The Resistance in the Pantheon

Alan Clinton considers the legendary Resistance fighter Jean Moulin, the memory of whose fate still makes waves in France today.

Fifty years ago, on June 21st, 1945 a gang of gestapo policemen led by the infamous Klaus Barbie raided a doctor's surgery at Caluire on the northern outskirts of Lyons. Among captured Resistance leaders they identified the president of the recently established CNR, the National Resistance Council and personal representative of General de Gaulle, Jean Moulin. Moulin was led away to be horribly tortured and he died, probably on July 8th on a train bound for Berlin. His sister Laure said that his death came 'at the limits of human suffering, without revealing a single secret, and he knew them all'.

A frequently reproduced photograph shows Moulin for all the world like the prototype clandestine figure, with a scarf around his neck, and casting a shadow on the wall behind. This image – and his martyrdom – have no doubt contributed to his special reputation. His are the only remains added to the Pantheon in recent years, to lie there alongside those of Lazare Carnot, Victor Hugo and Jean Jaures. At the special ceremony in December 1964 to place them there, his former chief, the then President de Gaulle, officiated. In a high flown address, the Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux seemed to call out across the years to 'the leader of the people of the night' who followed in the footsteps of the soldiers of the French Revolution, and showed 'the true face of France'.

There were many who were more involved in direct action against repression and occupation. There were even some who showed similar fortitude in the face of inhuman torture. Yet Moulin also demonstrated skills as agent for, and negotiator between, faction-ridden Resistance organisations. He was, in the wods of his first biographer, Henri Michel, 'the unifier', the one who brought together the scattered forces to create a movement. Thereafter he came to be seen as the one person who stood out against all the political and personal back-biting of the time.

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