In June 1940, Josiah P. Marvel flew to France to join the American Friends Service Committee in Europe. For a year Mr. Marvel worked in occupied France, bringing such relief as he could to the colonies of child refugees near Biarritz, the British civilian internment camps, the Jewish internment camps, the canteen for Belgian refugees near Bordeaux, and distributing milk and clothing in the Zone Interdite. He was the only civilian who had permission to visit the Gestapo prisoners in France last year. — The Editors, 1942
About the middle of last December, I was asked by the officers in charge of one of the Gestapo prisons, the Cherche Midi, to work with them on a Christmas party for the prisoners, to he held on the afternoon of the twenty-fourth. The German guards made a survey of all the prisoners, and we finally had a list of about one hundred men and fifty women who were completely out of touch with their families and never received any mail or parcels. These were prisoners of all nationalities.
On the morning of the twenty-fourth they lent me one of the Wehrmacht trucks, and with three soldiers we drove down to the Marche des Fleurs to buy the Christmas trees. We did the usual bargaining, and because of my escort I had to reassure the reluctant French tradesmen that the trees were for the prisoners, and not the staff. We bought a tree for each of the large dormitories on the first floor, as well as one for each floor in the main prison. It was practically impossible to find any trimmings, but on returning to the prison we sent some soldiers out to get what they could in the way of decorations.