Episode 3: Interview with Marcel Hayler

Marcel Hayler and his brother Ernest grew up in Aubers, where their father, Henry, took care of Aubers Ridge Cemetery. During the German invasion of France in 1940, the Hayler family — Henry, Sarah, Ernest (age 13), and Marcel (age 11) — escaped to England. In this interview, I speak to Marcel Hayler about his childhood in France, his family’s experience in both world wars, and their flight to safety in 1940. With special thanks to Marcel, André, and Karen Hayler.


  • interview with Marcel Hayler, December 2019
  • photos courtesy of the Hayler family unless otherwise noted
  • photos of Hitler’s tour by Heinrich Hoffmann, captured negatives at NARA (242 HLB)
  • CWGC/1/2/H/1 Concession Rates Of Pay To TSGs And Wages Staff Evacuated From France And Belgium (CWGC Archives)
  • Bob Carruthers, Hitler’s Propaganda Pilgrimage (2015)
  • New York Times, 5 June 1940

In June 1940, Adolf Hitler toured many First World War memorials in Belgium and France, including the Menin Gate in Ypres and the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge. These photos were taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, and are reproduced from captured negatives in the collection of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the US (NARA 242 HLB).

Hitler visited Vimy Ridge on June 2, 1940, accompanied by many high-ranking German generals. A photo by Heinrich Hoffman appeared in many US newspapers in the following days. Photos of the meeting on the front of the Vimy Memorial were not widely distributed. In the photos, you can see crates and other protective barriers erected by the caretakers to protect the memorial from battle damage. The statue of weeping Canada is enclosed in the wooden crate behind the assembled Nazis.

Aubers Ridge Cemetery by Heinrich Hoffmann, June 1940, via NARA


Researched and written by Caitlin DeAngelis

With many thanks to Marcel Hayler, and to André and Karen Hayler.

Sound engineering by Fiona Hopkins

Music by Albert Behar and Uppbeat