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April 10: Raymond Aubrac and the French Resistance

April 9, 2015

aubrac1_2190786bRaymond Aubrac (Samuel), who with his non-Jewish wife Lucie became a leader and a hero in the French Resistance during World War II, died at 97 on this date in 2012. They married in 1939 and joined the Resistance the following year, settling in Lyon and serving as founding publishers of the underground newspaper Libération. Aubrac was arrested three times but managed to hide his identity as a Jew and win his freedom each time. His third arrest, with seven other Resistance members, was by Klaus Barbie, who oversaw their torture — but Lucie, then visibly pregnant, managed to bribe a Nazi official to permit Raymond to join her for a “wedding ceremony” at police headquarters to legitimize their baby. The Resistance rescued him en route to the building in a daring raid. The Aubracs were evacuated by the British to London in February 1944, and worked there in General Charles De Gaulle’s government-in-exile. After the war, he oversaw landmine removal throughout France, and worked to root out collaborators and purge the ranks of the French police. His zest at these tasks got him fired by DeGaulle after only a few months. (In general, Aubrac’s leftist leanings provoked DeGaulle’s distrust.) Aubrac also served a a liaison to Vietnamese communists for France, the United States, and the United Nations. In 1990, Barbie, nearing death, accused Aubrac of being a collaborator — and the charge, though seemingly refuted, took the gloss off Aubrac’s legendary reputation.

“It started off with us buying boxes of chalk and writing graffiti on walls. Then we progressed to writing tracts and putting them through people’s letterboxes. And then the third stage was our newspaper, Libération. It’s when you have an underground press that you can first talk of an organization — because you need a proper structure for it to work.” —Raymond Aubrac