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March 2: Denise Bloch, in the French Underground

Lawrence Bush
March 2, 2017
Denise Bloch, 28, a Parisian Jew who had been active in the French Resistance in Lyon as a courier and wireless operator for two years (codenames Ambroise and Crinoline), was flown by the British Special Operations Executive into Central France on this date in 1944 to work undercover with Robert Benoist, her fellow passenger, to organize against the Nazis in the city of Nantes. She sent and received more than 80 wireless messages before being arrested by the Gestapo on June 18, and was executed in the Ravensbruck concentration camp the following January. Bloch’s dangerous life had included crossing the Pyrenees at night (she nearly froze to death) into Spain, where she met with the British consul and was transported to Great Britain via Madrid and Gibraltar. After weeks of training, including a parachute-jump, she was flown back to France in her final, fatal mission. Her posthumous awards include Great Britain’s King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct and France’s Legion of Honour, Resistance Medal, and Croix de Guerre avec Palme.

“The SOE was a British secret war department formed in 1940 to ‘Set Europe Ablaze’ by organizing and supplying the underground Resistance movements against the Nazis (and later the Japanese) in all occupied countries. It was one of several Secret Armies commanded from London by General Colin Gubbins, who was vice-chair of its council; the chair was the Jewish banker Charles Hambro . . . The French section of SOE . . . infiltrated thirty-nine women into France by plane, boat, submarine and parachute between May 1941 and July 1944.”--Jewish Virtual Library

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.