French World War II Resistance leader dies at 97 | News | DW | 11.04.2012
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French World War II Resistance leader dies at 97

One of the last-surviving French Resistance leaders has died. Raymond Aubrac was famous for escaping from the grasp of the Nazis - with the help of his equally legendary wife, Lucie.

Aubrac died on Tuesday night at a military hospital in Paris, his family said. He had been hospitalized for fatigue days earlier.

President Nicolas Sarkozy paid homage to "a heroic Resistance figure" whose "escape, thanks to the bravery of his wife, Lucie Aubrac, has entered into the legend of the history of the Resistance."

Along with 13 other Resistance members, Raymond was captured on June 21, 1943, by police at a secret meeting near Lyon.

Lucie succeeded in convincing notorious Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie to let her meet with her husband. When they did meet, she told Raymond of her plans to spring him during a transport to another prison. Lucie later led the armed attack on the German truck carrying her husband and another celebrated Resistance hero, Jean Moulin, both of whom the commandos managed to free.

The dramatic escape has been filmed on many occasions, most recently in a 1997 movie by French director Claude Berri.

"These heroes of the shadows who saved France's honor at a time when it appeared lost are disappearing one after the other. It is our duty to keep their legacy alive in the heart of our collective memory," Sarkozy said.

Left-wing activist

Born Raymond Samuel to a Jewish family in 1914, he and his wife adopted the nom de guerre Aubrac after joining the Resistance. The couple helped form the Liberation-Sud (Liberation South), one of the first networks established to fight the German occupation of France.

Aubrac's parents were deported and killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Aubrac had been active in left-wing politics before the war. Later he devoted his energies to reconstruction and held a high position at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Aubrac was friends with Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh and acted as a liaison between the Communist leader and the US government during the Vietnam War.

Lucie Aubrac died in 2007 at 94.

ncy/sej (AP, dpa, AFP)