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: