je t’aime Papi Jean.

In Memory of April 26th 1963

Thursday
26 Avril 1963- 26 Avril 2013 – 50 ANS – POUR QUE VIVE LA MEMOIRE

Temoignages de Guylène Bouchereau Salès

Ce 26 Avril 1963, à 5h du matin, le jeune frère de mon père, ex-officier de l’Armée, comme lui, venait lui annoncer que la veille avaient été arrêtés des anciens officiers. Après lui en avoir cité quelques uns, il lui demanda : « Que penses-tu qu’on devrait faire? » Mon père, Jean Boucher…eau, ex-ingénieur de l’Armée d’Haïti, lui répondit: « Avec mes 12 enfants, où veux-tu que j’aille ? Qui voudrait m’aider avec cette longue famille? » Mon oncle parti, Papa très sombre, me dit : « Les nouvelles sont mauvaises; mais habillez-vous pour aller à l’école, moi après la Banque, je me rendrai à Léôgane faire le paiement de salaire des ouvriers, et je reviendrai vite. »

Rendue à l’école, au Centre d’Etudes Secondaires, voyant que les macoutes connus et puissants de l’époque venaient, en courant, récupérer leurs enfants, préssentant un danger, je demandai à M. Riché, mon prof de math, la permission de quitter la classe et l’établissement. Je partis donc chercher mes jeunes frères et sÅ“urs. En quittant, le Collège Price Mars, entourée de mes 2 frères, Guy et Anthony, de ma sÅ“ur Michèle, nous courions sur l’Avenue Jean Paul 1er en direction de l’Avenue des Marguerites, au Collège Roger Anglade, pour prendre les plus petites. Autour de nous, comme des fous, les automobilistes allaient et venaient en trombe. Ils étaient motivés, comme nous, par la peur, mais la peur de quoi? Nous ne le savions pas encore.

Une fois chez nous, on nous annonça que « quelqu’un » avait essayé d’attenter à la vie de Jean Claude Duvalier, devant le Collège Bird. Ce qui a suivi, restera marqué à tout jamais dans la mémoire de toute une génération.

Des tirs se faisaient entendre dans toute la ville; une fumée épaisse, provenant de la maison du Juge Benoit, nous fit tressaillir. Notre sÅ“ur aînée arriva, en pleurs, un gros sac en main, nous racontant plus en détail la tragédie. A la “Librairie Selecte “, pendant que Papa achetait son Time magazine hebdomadaire, un ami proche de la famille et sbire de Duvalier accompagné de tontons macoutes arrivèrent. De but en blanc, ils demandèrent à voir le propriétaire du magasin, qui était lui aussi officier de l’armée. Malgré les étroits liens d’amitié qui unissaient notre mère à notre bourreau, ce dernier, sachant fort bien l’intégrité de notre père, ordonna malgré tout d’arrêter l’ex-officier qu’était notre père, Jean Bouchereau.

Par la suite, les témoins nous ont raconté que notre père a été poussé dans le coffre d’une voiture, lequel contenait déjà d’autres officiers, connus. La voiture prit la direction du Fort Dimanche, « Fô lamô ». Nous n’avons plus revu notre père. Nombreux sont ceux, qui comme nous, ce jour-là, perdirent un être cher. Nombreuses sont les histoires, les unes plus sordides que les autres. Le 26 avril 1963, « la bête dévorait tout sur son passage. »

Au long des années, ma mère reçu de nombreuses visites de solliciteurs. Ils voulaient tous « lui » – notre père — acheter des cigarettes. Nombreux aussi, ceux, qui proches du Régime, venaient nous annoncer l’Amnistie, et sa libération prochaine, nous permettant de nourrir des espoirs qu’ils savaient faux mais dont ils se nourrissaient pour mieux soutirer de ma mère. Ma pauvre mère a passé des années et des années à attendre son retour, bichonnant ses vêtements, préparant ses mets favoris en ayant soin de toujours mettre un couvert de plus.

Ma mère passa sa vie à s’interroger sur sa disparition. Et nous, les enfants, continuons à questionner l’oracle sans trouver de réponse. L’a-ton donné pour être dévoré par les chiens au Fort Dimanche ? A-t-il été tué sur le champ ? A-t-il passé le reste de sa vie dans ces cellules du Fort Dimanche ?

Autant de questions restées et qui resteront encore dans les annales du temps, sans réponse, comme se retrouve le mot JUSTICE : sans définition, sans aucun sens.

Ceci est mon témoignage, mon vécu du 26 avril 1963. Ma réalité en ce 26 avril 2013, 50 ans plus tard pour que Vive la Mémoire. La mémoire d’un peuple sans mémoire.