|Born||31 July 1914
Vesoul, Haute-Saône, France
|Died||10 April 2012
|Alma mater||École nationale des ponts et chaussées, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
|Occupation||French Resistance leader, civil engineer|
|Home town||Paris, France|
|Spouse(s)||Lucie Aubrac (m. 1939; wid. 2007)|
|Children||three (son Jean-Pierre, daughters Catherine and Élisabeth)|
Aubrac was born Raymond Samuel into a middle-class Jewish family in Vesoul, Haute-Saône. His father, Albert Samuel, was born on 2 March 1884, in Vesoul and his mother Hélène Falk was born on 2 March 1894 in Crest. His parents were shop owners. Active in left-wing student politics, he first met a fellow young radical, Lucie Bernard, during meetings of students with Communist leanings while he was pursuing civil engineering studies at the École nationale des ponts et chaussées from 1934 to 1937. He received a scholarship to further his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University for a year, starting from the summer of 1937.
Second World War
Samuel was serving in the French army as an engineering officer on the Maginot Line at the outbreak of the Second World War. He met Lucie Bernard again in Strasbourg. They married on 14 December 1939 in Dijon. Samuel was taken prisoner by the German army on 21 June 1940, but he managed to escape from the internment camp with the aid of his wife. He and Lucie joined the French Resistance in October 1940. He also became an attaché to the staff of the French Army. He adopted several noms de guerre, among them "Vallet, Ermelin, Balmont and Aubrac". Their Resistance activities started off with buying boxes of chalk and writing graffiti on walls. They then moved on to writing tracts and putting them into people's letterboxes. In the autumn of 1940, they also formed one of the first underground Resistance groups—Libération-Sud—in Lyon. In May 1941, after the birth of their first child Jean-Pierre, they helped Emmanuel d'Astier de La Vigerie to set up an underground newspaper called Libération to promote the French Resistance. Raymond Aubrac was arrested by the Milice on March 15, 1943 in a routine raid. He was operating with fake identity papers under the pseudonym François Vallet. His captors had no idea whom they had captured. He was eventually released two months later.
On June 21, 1943, Aubrac was one of eight senior Resistance leaders, including Jean Moulin, secretly meeting in a doctor's surgery in the Lyon suburb of Caluire when Gestapo officers, under the orders of Klaus Barbie, stormed the place and arrested all the eight leaders. The Caluire meeting was held to select a replacement for Charles Delestraint as the commander of the Armée secrète. Delestraint had been arrested twelve days earlier by the Gestapo in Paris on 9 June. Aubrac was arrested under the pseudonym Claude Ermelin. Taken to Montluc prison in Lyon, the eight leaders were interrogated and tortured under the direction of Barbie. Aubrac was sentenced to death by a Paris court, but the execution was not quickly carried out because the authorities still hoped to obtain intelligence from him. Lucie Aubrac helped to organise his escape from the prison. Lucie, who was then pregnant with her second child, met Barbie and claimed to be carrying Raymond’s child. She also lied that they were unmarried and that the child would therefore be born illegitimate unless the Gestapo would permit them to conduct a secret wedding. She mentioned a specific provision under French law called "marriage in extremis"—a person condemned to death may marry civilly before execution—applied to Raymond Aubrac. Barbie refused, but she managed to later persuade another Gestapo officer (holding the rank of lieutenant) after bribing him with a silk scarf and champagne, to grant them the permit to go ahead with the "wedding". However, Barbie allowed her to meet face to face with her imprisoned husband. During the meeting, she told her husband of the Resistance's plan to attack the German truck that was to transfer him back to prison from the scene of the "wedding ceremony". On October 21, 1943 Aubrac was taken from his prison cell at Montluc and driven to the “wedding ceremony” at the Gestapo headquarters. Right after the "wedding ceremony", Aubrac and thirteen other captured Resistance members were transported to the prison in a truck. En route, the truck was ambushed by a gang of Resistance fighters in four cars, led by the six-month pregnant Lucie Aubrac. Five German guards and the truck driver were killed and all the captured Resistance members, including Aubrac, were freed. It was now too dangerous for the Aubracs to carry on with their resistance activities, and they hid for several months in the French countryside. Hunted by the Gestapo, the couple was evacuated by the Royal Air Force to London in February 1944. A few days later, their daughter, Catherine, the second of their three children, was born. They later joined Charles de Gaulle's government in exile.
The Aubracs' wartime exploits made interesting movie material. Two French films, Claude Berri’s Lucie Aubrac (1997) and Boulevard des hirondelles (1992), have immortalized the Aubracs in the nation's collective memory.
Raymond Aubrac's parents, whom he had tried unsuccessfully to convince to leave for Switzerland, were arrested in France, deported to Auschwitz Concentration Camp by convoy No. 66 on 20 January 1944 and died there.
In August 1944, Charles de Gaulle appointed Aubrac to the post of commissaire de la république in Marseille. The mission of these commissaires was to establish some form of provisional authority in the areas of France just liberated from the Germans. Aubrac organised the purge of the police forces and oversaw the often brutal treatment meted out to suspected collaborators with the Nazis. He requisitioned a number of local industries, leading to allegations that he was really working in the interests of the Communists. Aubrac was dismissed from his post and recalled to Paris after only four months.
After the Second World War
After the end of the Second World War, Aubrac was appointed to a senior post by the Ministry of Reconstruction from 1945 to 1948, during which he oversaw reconstruction and mine clearance.
In 1947 and 1950, he was a witness for the prosecution during two trials of fellow French Resistance leader René Hardy, who was accused of betraying Jean Moulin to the Gestapo but eventually acquitted. Although Aubrac and Hardy had both been detained and released prior to the Caluire meeting (supposedly creating an opportunity for the Germans to "turn" them), then arrested at the Caluire raid, and subsequently escaped Gestapo custody, Aubrac alleged that in Hardy's case his escape was too easy, claiming that when Hardy made a run for it, "from all the Germans with their sub-machine guns, there were only a couple of scattered shots."
Aubrac's relations with Charles de Gaulle were sometimes tense because of his Communist leanings. When Ho Chi Minh came to France to negotiate Vietnam's independence in 1946, he decided to stay in the Aubracs' home for several months and he and Raymond Aubrac became friends. Aubrac's undisguised Communist sympathies made him a controversial figure with the French right. He supported the Vietnamese rebellion against French colonial rule in the 1950s.
In 1948, Aubrac founded an institute—Bureau d'études et de recherches pour l'industrie moderne (BERIM) (the Study and Research Group for Modern Industry)—to encourage trade with Communist countries in the Eastern Bloc. He headed this institute for ten years. He also served in a series of international roles. He was a director of the United Nations' Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) from 1964 to 1975. In 1978, he joined UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization cultural agency, to work on cooperation projects.
Aubrac worked on many civil engineering projects in Europe, North Africa and Asia. In 1948, He helped to create a civil engineering consultancy firm, at first working mainly with Communist-run local authorities, then in eastern Europe. It established close links with eastern Europe, and this later led to allegations that it was really a front to raise funds for the Communist party.
Aubrac was to be used in the late 1960s by Henry Kissinger as a secret intermediary between the Americans and the North Vietnamese at the height of the Vietnam war. In the early 1970s, as America tried to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War, Aubrac served as a mediator between the American and Vietnamese governments. He also joined a group of intellectuals and scientists working to end the war. In 1973, he worked with the United Nations Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim, on the follow-up to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973 to end the Vietnam War. In 1975, he was employed by Kurt Waldheim to communicate with the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong in the last few months of the war. In 1975, while working on rebuilding projects in Vietnam, Aubrac witnessed the Fall of Saigon.
Shortly before his death in 1990, Klaus Barbie issued a statement saying it was not René Hardy who had betrayed the secret of Jean Moulin's 1943 Caluire meeting with the Resistance leaders, but Raymond Aubrac. The same allegations were then insinuated in a book (Aubrac, Lyon 1943; first published by Albin Michel in 1997) written by a French journalist and historian, Gérard Chauvy. In 1997, the Aubracs, feeling outraged by such allegations and attempting to clear their names, submitted themselves to a “jury” of French historians set up by the left leaning Libération newspaper and led by Moulin’s secretary and biographer, Daniel Cordier. Their report dismissed the notion that the Aubracs were collaborators but noted inconsistencies in the Aubracs' accounts and a failure to explain why Raymond Aubrac alone was not moved to Paris like the others who were captured at Caluire, thus enabling his escape. Both the Aubracs, especially Lucie, remained bitter about what they perceived as unnecessarily hostile treatment. In his book Resistance and Betrayal: The Death and Life of the Greatest Hero of the French Resistance (2002), Patrick Marnham suggested that since Aubrac's overriding allegiance was to communism he would not have considered himself a traitor had he indeed betrayed Moulin, claiming that French Communists such as the Aubracs did at times betray non-Communists such as Moulin to the Gestapo.
In 1996, Aubrac published his autobiography Où la mémoire s'attarde ("Where the memory lingers").
In his later life, Aubrac made frequent visits to schools to educate the younger generation about the dangers of totalitarianism. He also sought to promote remembrance of the French Resistance.
Aubrac endorsed the Socialist Party's François Hollande for France's 2012 two-round presidential election, starting on April 22. Hollande said that he had met with Aubrac about three weeks before his death and Aubrac told him that he would be closely monitoring the election.
Aubrac was survived by three children (son Jean-Pierre, daughters Catherine and Élisabeth), ten grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. Ho Chi Minh, a close friend of Raymond Aubrac, became the godfather of the Aubracs' third child, daughter Élisabeth, when she was born in 1946.
- Grand-croix de la Légion d'honneur
- Croix de guerre 1939–1945
- Médaille de la Résistance avec rosette
- Chevalier du Mérite social
- Officier de l'Ordre Ouissam alaouite
- Ordre de l'Amitié de la République socialiste du Viêt Nam
Death, tributes and funeral
Aubrac died on 10 April 2012, aged 97, in the Val-de-Grâce military hospital in Paris, surrounded by his family. He had been hospitalized in recent days after suffering from fatigue. Lucie Aubrac died on 14 March 2007 at the age of 94. At the time of his death, he was the sole survivor of the group of eight Resistance leaders arrested in Caluire in June 1943.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a statement, said that Aubrac's 1943 escape from the Nazis had "become a legend in the history of the Resistance" and praised him and all Resistance members as "heroes of the shadows who saved France's honor, at a time when it seemed lost." Serge Klarsfeld, the president of the Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France, hailed Aubrac as the "last great actor and last great witness" of the French Resistance. " They (Raymond and Lucie Aubrac) were a legendary couple," Klarsfeld told BFM-TV. "They were exceptional people." François Hollande said in a statement, “In our darkest times, he was, with Lucie Aubrac, among the righteous, who found, in themselves and in the universal values of our Republic, the strength to resist Nazi barbarism.“
Aubrac was accorded a state funeral will full military honors. It was held on Monday, 16 April 2012, starting at 10am local time, in the main courtyard of the Hôtel national des Invalides in Paris, the very same place where Lucie Aubrac's funeral had taken place five years earlier. His flag-draped coffin was borne by ten members of the Republican Guard. President Nicolas Sarkozy presided over the ceremony. Three cabinet ministers—Gérard Longuet, Claude Guéant and Michel Mercier—also represented the government during the ceremony. Aubrac's three children, ten grandchildren, great-grandchildren, as well as several notable French politicians such as François Hollande, François Bayrou, Eva Joly and Bertrand Delanoë were also present. Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac (a member of the Free French Forces and France Libre based in London) and Jacques Vistel (president of the Fondation de la Résistance) delivered eulogies during the ceremony. Aubrac had said he wanted only ex-Resistance fighters to speak at his funeral. "Lucie and Raymond Aubrac have become a reference for all of those who identified with the legacy of the resistance," Crémieux-Brilhac, a 95-year-old ex-member of the Resistance, said in his eulogy. "Lucie and Raymond, from now on a mythic couple, continue to carry the torch of justice and hope," he added. Vistel hailed Raymond Aubrac for "committing himself to make France more just and the world more humane". "He is a monument to the part of our contemporary history (World War II) which is fading from our memories and that only strengthens the duty to remember it," said Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the 35-minute ceremony outside the main courtyard. As Aubrac's flag-draped coffin was carried away from the courtyard, a French Army choir sang a cappella the French Resistance anthem "Le Chant des Partisans".
Aubrac was later cremated on the same day with only family members present. His ashes were put beside those of Lucie Aubrac in the family tomb of the cemetery in the Burgundian village of Salornay-sur-Guye.
- "Raymond Aubrac". The Daily Telegraph (London). 11 April 2012.
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- "Raymond Aubrac dies at 97; French Resistance hero of World War II". Los Angeles Times. 12 April 2012.
- Langer, Emily (15 April 2012). "Raymond Aubrac, French Resistance leader, dies at 97". The Washington Post.
- "Raymond Aubrac: French Resistance leader whose wife daringly freed him from captivity". The Independent (London). 13 April 2012.
- Hugh Schofield (27 February 2012), Raymond Aubrac: How I tricked the Gestapo BBC News
- "French Resistance legend Aubrac dies at 97". AFP.
- "French Resistance figure Raymond Aubrac dead at 97". Associated Press.
- McNamara, Robert S.; Blight,, James G.; Brigham, Robert K.; Biersteker, Thomas J. (2000), Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy, PublicAffairs
- Jackson, Julian, Obituary: Lucie Aubrac March 16, 2007, guardian.co.uk. Retrieved March 2011
- "Hommage républicain au résistant Raymond Aubrac, "flambeau de la justice et de l'espérance"". AFP.
- Schofield, Hugh (2012-01-27). "Raymond Aubrac: How I tricked the Gestapo (with interview video)". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- "Raymond Aubrac, la disparition d'un héros de la Résistance". Libération. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2012-04-11.
- "Raymond Aubrac". London: The Daily Telegraph. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2012-04-11.