Denise Bloch

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Denise Bloch
Denise Bloch.jpg
Nickname(s) Ambroise
Born (1916-01-21)21 January 1916
Paris, France
Died 5 February 1945(1945-02-05) (aged 29)
Ravensbrück concentration camp
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Women's Transport Service (FANY)
Special Operations Executive, French Resistance
Years of service 1942–1945/1943–1945 (SOE)
Unit Clergyman
Awards King's Commendation for Brave Conduct
Légion d'honneur
Médaille de la Résistance
Croix de Guerre

Denise Madeleine Bloch (French pronunciation: [dəniz blɔʃ] (About this sound listen); 21 January 1916–5 February 1945, Ravensbrück, Germany) was a French secret agent working with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the Second World War.

Early life[edit]

Born to a Jewish family (Jacques Henri Bloch and Suzanne Levi-Strauss) in Barrault, Paris, France in 1916, Bloch had three brothers. Before the war, she was a secretary at Citroën. As the family were Jewish, they were rounded up by the Gestapo in 1942 in occupied France.

Special Operations Executive[edit]

Her job at Citroen was as secretary to Lieutenant Jean Maxime Aron (code name 'Joseph') who was also a Jewish Resistance leader in France.

Bloch was recruited in Lyon to work for the SOE. She began resistance work with SOE radio operator Brian Stonehouse until his arrest near the end of October that year.

Following Stonehouse's capture, she went into hiding until early 1943 when she was put in touch with SOE agents George Reginald Starr and Philippe de Vomécourt. She began working with them in the town of Agen, in the southern French department of Lot-et-Garonne. However, it was decided to send her to London and accompanied by another agent, she walked across the Pyrenees mountains making their way to Gibraltar and eventually London. There, SOE trained her as a wireless operator in preparation for a return to France.

On 2 March 1944, with fellow SOE agent, Robert Benoist, she was dropped back into central France. Working in the Nantes area, the pair re-established contact with SOE agent and Benoist's fellow racing car driver, Jean-Pierre Wimille. However, in June, both she and Benoist were arrested and Bloch was interrogated and tortured before being shipped to Germany. She was held in prisons at Torgau in Saxony and at Königsberg in Brandenburg, where she suffered great hardship from exposure, cold and malnutrition.

Eventually shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp, sometime between 25 January 1945 and 5 February, 29-year-old Denise Madeleine Bloch was executed by the Germans and her body disposed of in the crematorium. Both Lilian Rolfe and Violette Szabo, two other female members of the SOE held at Ravensbrück, were executed at about the same time. In May, just days before the German surrender, SOE agent Cecily Lefort was also executed. It is alleged that SS-Sturmbannführer Horst Kopkow was involved in the arrest/killing of these SOE agents.

Denise Bloch's family gravesite at the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris memorialises her life and execution.

Posthumous awards[edit]

In Britain, Bloch is recorded on the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey. She was posthumously awarded the "King's Commendation for Brave Conduct" by Great Britain.

In France, posthumous honours include the Legion of Honour; the Resistance Medal and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme.

As one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, she is listed on the "Roll of Honour" on the Valençay SOE Memorial in the town of Valençay, in the department of Indre. She is also remembered on the FANY memorial in Wilton Road, Kensington, and at the Jewish Home for the Elderly at Nightingale House in Clapham, where a plaque in memory of her and two other SOE agents who were trained in a building on that site was unveiled by Princess Anne in 2015. This and one other SOE plaque, that of Muriel Byck in Taunton, have Hebrew quotes from the Book of Joshua in the women's honour.

War Medal 39-45 BAR MID.png

1939–1945 Star France and Germany Star War Medal with King's Commendation for Brave Conduct
Légion d'honneur
Croix de Guerre (France) Médaille de la Résistance

Sources and external links[edit]