The soldiers had merely gone home for a few hours–they were all conscripts from the village of Sualize in the Ardennes, which was only a short distance from the front lines. Not only that, they had left the line on November 13, two days after the armistice which had ended the shooting war.

Nevertheless, the French Army arrested each of the seven men as soon as they could be tracked down, and they were sentenced to execution by firing squad by a military tribunal. The order was personally countersigned by Marshal Foch. With mutinies throughout the German armed forces, and unrest and agitation throughout the soldier, sailors, and workers of the Continent, the marshal probably hoped to forestall any similar actions by his own troops with a firm show of force.

The action backfired. By November 20, demonstrations had been organized in Paris and provincial centers demanding the release of the “Sualize Seven.” Their cause became fashionable among French and British socialists, especially in the face of the continuing compromises and disappointments coming out of Versailles. For a time, it looked like the men might be spared, but events in Russia, Hungary, and elsewhere eventually overtook the demonstrators.

With events of world-changing importance afoot all over the globe, interest in the Seven waned. Eventually, three men were picked at random as “ringleaders” and executed, with the other four sentences to long prison terms. Two of them were imprisoned long enough to see the swastika flying over their prison yards in 1940.