Lusseyran was born in Paris, France. He became totally blind in a school accident at the age of 8. He soon learned to adapt to being blind and maintained many close friendships, particularly with one boy named Jean. At a young age he became alarmed at the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany and decided to learn the German language so that he could listen to German radio broadcasts. By 1938, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria, he had accomplished this task.
Germany invaded France in 1940. In the spring of 1941, at the age of 17, Lusseyran formed a Resistance group called the Volunteers of Liberty with 52 other boys. He was put in charge of recruitment. The group later merged with another Resistance group called Défense de la France. In July 1943 he organized and participated in a campaign to drop pro-resistance leaflets on trains, and claimed to carry tear gas canisters to stop people from interfering, though he never used them.
On July 20, 1943, Lusseyran was arrested by the Gestapo, betrayed by a member of his resistance group. His knowledge of German helped him understand more of the situation than most French prisoners. He was sent to Buchenwald with 2000 other French citizens, where, because he was blind, he did not have to participate in forced labor as most other prisoners did. Soon most of his childhood friends and fellow resistance operatives were arrested, and he met some of them in the concentration camp. Lusseyran helped to motivate a spirit of resistance within the camp, particularly within the French and German prisoners.
In April 1945, he was liberated, surviving German massacres of the concentration camps in which some of his friends were killed. Many of his friends had died during the course of the war, including Jean. After the war, Lusseyran taught French literature in the United States and wrote books, including the autobiographical And There Was Light, which chronicles the first 20 years of his life. He died together with his third wife Marie in a car accident in France on July 27, 1971. He is survived by his four children.
- Against the Pollution of the I: selected writings of Jacques Lusseyran. New York, NY: Parabola Books, 1999. ISBN 0-930407-46-6.
- And There Was Light: autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, blind hero of the French Resistance. New York, NY: Parabola Books, 1998. ISBN 0-930407-40-7.