Faux Soir FAQ

Was this a real story?

The short answer: Yes.

The slightly longer answer: When I was doing archival research for my senior thesis at UC Berkeley, I came across an unusual document. It was written by five women who worked for the Office of War during World War II. After the war, these intelligence officers—Louise Rosenblatt, Jeanne Gray, Ella Johnson, Sally Waters, and Harriet Mattusch—wrote a post-mortem on the use of underground literature in European resistance movements. “The task of distributing [an underground publication,” they write, “poses special hazards. The [distribution] network may include a priest on his rounds or a policeman on his regular beat. A bundle may be smuggled aboard a steamer or concealed under the coal in the tender of a locomotive.”

They go on to say, “The patriots seem to take delight in including the Germans on their distribution routes. To get a wider public among the Germans, the patriots insert articles in the German-controlled press or manage to fake a whole edition. The Belgians sold sixty thousand copies of the Nazi Le Soir [Faux Soir] on the streets of Brussels on November 9, 1943.”

Which characters were real?

We know very little about the daring resistance fighters who orchestrated Faux Soir, but every character in the novel is real except Lada Tarcovich, David Spiegelman, and August Wolff.

Marc Aubrion was a journalist who wrote and edited articles for the resistance newspaper La Libre Belgique. When the Front de l'Indépendance wanted to stage an act of resistance on Armistice Day 1943, Aubrion came up with a mad idea: to create a fake version of the Nazi propaganda newspaper Le Soir. He began work on October 19 and wrote most of the paper in what his friends called “an excited fury.”

Marc Aubrion
Marc Aubrion
René Noël
René Noël, director of the Front de l’Indépendance (FI) press department in Brabant and Hainaut, supervised the project.
Ferdinand Wellens
Aubrion and Noël were aided by Ferdinand Wellens, a printer and businessman.
Theo Mullier
Theo Mullier, a member of the FI, infiltrated the Nazi-controlled Le Soir factories to steal the printing mold. He also set up distribution kiosks.
Pierre Ballancourt
Linotypists Pierre Ballancourt (pictured) and Julien Oorlinckx helped prepare the final document.

Aubrion and his colleagues would not have succeeded without the help of a lawyer named Andree Grandjean, who worked at the Court of Appeals. She raised 50,00 francs for the project in just two days.

Professor Victor Martin (I switched his first and last names in the novel) was a pioneering sociologist who spied for the Allies and wrote one of the first investigative reports on Auschwitz. However, he didn’t participate in the Faux Soir caper.

A nameless “youth partisan” was enlisted to distract the Nazis and disrupt the normal Le Soir distribution channels. I named her Gamin.

Want to know more? So did I… Which is why I wrote the book!

The ventriloquists

Did any copies of the newspaper survive?

Yes, here’s one of mine:

Le Soir Newspaper