Controversary of the Aubracs

In 1945, once the war was over, she published a short history of the resistance - the first to appear - and then returned to teaching. In retirement, she saw it as her duty to ensure that the memory of the resistance lived on in the memories of younger generations of French men and women, and she would regularly visit schools to provide her own testimony as survivor and historian.

This is how Lucie's life might have ended had she and Raymond not been catapulted into controversy in 1983 after Barbie's extradition from Bolivia to stand trial in France. Before his trial, Barbie let it be known that he would reveal new facts about the resistance, including the claim that after his first arrest Raymond had turned informer and betrayed Moulin. The allegations never came to anything, but were troubling enough for Lucie to write her own memory of the affair (translated into English as Outwitting the Gestapo).

After Barbie's death in 1990, however, a document - the so-called Testament of Barbie - began circulating in newspaper offices and repeating the allegations about Aubrac. It was also at this point that Chauvy produced his book. Although distancing itself from Barbie's more extreme accusations, Chauvy's work was based on genuine archival material, and its overall effect was to cast a cloud of suspicion over the veracity of Lucie's account.

Twenty leading resistance survivors published a protest letter, but the Aubracs were deeply upset by the book, and asked to be given a chance to explain themselves before a panel of leading French historians. The newspaper Libération organised a discussion between the historians and the Aubracs.

But what had been intended by the Aubracs as a way of clearing their name turned into an acrimonious exchange in which they found themselves almost on trial. None of the historians accepted the idea that Raymond had been an informer, but they noted inconsistencies and contradictions in the various versions Lucie had given over the years. There were oddities in the case which have never been entirely elucidated: what were the exact circumstances of Raymond's first release from prison?; why was he the only resister arrested at Caluire not to have been moved to Paris (thus making it possible for Lucie to save him)?

The arrest of Moulin, in which the Aubracs were caught up, was the greatest drama of the resistance. And the Aubrac affair of the 1990s reminded people that, apart from the cases of betrayal that provide rich fodder for conspiracy theorists, the resistance was also plagued by internal conflicts of ideology and personalities. The fact that the Aubracs remained communist sympathisers long after the end of the war may have had something to do with the attacks on them.

In exasperation, at one point, Lucie protested that her memoirs - written 40 years after the events, when she was in her 70s - could not be expected to be accurate in every detail: she said she had been writing her story, not history. To which the historians present could only reply that their job was to write history, even if it meant unpicking the stories people wished to tell.

The tragedy of the situation was that Lucie, herself a historian and historical actor, was at the end of her life caught between the conflicting imperatives of historical truth and legendary memory. None of which detracts from the fact that, whatever happened in Lyon in the summer of 1943, she was a woman of great courage, character and energy, one of the last survivors of a generation that, between 1940 and 1945, helped to save the honour of France. Raymond and her three children survive her.

Source: The UK Guardian, Julian Jackson, March 16, 2007.


Lucie Aubrac: A Resistance Hero

Photo: AF copyright, 2007
In 1996, French President Jacques Chirac honored Lucie Aubrac by declaring her Grand officer of the Legion of Honor

Chirac Tribute

Chirac said that "From the first hours of the occupation she rose up against defeatism and surrender. She was an emblematic figure of the central role of women in the Resistance."

Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal also paid tribute to Aubrac, saying she was "one of the great figures of the Republic. "This great Resistance member embodied the French people’s struggle for freedom, and the participation of women in the combat."

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate of the ruling centre-right, said that "with Aubrac’s death one of the most beautiful pages in the history of the Resistance is turned. In the name of freedom, she rejected submission, hatred and anti-Semitism."

Born Lucie Bertrand on June 29, 1912 in Macon, Burgundy, to a wine making family, Aubrac became a history and geography teacher.  She first joined in Strasbourg the Communist Youth when she married in 1939 to her husband, whose real name was Raymond Samuel. Together they helped set up one of the first underground groups in German-occupied France. They took their nom de guerre from the Aubrac region of the Massif Central mountains.

In 1940, she met with journalist Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie who organized a small team of Resistance members called “The last column.” With his help, Lucie Aubrac published “Liberation” the clandestine newspaper of one of the first Resistance movements. In June 1943 Raymond Aubrac was captured alongside de Gaulle’s Resistance chief Jean Moulin in a notorious raid by the Gestapo on a doctor’s house in the Lyon suburb of Caluire. Moulin’s importance was quickly discovered. He was transported to Paris and later died from torture.

Over the next weeks Lucie Aubrac -- whose identity was unknown to the Germans -- managed to meet Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie and other officers in Lyon, and by a trick won permission to see her husband in jail. The October 21 attack took place as he was being transported back to prison from interrogation by the Gestapo. Four German soldiers were killed and all the prisoners escaped.


Talks in schools

After the war Aubrac was a jury member in the court which tried the Vichy leader Philippe Petain. She returned to teaching, and for the rest of her life gave talks in schools about her wartime experience. She worked to fight against discriminations, in schools, teaching children the respect of the others.  She also campaigned for progressive causes, such as Algerian independence.

In 1996, French President Jacques Chirac honoured Lucie Aubrac by declaring her Grand officer of the Legion of Honour. In 1998 she and her husband won a libel case against a historian, Gerard Chauvy, who raised questions over their role in the Lyon resistance.

Gerard Chauvy based his book on comments allegedly made by Barbie during his imprisonment in France from 1983 to 1991 to the effect that the Aubracs were traitors to the Resistance. The claim is not taken seriously by historians.

Source: European Jewish Press:



Leica and the Nazis

It was in part thanks to the Nazis' dependence on the military optics that Leitz's factory produced, as well as their belief in the importance of the Leica camera for their propaganda purposes, that he was able to succeed in his plan to spirit Jewish workers and their families out of Germany. Many times the Gestapo turned a blind eye to what Leitz was doing, so important was it to them that production at the plant continued.

"He was able to act in the way he did because the Nazis needed our factory for their military production," Günther Leitz said. "But no one can ever know what other Germans had done for the persecuted within the limits of their ability to act."

And so his story might have been forgotten were it not for the doggedness of the rabbi. He first came across Leitz's story as a student in a brief mention of the refugees in a photography magazine.

The most complete biography of the Leica refugees belongs to camera mechanic Kurt Rosenberg. There is evidence that Leitz paid for his journey to New York in 1938 and got him a post at the Leica showroom on Fifth Avenue. As with other workers, he helped him get a visa. He also provided them with a Leica as financial security because it could be easily exchanged for cash.

Leitz's transports only ended in 1939 when, following Hitler's invasion of Poland, Germany's borders were closed.

Like Schindler, Leitz - who was a member of the Nazi party - is unlikely to be viewed by historians as a straightforward character. Although the allegations were never proven, Holocaust survivors filed a legal suit against the company for employing slave labour in 1988 and along with other companies, Leica paid into a compensation fund for slave labourers in 1999.



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