Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin (June 20, 1899July 8, 1943) was a high-profile member of the French Resistance during World War II. [ [] "BBC: Jean Moulin (1899 - 1943)'] He is remembered today as an emblem of the Resistance primarily due to his courage and death at the hands of the Germans.

Before the war

Moulin was born in Béziers, France, and enlisted in the French Army in 1918. After the war, he resumed his studies and obtained a degree in law in 1924. He then entered the prefectural administration as "chef de cabinet" to the deputy of Savoie in 1922, then as "sous préfet" of Albertville, from 1925 to 1930. He was France's youngest "sous préfet" at the time, and was also the youngest "préfet" in 1930.

He married Marguerite Cerruti in September 1926, but the couple divorced in 1928.

In 1930, he was the "sous préfet" of Châteaulin. During that time, he also drew political cartoons in the newspaper "Le Rire", under the pseudonym "Romanin". He also became an illustrator for the poet Tristan Corbière's books, among others he made an etching for "La Pastorale de Conlie", a book about the camp of Conlie where many Breton soldiers died in 1870. He also made friends with the Breton poets Saint-Pol-Roux in Camaret and Max Jacob in Quimper.

He became France's youngest "préfet" in the Aveyron "département", in the commune of Rodez, in January 1937.

During the Spanish Civil War, some believe he supplied arms from the Soviet Union to Spain. A more commonly accepted version of events is that he supplied French planes to the anti-fascist forces from his place within the Aviation Ministry.

The Resistance

In 1939 Moulin was appointed "préfet" of the Eure-et-Loir "département". The Germans arrested him in June 1940 because he refused to sign a German document that falsely blamed Senegalese French Army troops for civilian . In prison, he attempted suicide by cutting his throat with a piece of broken glass. This left him with a scar that he would often hide with a scarf — the image of Jean Moulin remembered nowadays.

In November 1940, the Vichy government ordered all préfets to dismiss left-wing elected mayors of towns and villages. When Moulin refused, he was himself removed from office. He then lived in Saint-Andiol (Bouches-du-Rhône), and joined the resistance. Moulin reached London in September 1941 under the name "Joseph Jean Mercier", and met General Charles de Gaulle, who asked him to unify the various resistance groups. On January 1, 1942, he parachuted into the Alpilles. Under the codenames "Rex" and "Max", he met with the leaders of the resistance groups:

*Henri Frenay ("Combat")
*Emmanuel d'Astier ("Libération")
*Jean-Pierre Lévy ("Franc-Tireur")
*Pierre Villon ("Front National", not to be confused with the present-day far-right French political party Front National)
*Pierre Brossolette ("Comité d'Action Socialiste")

In his work in the resistance, he was assisted by his private administrative assistant Laure Diebold.

In February 1943, Moulin went back to London, accompanied by Charles Delestraint, head of the new "armée secrète" group. He left on March 21, 1943 with orders to form the Conseil National de la Résistance (CNR), a difficult task since each resistance movement wanted to keep its independence. The first meeting of the CNR took place in Paris on May 27, 1943.

Jean Moulin was arrested June 21, 1943 in Caluire-et-Cuire (Rhône), a suburb of Lyon, in the home of Doctor Frédéric Dugoujon, where a meeting with most of the resistance leaders was taking place. Interrogated in Lyon by Klaus Barbie, head of the Gestapo there, and later in Paris, he never revealed anything to his captors. He eventually died near Metz, probably due to injuries suffered either during the torture itself or in a suicide attempt, as Barbie alleged. Moulin's biographer, Patrick Marnham, supports the latter explanation, though it is widely believed that Barbie personally beat Moulin to death [ James V. Milano, Patrick Brogan. Soldiers, Spies, and the Rat Line : America's Undeclared War Against the Soviets. Potomac Books; 2000, p202] .

Controversy: Who betrayed Moulin?

René Hardy was caught and released by the Gestapo. They followed him when he came to the meeting at the doctor's house in Caluire, thus leading the Germans to Jean Moulin. Some believe that this was a deliberate act of treason; others think René Hardy was simply reckless.

Two trials were unable to determine that René Hardy was a traitor, and both concluded that he was innocent.

A recent TV film about the life and death of Jean Moulin depicted René Hardy collaborating with the Gestapo, thus reviving the controversy. The Hardy family attempted to bring a lawsuit against the producers of the movie.

There have been many allegations of Communism in the post war years, because some of Moulin's friends were Communists. While these allegations continue, no hard evidence has ever backed up this claim. As préfet, Moulin even ordered the repression of Communist 'agitators' and went so far as to have police keep some under surveillance (Marnham's "The Death of Jean Moulin, Biography of a Ghost", p104).

Marnham looked into the allegations that Moulin was likely to have been a Communist but at each turn finds no evidence to support the accusation (though members of the party could easily have seen him as a 'fellow traveler' due to his Communist friends and support for the anti-fascist forces in Spain).

It has also been suggested, principally in Marnham's biography, that Moulin was betrayed by Communists. Marnham specifically points the finger at Raymond Aubrac and possibly at his wife, Lucie Aubrac. He makes the case that Communists did at times betray non-Communists to the Gestapo and that Aubrac has been linked to harsh actions during the purge of collaborators after the war. However, Marnham does not provide evidence to support his theory, a fact which does little to distinguish it from many other theories on this subject.

To counteract the number of baseless (if not downright fictional) accusations leveled at Moulin, his personal secretary during the war, Daniel Cordier, has written an ambitious biography of his former patron. In what has been termed 'The Cordier Revolution', he has insisted on basing his research on paperwork and other verifiable evidence rather than allow Resistance history to become, as Napoleon might have termed it, 'a set of lies agreed upon'. This decision has also been controversial in that it is sometimes seen as denying the living Resistants the right to be the main witnesses to their own history, instead allowing that history to speak for itself.

The legend

Moulin was initially buried in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. His ashes were later transferred to The Panthéon on December 19 1964. The speech given by André Malraux, writer and minister of the Republic, upon the transfer of his ashes is one of the most famous speeches in French history.

Today, Jean Moulin is used in French education to illustrate civic virtues, moral rectitude and patriotism. He is a symbol of the Resistance. Many schools and a university (Lyon III), as well as innumerable streets and squares, have been named after him, and the Musée Jean Moulin commemorates his life and the Resistance.


Alan Clinton 'Jean Moulin 1899-1943 : The French Resistance and the Republic' Palgrave, 2002
*Patrick Marnham. "Jean Moulin." John Murray: New York, 2000.
*John F. Sweets. "The Politics of Resistance in France, 1940-1944". "A History Of The Mouvements Unis De La Résistance". Northern Illinois University Press: De Kalb, 1976. ISBN 0-87580-061-0
*Marguerite Storck-Cerruty. "J'étais la femme de Jean Moulin".Régine Desforges: Paris, 1977. [Avec lettre-préface de Robert Aron, de l'Académie française] . ISBN 2-901-98074-0
*Laure Moulin. "Jean Moulin". Presses de la Cité: Paris, 1982. [En préface le discours de André Malraux] . ISBN 2-258-01120-5
*René Hardy. "Derniers mots". "Mémoires". Fayard: Paris, 1984. ISBN 2-213-01320-9
*Henri Noguères."La vérité aura le dernier mot". Seuil: Paris, 1985 ISBN 2-02-008683-2
*Jacques Baynac. "Les secrets de l'affaire Jean Moulin". "Archives Inédites Sur La Résistance". "Contexte, Causes Et Circonstances". Seuil: Paris, 1998. ISBN 2-02-033164-0
*Pierre Péan. "Vies et morts de Jean Moulin". Fayard: Paris, 1998. ISBN 2-213-60257-3
*Daniel Cordier. "Jean Moulin". "La République des catacombes". Gallimard: Paris, 1999. ISBN 2-07-074312-8

External links

* [ Jean Moulin and the French Resistance] (English)
* [ Malraux's speech during Jean Moulin's transfer to the Panthéon] (French)
* [ Brief list of important dates in the life of Jean Moulin] (English)
* [ Son of Béziers and leader of the French resistance in WWII] (English)
* [ Short film about Jean Moulin] (English)

ee also

* Lucie Aubrac
* Le Rire
* Musée Jean Moulin

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