Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Marie-Helene Postel Vinay-Lefaucheux (1904-1964)

Marie-Helene Postel-Vinay, daughter of Marcel Postel-Vinay and Madeleine Delombre, was born in Paris on 26 February 1904. In 1925 she married industrialist and lawyer Pierre Lefaucheux with whom she had no children.

During WWII Marie-Hélène and Pierre became important members of the French Resistance. Their apartment in Paris was a crossroads of the underground and headquarters for an organization that prepared packages for political prisoners and their families. In Spring 1942, Marie-Helene was in contact with Yvonne Churn, who distributed books to prisons. They managed to establish a system of communication with Parisian inmates and relayed information to families of prisoners in secret detention facilities. Their system led to the creation of the Comité des œuvres sociales de la Résistance (COSOR). She served as Vice President of the Paris branch of the French Committee of National Liberation. She became the representative of the CMO Parisian Liberation Committee in March 1944.

Pierre was arrested in June 1944 and deported by train to Germany that August. Marie-Hélène followed the train by bicycle to its destination in Bar-le-Duc, hoping to get him released under the Nordling agreements. She later learned that her husband was imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp and arranged to meet the head of the Gestapo in Metz where she convinced him to transfer Pierre. He was abandoned when Metz was deserted due to the advancing allied front and the two were reunited in early September.

Marie-Helene was awarded with the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance with officer's rosette.  Following France's liberation, she was elected to the Constituent Assembly of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, representing the Organisation Civile et Militaire. She returned to the Constituent Assembly as a deputy in 1945 and was also elected to the Municipal Council of Paris, where she was Vice President. In 1946, after the adoption of a new constitution, Lefaucheux was elected to the first Council of the French Fourth Republic.

She died on 25 February 1964 on a return trip to New York when her flight, Eastern Air Lines Flight 304, crashed shortly after takeoff from New Orleans. Upon her death, the International Council of Women noted:"Madame Lefaucheux had a statesmanlike brain, an indomitable fighting spirit for the advancement of women’s education, rights and civil duties, a keen sense of strategy and tactics," adding "in her unceasing work for women of all races, as French Government representative on the United Nations Status of Women Commission, its delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and during her Presidency of the I.C.W., her achievements were outstanding.

Her role in the liberation of France and her rescue of her husband was alluded to in the 1966 film Is Paris Burning?

No comments:

Post a Comment