It’s been a couple of years since Andre Rossfelder passed. Before he died, he shared with me incredible stories of his past life. I had known Andre because of the sediment vibracoring systems he had invented and we found so practical to use. Although Andre died recently many governments and individuals wanted him dead long before then.
Now if you don’t have a few minutes to read about Rossfelder’s many brushes with death and his amazing accomplishments, that’s ok. But if you do, read on.
Late April 1961, Algiers. Andre Rossfelder had been holed up at the government building with the French Foreign Legion for days, manning a radio broadcast condemning the countless atrocities committed against civilians by the FLN (National Liberation Front) movement in their bloody quest to rid their homeland of all French ties once and for all.
Three days in, the Foreign Legion pulled out and the FLN had the chance they’d been waiting for. Disguised as police officers, FLN agents stormed the building. Hearing the doors being bashed in, Andre tucked a folder containing secret documents under his arm and made a beeline for the service elevator. An FLN agent spotted Rossfelder and plunged a knife deep into his back. As an unintended victim lay dying on the floor, the agent realized his mistake. Rossfelder was in fact outside the building already, posing as a member of the press in order to get past security. A friend had left an MG convertible parked outside for his escape. Realizing their blunder, the FLN gave the order to shoot to kill. However, it was too late, as Andre made his escape to the peal of screeching tires.
The political turmoil and palpable danger of Algeria in the 1960s probably felt like nothing new to the young Andre, an Algerian-born man of French ancestry who came of age during World War Two. By that time he had participated in the Battles of Vosges, Alsace and the Bulge, lost fingers to shrapnel, lead a major chapter of the French Resistance, been imprisoned in a centuries-old Algerian dungeon and survived a Vichy firing squad.
While fighting for the French Resistance in Algeria during WWII, Andre was captured by Vichy Loyalist forces. Mistaken for a Jewish soldier named Cohen, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. Rather than suffer the indignity of pulling his pants down to prove he’s not Jewish, Andre tells them to shoot him. Refusing the customary hood, he’s tied to the firing post, staring his would be killers in the eyes. Luckily, just at this moment allied tanks roll into town and in the ensuing chaos Andre escapes death.
By the end of WWII, Andre was a decorated war hero and part of the upper echelon of French society, counting philosopher Albert Camus, undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau and President Charles de Gaulle as part of his social circle. A budding entrepreneur, Andre saw a unique opportunity in the Ebensee Hills of Linz, Austria. The Nazis had built a series of heavily fortified tunnels deep underground to hide an oil refinery that was used to fuel Hitler’s war machine. Using his connections within the French government, Andre acquired the facility and moved the entire oil refinery to French Algeria. De Gaulle himself visited the refinery once Andre had it up and running.
However that budding relationship with de Gaulle would soon sour.
After WWII, many colonies demanded their independence. An initially peaceful movement within Algeria declared their desire for independence from France. Andre, having had Arab friends since a young boy, initially supported Algerian self-governance and saw France’s imperialism as the problem.
In 1954 the French began to pull out of Indo-China. Emboldened, the movement in Algeria becomes increasingly violent. A new group called the FLN began amassing great power. Between 1954 and 1962 the FLN is believed to have killed 16,000 Algerian civilians and made another 13,000 “disappear”. Anyone with French ancestry or who was believed to have aided the French during the war became a target.
In April 1961, de Gaulle granted Algeria its independence, and took a hands-off approach to who will lead the country going forward. The FLN is quick to fill the power gap. Within days a section of the French Foreign Legion stationed in Algeria rebels against de Gaulle and joins ranks with discontented Algerians such as Andre, forming an opposition government that will become known as the OAS (Secret Army Organization), and bringing us back to the beginning of this story with Andre holed up inside a radio station.
Shortly after his escape from the radio station, Andre is forced to flee his homeland. Eventually he finds a cargo vessel willing to assist him. Smuggled aboard, Andre would remain hidden in absolute darkness. There would be no romantic view of his homeland to reminisce…instead he stares into the darkness of a small closet. His lifelong exile from Algeria, his home, had unwillingly begun.
With the FLN now the legitimate power, the OAS takes their place as the insurgents. It’s a messy engagement with no clear heroes.
However, Andre and the higher-ups within the OAS believe their true enemy lies elsewhere: French President Charles de Gaulle. The man who abandoned their country.
The OAS holds a secret tribunal where they find de Gaulle guilty of crimes punishable by death.
They also proclaim who will carry out the execution sentence: Andre Rossfelder.
Andre was to assassinate his former ally, a friend who once fought for the same cause and who also happened to be a major world leader.
To Be Continued…