The Senegalese Tata
Source : MINDEF/SGA/DMPA-ONACVG
Created in 1941.
Defence of Chasselay by the 25th R.T.S. (17- 20 June 1940).
1941-1943 and after the war: bodies of the Senegalese Tirailleurs killed in the Rhône department in June 1940 were gathered together.
In West Africa, “Tata” means “sacred ground” where warriors killed in combat are buried.
At Chasselay, in the Rhône department, this name takes on its full meaning when we read the story in the local annals of what happened here during World War II.
On 19 and 20 June 1940, unaware that Lyon had just been declared an “open city”, the 25th regiment of Senegalese Tirailleurs clashed with the German army at Chasselay and the vicinity.
Despite their courage, they were forced to surrender. The fighting ended with the massacre of the prisoners of African origin by the SS Totenkopf (Skull and Crossbones) division.
Rectangular in shape, surrounded by high walls with a spiked pyramid at each corner and above the entrance, the "Tata" is characterised by its architecture of Sudanese inspiration.
Eight different stylised masks are sculpted on the solid oak gateway, showing the fetish images watching over the rest of the departed. The walls and the tombstones are in red ochre.
The bodies of 196 tirailleurs of various West African countries lie in the cemetery. They did indeed come from Senegal, but also from Upper Volta, Dahomey, Sudan, Chad, etc.
Birth of the cemetery
We owe this structure, unique in France, to Jean Marchiani. A World War I veteran, in 1940 he was Secretary General of the Departmental Office for the wounded, veterans and victims of war.
When he heard about the events of 19 and 20 June, he decided to gather together the bodies of West African soldiers, some of whom had been buried in communal cemeteries, but quite often were in simple burial pits in the countryside.
After a census of all the communes in question, Jean Marchiani bought some land at “Vide-Sac” in Chasselay, where 50 Senegalese prisoners had been shot by the enemy, and raised money. He received support from General Doyen, former commander of the Army of the Alps, and from the Senegalese member of parliament, Calendou Diouf.
It was inaugurated on 8 November 1942, three days before the Free Zone was invaded by the Germans.
This place of remembrance and mourning has been listed as a National Cemetery since 1966. It is owned by the Ministry of Defence and managed by the Rhône-Alpes Region’s Interdepartmental Veterans’ Affairs Division.
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