Europe

Arsène Tchakarian: French Resistance fighter dies aged 101

Arsène Tchakarian, 2011 file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption Arsène Tchakarian took part in anti-Nazi sabotage and ambushes

The last member of an immigrant group who fought the Nazis for the French Resistance has died aged 101.

Arsène Tchakarian escaped a Nazi crackdown in which 22 of the group's fighters were shot by the German occupation forces in Paris in 1944.

He was awarded France's highest honour.

President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that Tchakarian, an ethnic Armenian, was "a hero of the Resistance and tireless witness whose voice resonated strongly to the very end".

Tchakarian only became a French citizen in 1958. He was granted several medals for gallantry, including the prestigious Legion of Honour in 2012.

How did he resist?

Tchakarian carried out attacks alongside Jews and other immigrant guerrillas against the Nazis.

His group was led by a fellow Armenian, Missak Manouchian, who was among those shot by firing squad in February 1944.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Photo shows Manouchian (3rd from L) with seven comrades shortly before they were shot in 1944

Both Tchakarian and Manouchian were communists, like many of the partisans who resisted the Nazi occupation of Europe.

The collaborationist French Vichy regime issued a "red poster" in February 1944 after the execution of Manouchian and his comrades, intended to convince the public that the fighters were just a foreign criminal gang.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The infamous Vichy "red poster" denouncing Manouchian's group

Tchakarian managed to flee to Bordeaux, where he remained active in the Resistance until France was liberated in August 1944.

'Because we loved France'

After the war Tchakarian said the guerrillas were "not heroes", but had "resisted because we could do it: we didn't have families or jobs.

"And we resisted because we loved France. It had adopted us."

In later life he campaigned to get the Ottoman Turkish massacres of Armenians during World War One recognised internationally as genocide.

Read more on the French Resistance:

In 2014, the then French President, François Hollande, inaugurated a Missak Manouchian park in the Armenian capital Yerevan, with his Armenian counterpart at the time, Serzh Sargsyan.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption In 2014 former French President Hollande (R) honoured Manouchian in Yerevan