Sunday, September 27, 2015

Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means—ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda, to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. In many countries, resistance movements were sometimes also referred to as “The Underground.”

Among the most notable resistance movements were the Polish Resistance, including the Polish Home ArmyLeśni and the whole Polish Underground State; the Soviet partisans, the Italian Resistenza led mainly by the Italian CLN; the French ResistanceYugoslav Partisans, Belgian Resistance, Norwegian Resistance, Greek Resistance and the Dutch Resistance.

Many countries had resistance movements dedicated to fighting the Axis invaders, and Germany itself also had an anti-Nazi movement. Although Britain was not occupied during the war, the British made preparations for a British resistance movement, called the Auxiliary Units in the event of a German invasion. Various organizations were also formed to establish foreign resistance cells or support existing resistance movements, like the British SOE and the American OSS (the forerunner of the CIA).

There were also resistance movements fighting against the Allied invaders. In Italian East Africa, after the Italian forces were defeated during the East African Campaign, some Italians participated in a guerrilla war against the British (1941–1943). The German Nazi resistance movement (Werwolf) never amounted to much. The Forest Brothers of Estonia. Latvia and Lithuania included many fighters who operated against the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States into the 1960s. During or after the war, similar anti-Soviet resistance rose up in places like Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Chechnya. While the Japanese were famous for "fighting to the last man," Japanese holdouts tended to be individually motivated and there is little indication that there was any organized Japanese resistance after the war.

After the first shock following the Blitzkrieg, people slowly started to get organized, both locally and on a larger scale, especially when Jews and other groups were starting to be deported and used for the Arbeitseinsatz (forced labor for the Germans). Organization was dangerous; so much resistance was done by individuals. The possibilities depended much on the terrain; where there were large tracts of uninhabited land, especially hills and forests, resistance could more easily get organized undetected. This favored in particular the Soviet partisans in Eastern Europe. In the much more densely populated Netherlands, the Biesbosch wilderness could be used to go into hiding. In northern Italy, both the Alps and the Apennines offered shelter to partisan brigades, though many groups operated directly inside the major cities.

There were many different types of groups, ranging in activity from humanitarian aid to armed resistance, and sometimes cooperating to a varying degree. Resistance usually arose spontaneously, but was encouraged and helped mainly from London and Moscow.


Women were generally confined to underground roles in the French Resistance network.

Lucie Aubrac, who has become a symbol of the French Resistance within France, never had a clearly defined role in the hierarchy of the movement, which in her case involved the regional Southern Liberation. Hélène Viannay, more highly educated than her husband Philippe Viannay, the founder of the Défense de la France, did not write one single article for the clandestine newspaper of the same name, nor did the other companions of the chiefs of the Défense de la France, although they did take part in meetings to edit the newspaper. On the other hand, Suzanne Buisson, cofounder of the Comité d'action socialiste (CAS) was the treasurer until her arrest. Only one woman, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, was a head of a network (by leading the British to believe that the true head of the Alliance network was actually a man). No woman ever led a movement, or a maquis (guerilla group) or a Liberation Committee; none was installed as a Commissioner within the Provisional Government of the Republic of France or a Minister of the Liberation.

Only a limited minority took part in the armed battles. Although women were typical partisan resistance fighters in Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and the occupied USSR, feared and as numerous as men, they were a small minority in the maquis in France. It has been speculated that this may have been influenced by the fact that French women were not subject to the Service du travail obligatoire (Compulsory Work Service; STO), as were women in other occupied territories.

Women organized demonstrations of housewives in 1940, were active in the comités populaires of the clandestine PCF, and ever present with encouragement and material aid for strikers, as in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais in May 1941, as well as supporting the maquis. They were indispensable as typists, and above all as liaison agents—in part because the Germans distrusted women less, and also because the numerous identification controls against resistors of STO did not apply to them. Historian Olivier Wieviorka emphasizes that the strategy of these movements was often, in fact, to put women into missions that required visibility, since they were less exposed to repression: the Vichy government of occupied France and the German military were not able to fire on French women demanding food for their children.

Some of the most prominent women in the French Resistance were Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux who was chief of the women's section of the Organisation civile et militaire. She was also a member of the Paris Liberation Committee. Following the French Liberation, she was a Deputy and then Senator of the French government. Touty Hiltermann played a decisive role in the establishment and functioning of the Dutch-Paris movement. Germaine Tillion became head of the Hauet-Vildé Resistance network from 1941 to 1942, later approved by the larger Resistance network Groupe du musée de l'HommeHélène Studler organized réseau d'évasions, networks for smuggling dissidents out of France. Thousands of prisoners and Resistance members escaped to freedom through her work. She organized the escape of François Mitterrand, the future President of France; Boris Holban, founder of the network FTP-MOI in March 1942; and General Henri Giraud on 17 April 1942.

It is also worth noting that innumerable clandestine combatants survived the war as a couple, and that their Resistance participation would have been impossible or unsurvivable without the support of their companion at their side: Cécile Rol-Tanguy and husband Henry, Lucie Aubrac and husband Raymond, Paulette Kriegal-Valrimond and husband Maurice, Hélèn Viannay and husband Philippe, Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux and husband Pierre, Cletta Mayer and husband and many others were inseparable.

There were numerous women in the Resistance who married and had children entirely clandestinely, without interrupting their Resistance struggle. Some saved the lives of their husbands, such as Lucie Aubrac or Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux. Others shared their struggle up to torture, deportation and death, such as Madeleine Truel. The famous Convoi des 3100 of 24 January 1943, included many female resisters, communists and widows of men shot by the occupation regime, including Maï Politzer, wife of Georges Politzer or Hélène Solomon, daughter of the great scholar Paul Langevin and wife of writer Jacques Solomon.


A glossary of German terms and abbreviations found throughout this blog may be viewed by clicking HERE.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz (1920-2002)

Genevieve de Gaulle was the niece of General Charles de Gaulle. Her father was a diplomat and she spent much of her childhood traveling.

During WWII, she joined the Resistance movement at its early stage, recruiting Free France Resistance fighters. In 1944, she was arrested in Paris and shipped to the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

In her book The Dawn of Hope: A memoir of Ravensbruck, Genevieve documented the conditions of 75 Polish women in the camp who were operated on without anesthesia by a surgeon who later deliberately infected their wounds with gangrene, tetanus and streptococcus. She herself was subjected to beatings and near starvation conditions. After several months of performing backbreaking labor, she was mysteriously transferred to an area of the camp where inmates were treated less harshly. Shortly thereafter, she was put in a solitary confinement cell.

Since she did not know the reason for these changes, Genevieve expected to be executed at any time. What kept her from falling into total despair was the kindness of a fellow inmate, a Jehovah's Witness who brought her meals and gifts from other French prisoners. A few weeks after Paris was liberated, she was released from Ravensbruck and, in the 1950s, began a lifelong commitment to easing the plight of the poor. She died on 14 February 2002.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Annie Becker-Kriegel (1926-1995)

OBITUARY: Annie Kriegel

By Douglas Johnson
Posted October 23, 2011
Found at

Anyone who knew the Paris Latin Quarter in the late 1940s and early 1950s must have been aware of Annie Becker (or Annie Besse as she was known after her marriage to Guy Besse in 1947). As student, history teacher and journalist she was the leading militant of the Communist Party. There was scarcely a demonstration which did not seem to be led by her small, aggressive figure, deliberately provocative towards the police and violent in her denunciation of the enemy of the moment. She was important in the party apparatus, being responsible for cultural and intellectual affairs in the powerful federation of the Seine.

In 1953 some difference began to appear between the party direction and herself. Perhaps she seemed too committed to a particular line of policy. Then, since she had firmly linked the French party to Stalinism, the death of Stalin, the Khrushchev Report, and the reaction of the French leadership to these happenings, caused her to leave the party in 1957. She turned to research in history and became a supporter of the right wing, particularly after the return of de Gaulle to power. But unlike other former Communists, she continued to study communist theory and practice.

She began writing articles on a wide variety of subject for Le Figaro in the 1970s and she found no difficulty in writing for a paper that was owned and run by the wealthy, right-wing Robert Hersant. When Raymond Aron decided reluctantly that Le Figaro had become a publication with which he no longer wished to be associated, Kriegel was one of the few of his friends who urged him to stay on. It was during these years that she became the most fervent admirer and supporter of the state of Israel.

The explanation of this remarkable career is to be found in her wartime experience. Coming from a Jewish-Alsatian family and having passed idyllic school days in the Marais district of Paris, she encountered the anti-Semitic legislation of the occupation and then the infamous round-up of Jews on 16 July 1942. She frequently recalled how on that day she was at the crossing of the Rue de Turenne and the Rue de Bretagne. She had witnessed the unusual sight of a French policeman with tears running down his face, she saw flocks of children and old people carrying bundles, and then came the screams.

As the men were forcibly separated from the women and children she heard screams which she said contained all the pain that life and death provide. She did not know what to do. She sat on a bench and wept. "It was on that bench that I left my childhood," she afterwards said.

She escaped from Paris and joined the Resistance movement at Grenoble, at the age of 16, and was brought into the Communist-controlled group of immigrant workers, where Jews were prominent. With the Liberation she became a student at the Ecole Normale Superieure de Sevres, where she announced herself as the absolute communist. She shared a room with my wife (then Madeleine Rebillard) who tells me that she decorated it with a machine-gun and a lavish display of communist resistance pamphlets. She asserted her beliefs vigorously. For example, when a fellow student spoke of eventually bringing up a family, she was denounced as bourgeoise. The place for children was in a state-run creche. Her discourse of power was that victory had been that of the Soviet Union and the communist resistance. They would go on to change the world.

After she had left the party, her historical work was learned but controversial. She described the creation of the French party in 1920 as a banal accident that only acquired significance because of the intervention of the Russian Bolsheviks. A communist party in a society which it did not dominate was forced to establish a counter-society, with unfortunate results.

She married a doctor and became Annie Kriegel; she brought up four children (without sending them to creches); the University of Paris-Nanterre made her a professor; increasing deafness emphasised her isolation, although she was respected as an individual force amongst French intellectuals.

But she longed for another ideal to which she could become passionately attached. She found it in the state of Israel. Her background and her experience came together in a concept of Jewishness over which the endangered state of Israel presided. She preached its cause; she refused to believe that it would ever be defeated. The words of Charles Peguy were relevant: "the soldier who never admits that he has been defeated is always right".

As for herself she concluded her autobiography, Ce que j'ai cru comprendre, with the words "J'ai continue". Annie Becker, teacher, historian, journalist: born Paris 9 September 1926; married 1947 Guy Besse (marriage dissolved), secondly Arthur Kriegel; died Paris 26 August 1995.

Lucie Bernard-Aubrac (1912-2007)

Lucie Bernard, the daughter of modest Burgundy winegrowers, was born on 29 June 1912 in Macon, France. She married Raymond Samuel with whom she had three children: Jean-Pierre, Catherine (who later became de Gaulle's goddaughter) and Elizabette (who later became Ho Chi Minh's goddaughter). Raymond later changed his name to Aubrac due to open anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France.

After the fall of France, Lucie joined the Libération-sud resistance group in Lyon after its formation by her husband. Later, she followed him to the Charles Delestraint's group. In 1941 they joined forces with Emmanuel d'Astier to run the underground newspaper, Libération.

On 21 June 1943, the Gestapo captured Raymond alongside high-ranking Resistance member Jean Moulin (under the alias "Max") and many others. They were taken to Montluc prison, located near Lyon. The Nazis sought Jean Moulin in particular as he was General Charles de Gaulle's top representative in the French Resistance.

Lucie was able to talk face-to-face with Klaus Barbie, Lyon's Gestapo chief. Her alias was "Ghislaine de Barbentane", a name of high-standing, noble origin. Because of her pregnancy and a specific provision of French law called "marriage in extremis," under which a person condemned to death can marry civilly, Lucie managed to convince Barbie that she was unmarried, and being pregnant could not be a mother without being married (known as a fille-mère). Barbie unwisely allowed Raymond to be released for the wedding, which gave Lucie and the Resistance an opportunity.

On the day of their "marriage", 21 October 1943, Lucie and her comrades attacked the German truck that was transporting the prisoners back to German command, and released Raymond along with the thirteen other members of the Resistance being held. Six Germans, including the truck driver and five guards, were killed during the attack and escape.

Lucie and Raymond Aubrac became lovers on 14 May 1939. Each year on that date, they treated themselves to dinner at Le Jules Verne restaurant on the second level of the Eiffel Tower. Lucie died in a Paris suburb on 14 March 2007.


From her book Lucie Aubrac: The French Resistance Heroine Who Defied the Gestapo:

"In the summer of 1940, when Paris was struggling with the new Occupation, a Socialist called Jean Texcier had produced a Manual of Dignity which was secretly passed from hand to hand. Included in his 'Advice to an Occupied Population' were semi-facetious suggestions - soldiers asking for directions in the street should be courteously sent the wrong way, for example. But Texcier's message was a serious one. 'Husband your anger,' he wrote, 'for you may need it [and] have no illusions: these men are not tourists.'

Now Liberation began to write its own editorials on how to deal with the conquerors in their midst: Whenever Germans arrived in cafes or restaurants, all French should ostentatiously rise and leave; swastika should be chalked on buildings belonging to industrialists or merchants who worked with the invader; and patriotic bunting should be hung in the streets on the anniversary of the Battle of the Marne, when French troops had soundly beaten the Germans in 1914."

Marie-Madeleine Bridou-Fourcade (1909-1989)

Marie-Madeleine Bridou, daughter of a steamship company executive, was born in Marseilles in 1929. She married in 1929 but despite giving birth to two children, the relationship didn't last. She went to work for a publishing company in Paris. 

When Henri-Philippe Petain signed the armistice with Germany in June, 1940, she joined the French Resistance and worked under Georges Loustaunau-Lacau. After Loustaunau-Lacau was arrested in May 1941, Marie-Madeleine took over the running of the unit.

The group concentrated on obtaining intelligence information about the German armed forces and sending it to Britain. The British military authorities were so impressed with the quality of this information they sent her a wireless operator in August, 1941. It turned out this wireless operator was a double agent and Marie-Madeleine and several of her unit were arrested by the Gestapo. Unlike most of her colleagues Marie-Madeleine managed to escape and was forced into hiding.
After sending her children to live in Switzerland she now concentrated on helping to develop a network for returning shot down airman to Britain.

In July 1943, MI6 decided it was too dangerous for Marie-Madeleine to remain in France and brought her to England with her latest batch of airmen. She then ran her network from a house in Chelsea. Soon after the D-day landings Marie-Madeleine returned to France where she was soon captured by the Gestapo. But once again she managed to escape and get back to Allied lines. 

During WWII 438 members of Marie-Madeleine's network were executed. In 1973 Marie-Madeleine wrote about her wartime experiences in Noah's Ark (thus called by the Germans because agents took the names of animals and birds). She died on 20 July 1989.