Skipping down the street dressed in her Sunday best, despite the church being closed, was Soazig Millet. At the age of 4 or 5, she was seen doing this regularly, donning her dress and gloves.
As she went through her family’s front gate, past the hotel that was closed, she noticed the Nazi swastika hanging off their headquarters in her hometown of La-Baule, and then continued on her way.
She’d see different things on the path she went down, depending on the day, whether it would be a friend from her town, her brother up in his treehouse or a Nazi soldier sprinting into their bomb shelter or harassing someone on the street.
But what she knew, and what her adversaries could not see as they harangued the townsfolk of the small oceanside village, was that the Nazis’ immediate enemy was not flying above their heads, but skipping under their noses.
Wrapped inside little Soazig’s gloves was a message to one of her parents’ fellow members of La Résistance. Just as unassumingly as she was bounding down the street, she would deliver her message and head home.
And she may have been young, but Soazig can remember at least once coming home from being out to find the gray-and-black-clad soldiers breaching her family’s house, turning over rugs, checking for hidden doors, and being completely unaware that the Royal Air Force pilots or Jewish families they were looking for were actually hidden in the attic above them.
Soazig Millet — who now goes by her married name, Crawford — was born in April 1938 in northeastern France. Her father, a doctor, and her mother, a housewife, had decided to raise their family in La-Baule.
However, in 1940, the whole of France changed, even the rural ocean towns, as the Nazis made their way through the forest of Ardennes and conquered their neighboring country.
This did not stop the Millet family — and their second-oldest, Soazig — from living their lives and fighting back.
The hotel across the street from their house was closed as the owners had to flee the country because of their faith. Nearby was the Third Reich’s headquarters for the region. And hopping down the sidewalk was 4-year-old Soazig, skipping down the street with secret French Resistance messages hidden in her gloves.
“I mean, with my grandfather, being a physician, she had to be properly dressed and to be properly dressed she had to wear gloves,” said Crawford’s daughter Marie. “And she would just walk to the neighbor or wherever she was going and she would have the messages in her gloves, folded up.”
Everyone in the family participated in the Resistance. While her parents listened to revolutionary radio news broadcasts on their secret device, with other members of their town gathered around, her brother would sit in his treehouse in their yard and crank an air siren to make the Germans believe a bombing run was happening.
They’d run out of the hotel or wherever they were staying and sprint to their bunker, which was available only to them, Crawford said.
While Charles De Gaulle fought his war with the Nazis down south, the Millets fought theirs up north, but it was not always fun pranks or innocent girls skipping down the street with subversive messages hidden in their clothes.
Crawford described scenes like this one, in which Nazi soldiers checked to see if a little boy was Jewish: “In the middle of the street, they pulled his pants down,” to see whether he was circumcised.
At one point, her father refused to treat one of the wounded Nazis, and instead of allocating the resources to ship the wounded man back to Germany — his fellow soldiers decided to shoot the patient instead.
Crawford remembered one time a Nazi came to their house and picked up her little brother as though to leave with him. Her mother then came out and, although having pretended for the entirety of the occupation not to speak German (she was fluent and was teaching her children the language), began to “tell him where he could go” in English, French and German.
At another moment Crawford says she remembers, her father decided to secretly take in RAF pilots who were running bombing missions for the Allies, but had been shot down nearby.
In another instance, they hid a family that was trying to escape the Nazis and their genocidal rounding up of Jewish people from not only within their borders, but within other countries’ borders as well.
The Nazis would come over with their bayonets, Crawford said, and go “pling, pling, pling,” stabbing through mattresses and checking for hidden doors. Twice the Nazis went through the house, she said, and twice they found no one.
“They never went in the attic, and they could not have seen the attic because you had to pull this thing to get in and there were shelves with books (in the way),” she said.
The RAF pilots and Jewish family did not stay long before they were on to the next location, making their way to freedom and safety on kinder shores.
“Let us be firm, pure and faithful; at the end of our sorrow, there is the greatest glory of the world, that of the men who did not give in,” then-Gen. De Gaulle said to his French Resistance fighters in 1942, and these words must have resonated in the hearts of Soazig Crawford’s family, and gave them comfort during their fight against the Nazis for the remainder of the war.
On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler killed himself while hiding in his Berlin bunker. A little over a week later, Germany surrendered, and the world rejoiced.
Crawford’s family began to return to normal life, and the man who would eventually shift from general to president, De Gaulle, created the 5th Republic of France. During one of his visits around the country, he specifically asked to see Crawford’s father, and together they went and laid a wreath at a World War II memorial in La-Baule that was erected at the end of the war.
In a few years, she met the man she would marry, Cletus Crawford, a nurse in the U.S. Army who had received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service in Europe. For one Purple Heart, a German phosphorus grenade exploded on his back, and for the other, a piece of shrapnel struck him.
He would go on to fight at the Battle of Bastogne, a relatively short distance from where he eventually met his wife.
Together, the couple came to the United States, eventually settling in Newhall in 1969. She raised her children here with her husband and, for close to 50 years now, they have lived in the Santa Clarita Valley, never truly publicly sharing the actions each took to defeat the embodiment of evil in Europe. Dec. 23 marked the 15th anniversary of Cletus’ death.
When asked about it, still to this day, Crawford shares her story with humility. But can remember with incredible detail the courage her family showed in order to fight back and resist — even the 4-year-old little girl, skipping down the street as if she didn’t have a care in the world.