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Saint-Gingolph commune (Valais/Wallis canton, Switzerland)

Last modified: 2024-05-25 by martin karner
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[Flag of Saint-Gingolph] image by Pascal Gross

Per bend serrated Argent and Gules overall an Otter rampant Sable langued Gules and armed of the first in chief sinister a Mullet of Five of the second.
Željko Heimer, 6 April 2000

Saint-Gingolph is a strange village, first because its name is impossible to spell for most "foreigners", including native French speakers, and second because it is split between France (department of Haute-Savoie) and Switzerland (canton of Valais).

There are "two" Saint-Gingolph, in fact the same village split by the river Morge, which has been the French-Swiss border since 1569. Due to the lack of space (the village is located between the shore of the Geneva Lake and the Alps), the post-office, the station and the stadium are located in Switzerland. The municipal brassband is a mixed one, called "Les Enfants des Deux Republiques" ("The Children of the Two Republics"). The village has of course two schools and two city halls, but constitutes a single Catholic parish depending on the bishopry of Annecy (France). The church and cemetery of the parish are located in the French village. Saint-Gingolph was in the past the main center of building of "barques du Leman", those big ships which were used to transport any kind of stuff between the different French and Swiss cities and villages of the region. Most of the barques have disappeared, but a few of them have been preserved or rebuilt and are displayed in a museum located in the Swiss village of Saint-Gingolph.

It is now difficult to imagine that this scenic village was martyred during the Second World War. A few uncontrolled members of the anti-nazi Resistance movements (the Resistance was very well organized in the area and tried to avoid such useless actions, which had only negative consequences for the civil population) assaulted the customs' post in Saint-Gingolph and killed a German customer. The Kommandantur located in Thonon-les-Bains sent on the next morning a motorized SS squadron, whose members burned down the French village. The Catholic priest of the French village tried to stop them and allowed most inhabitants to have time to leave to the Swiss village, with the help of the Swiss, who massively supported and sometimes joined the Resistance. The priest paid for his heroism with his life, as several local priests and nuns did, rejecting the collaborationist behaviour of the bishop of Annecy. (See also:  The tragedy of St. Gingolph)

Ivan Sache, 2 April 2000