French WWII resistance hero Raymond Aubrac dies aged 97

 

Raymond Aubrac spoke to the BBC's Hugh Schofield in January this year

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One of the leading figures of the French resistance against the Nazis, Raymond Aubrac, has died aged 97, his family says.

His daughter said he had died at Val de Grace military hospital in Paris on Tuesday evening.

Raymond Aubrac and his late wife Lucie became important members of Jean Moulin's underground Resistance movement in 1942.

Aubrac was arrested in June 1943 with Moulin, who died after torture.

In a recent BBC interview, he described how their arrests by the Gestapo at a doctor's surgery in the suburb of Caluire in Lyon had come as "a shock but not a surprise".

Jean Moulin, who had been sent by Gen Charles de Gaulle to organise the underground resistance to Nazi occupation, was tortured, taken to Paris and later died on a train to Berlin.

Start Quote

His escape, thanks to the courage of his wife Lucie Aubrac, has entered into the legend of Resistance history”

End Quote Nicolas Sarkozy French President

But Raymond Aubrac escaped when a group of fighters including his wife attacked a lorry moving him and other members of the Resistance from jail in Lyon.

Born as Raymond Samuel in 1914, Aubrac was Jewish.

He studied engineering and married Lucie Bernard after war broke out. After his escape from jail, the couple reached London in February 1944.

Their story and their Resistance work with Jean Moulin became legendary in France and the couple gave a number of talks to schools and colleges about their experience.

After France was liberated, Aubrac was given the task of supervising reconstruction efforts in the port city of Marseille. From 1964-75 he served as a director at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

Raymond Aubrac (C) with Lucie and President Chirac in March 2000 Raymond and Lucie Aubrac with President Chirac (R) in March 2000

He twice gave evidence after the war against Rene Hardy, a fellow Resistance member who was accused of betraying his colleagues but was later acquitted.

In 2010, he travelled to London with President Nicolas Sarkozy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Gen de Gaulle's appeal to the French people after the country had fallen to the Nazis.

Raymond Aubrac remained politically active until he died and gave his backing to Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande.

In tribute, President Sarkozy described him as an "heroic figure" whose "escape, thanks to the courage of his wife Lucie Aubrac, has entered into the legend of Resistance history".

Centrist presidential candidate Francois Bayrou praised him as a "major emblematic figure".

 

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