French Resistance leader dies aged 97


RAYMOND AUBRAC, one of the last surviving leaders of the French Resistance, has died in Paris aged 97.

Mr Aubrac and his wife, Lucie, both played active roles in the Resistance against the German occupation during the second World War. He was captured in June 1943 alongside Charles de Gaulle’s Resistance chief, Jean Moulin, in a raid led by the head of the Gestapo in Lyon, Klaus Barbie.

Mr Aubrac managed to escape four months later when a pregnant Lucie and a group of fighters ambushed a truck carrying 14 Resistance members from Gestapo headquarters in Lyon.

The ambush became one of the most celebrated Resistance exploits of the war and was immortalised in a 1997 film by Claude Berri.

The couple fled to London, but Mr Aubrac’s parents, whom he had tried to convince to leave for Switzerland, were arrested in France and deported. They died at Auschwitz.

Mr Aubrac’s death brought warm tributes from across the political divide.

French 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”.

François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s candidate for the presidency, said the couple had “found within themselves . . . the strength to resist Nazi barbarity”.

Mr Aubrac was born Raymond Samuel into a Jewish merchant family in 1914. He became a civil engineer before studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in the 1930s.

Influenced by Marxism, the young Mr Aubrac and his wife joined the fledging Resistance against the Nazis and the collaborationist French Vichy government in 1940, helping to found a network in unoccupied southern France.

Gen de Gaulle, the exiled leader of the Free French Forces, called on citizens to resist in a radio address from London in 1940, exhorting them not to lose hope.

“From the first day, from that appeal by de Gaulle on June 18th, 1940, saying that losing a battle didn’t mean we had lost the war, only one thing guided us: optimism, a belief in what we were doing and that we could change things,” Mr Aubrac told Le Monde last month.

Mr Aubrac died at the Val de Grâce military hospital in Paris on Tuesday night, his family said. He leaves behind three children and 10 grandchildren. Lucie Aubrac died in 2007 at the age of 94.