Lucie Aubrac 94 Heroine in the French Resistance

JournalThe Boston Globe published 17/03/2007 by Jenny Barchfield

Paris - Lucie Aubrac, a hero of the French Resistance who helped free her husband from the Gestapo and whose dramatic life story became a hit film, died Wednesday in a hospital in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. She was 94.

Aubrac-Lucie.jpgMrs. Aubrac, whose maiden name was Lucie Bernard, had spent the last two months in hospital, said her daughter, Catherine Vallade.

President Jacques Chirac called Mrs. Aubrac an "emblematic figure," saying "a light of the Resistance has gone out."

"Today, France loses a woman of honor, tenacity, and commitment whose devotion to the service of her country and its most noble causes never wavered," Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said.

Born on June 29, 1912, in the eastern city of Macon, Mrs. Aubrac was a history and geography teacher when she and her husband, engineer Raymond Samuel, helped create Liberation-Sud, or Liberation-South.

Liberation-South was one of the first networks set up by the Resistance, a French movement to continue warfare against Germany after France's 1940 defeat in World War II. It linked civilians and armed bands of partisans working secretly to oppose the Nazi occupation of France.

The couple adopted the nom de guerre Aubrac in the Resistance.

In 1943, Mr. Aubrac helped orchestrate her husband's escape from a Lyon prison after his arrest. She persuaded the local Gestapo leader, Klaus Barbie, to let her meet with him. During the visit, they planned his escape.

Mrs. Aubrac led the armed commando that rescued her husband and Resistance leader Jean Moulin during their transfer to another prison, Denis Peschanski, a historian at the National Center for Scientific Research, told France-Info radio today.

The couple and the first of their three children fled to London in February 1944. Mrs. Aubrac gave birth to their second child just days after their arrival, the newspaper Le Monde said.

She received the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, for her work in the Resistance.

After the war, Mrs. Aubrac became a vocal critic of French policy in Algeria, its colony in North Africa, and also defended immigrants' rights. Following her retirement from teaching, she toured schools across France, speaking to students about the Resistance and promoting the values of the movement, Peschanski said.

"The word resistance should always be conjugated in the present tense," Mrs. Aubrac once said.

French director Claude Berri made the hit 1997 movie "Lucie Aubrac," starring Carole Bouquet in the title role. Two other films, Jean-Pierre Melville's "The Army of Shadows" in 1969 and Jose Yanne's "Boulevard of the Swallows" in 1991, were also based on Mrs. Aubrac's story.

In 2000, Mrs. Aubrac published "The Resistance Explained to my Grandchildren" about her experiences. She is also the author of the 1984 book "They'll Leave Exhilarated."

Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal said the country "has lost one of the great figures of the republic."

Royal said she "salutes the memory of this great Resistance fighter who incarnated the French people's fight for freedom and, in that battle, showed the participation of women."

Mrs. Aubrac leaves her husband and three children.

Her husband told France-Info radio that a ceremony honoring Mrs. Aubrac is to take place in the Invalides monument in Paris in coming days.