Olga Bancic

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Olga Bancic (Romanian: [ˈolɡa ˈbant͡ʃɪk]; born Golda Bancic; also known under her French nom de guerre Pierrette; May 10, 1912–May 10, 1944) was a Romanian communist activist, known for her role in the French Resistance. A member of the FTP-MOI and Missak Manouchian's Group, she was captured by Nazi German forces in late 1943, and executed soon after. Bancic was married to the writer and fellow FTP-MOI fighter Alexandru Jar.

Biography[edit]

Bancic was born to a Jewish family in Chișinău, Bessarabia, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time; the region became part of the Romanian Kingdom after World War I. She worked in a mattress factory by the age of 12, and joined the local labor movement, taking part in a strike during which she was arrested and allegedly beaten.[1] Bancic, who became a member of the outlawed Romanian Communist Party (PCR), was subsequently arrested several times.[1] In 1936, she traveled to France, where she aided local left-wing activists in transporting weapons to Spanish Republican forces fighting in the Civil War.[1][2]

Shortly before the outbreak of World war II, Bancic gave birth to Dolores, her daughter with Alexandru Jar.[1] She left her child in the care of a French family following the start of German occupation,[1][3] and joined the Paris-based Francs-Tireurs et Partisans de la Main d'Oeuvre Immigrée (FTP-MOI), taking part in about 100 sabotage acts against the Wehrmacht, and being personally involved in the manufacture and transport of explosives.[1] This came at a time when the PCR, weakened by successive crackdowns, had become divided into several autonomous groups. Similar to Gheorghe Gaston Marin, Bancic was among the Romanian activists who were integrated into the French Communist Party.[4]

Arrested by the Gestapo on November 6, 1943, she was subject to torture, but refused to give information about her collaborators.[1] After the arrest of the Manouchian Group, the Gestapo published a series of propaganda posters, named l'Affiche Rouge, which depicted its members, Bancic included, as "terrorists".

On February 21, 1944, she, Manouchian, and 21 others were sentenced to death—all male defendants were executed later that day at Fort Mont-Valérien; since a law prevented women from being executed on French soil,[2] Bancic, the only female in the Group, was deported to Stuttgart and decapitated[1][2][3] with an axe in the local prison's courtyard on the date of her 32nd birthday.[2] During her transportation to the place of execution, she composed a letter to her daughter Dolores, who was known under the name Dolores Jacob, on a piece of paper which she threw out a window.[3]

Legacy[edit]

Bancic's husband, Alexandru Jar, returned to Romania at the end of the war, and established himself a career under the new Communist regime. During the 1950s, he became a noted opponent of the Party leadership around Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, and, together with Mihail Davidoglu and Ion Vitner, faced criticism from activist Miron Constantinescu over his "intellectualist-liberalist tendencies".[5]

Several streets were named in Bancic's honor, and small monuments were erected in her memory. Her name continued to be used as an asset by Communist authorities, but it fell into disuse after the 1989 Revolution. In 2005, writer and journalist Bedros Horasangian objected to the initiatives of Bucharest officials to remove the Polonă Street commemorative plaque making mention of her activities and to rename a street previously bearing her name; he argued: "It is not proper and insults the memory of a woman who actually died for Allied victory (when Romania was allied to the Germans!). [...] In France, those who have fought in the antifascist resistance enjoy full respect".[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Golda (Olga) Bancic" entry in the Holocaust Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b c d (French) "Olga Bancic", at Souviens-toi des déportes
  3. ^ a b c "Last letters of The Manouchian Group May, 1944. Olga Bancic" at the Marxists Internet Archive (translated by Mitch Abidor)
  4. ^ Victor Frunză, Istoria stalinismului în România ("The History of Stalinism in Romania"), Humanitas, Bucharest, 1990, p.104
  5. ^ Vladimir Tismăneanu, Stalinism pentru eternitate, Polirom, Iaşi, 2005 ISBN 973-681-899-3 (translation of Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2003, ISBN 0-52-023747-1), p.185-187
  6. ^ (Romanian) Bedros Horasangian, "Caragiale, go home!", in Ziua, June 29, 2005