Lucie Aubrac/Bernard

1912-2007 • France

Communist • Resistance • Anti-racist

Lucie Bernard, born in the suburbs of south-eastern Paris, was the daughter of a gardener badly wounded in the First World War. She attributed her early passionate pacifism to her hatred of the damage war brings.

In the 1930s she joined the young Communists and after 1940 became a resistance fighter in the Unoccupied Zone while working as a teacher. A film was made of the dramatic escape from the Gestapo that she organised for her husband in 1943, after which her husband adopted the pseudonym Aubrac they both changed their names to in 1950.

Lucie Bernard initially aimed to become a primary school teacher. But after securing a rare competitive scholarship she rejected the dormitory living and uniforms required and left home, drawn to studying history and wider political ideas.

She joined the International Youth Circle of Quakers in the early 1930s. It used to meet in Rue Guy-de-la-Brosse.

In 1933, after Hitler came to power in Germany, the French section of the Society of Friends set up an International Refugee Aid society in Rue Rataud to help refugees from Germany, and later from Spain.

This was probably how Bernard found out in 1935 that she could get cheap lodgings in an attic room in the same building as the Refugee Aid society, just to the south of the Sorbonne. She kept renting the room until 1939.

While still attending the Quaker Youth Circle meetings, in 1932 Bernard/Aubrac also joined the Young Communists. They appeared to her at the time as the most active and committed anti-militarists.

Bernard was a militant and courageous seller of the bi-monthly Avant-Garde young communist publication. In the 1930s its sellers were often attacked by members of the numerous fascist leagues. In 1935 she was asked by the Communist Party to sit on its Paris regional committee and invited (but declined) to go to the Lenin School in Moscow to be trained as a future leader.

Fascists were marching in Paris in the 1930s, and would beat up Communist Party and other left newspaper sellers if they were not defended by their comrades

In 1936 Bernard/Aubrac was helping make ends meet by working in a nursery school in Rue Victor Cousin next to the Sorbonne. She also heard a speech by the young radical politician, Jean Zay, and was so impressed that she cycled down to get involved in his re-election campaign in the Loiret in 1936.

Graduating from the Sorbonne in 1938 she was nominated to teach in a secondary school in Strasbourg. In December 1939, she married the son of wealthy Jewish shop owners, Raymond Samuel, a young engineer who had been called up into the army where he was also based in Strasbourg.

Raymond Samuel (Aubrac) (1914-2012) married Lucie in 1939 and was rescued from prison by her three times. He was a leader of the resistance in the Southern Zone. After the war he was close to the PCF and the Citizens Movement

By July 1940 Raymond was a German prisoner of war but Lucie Samuel helped him escape, with both of them travelling to Lyon in the unoccupied zone of France. That autumn with Emmanuel d’Astier they created a resistance group called ‘The Last Column‘ and started producing an underground paper called Libération. It aimed to break the predominant apathy towards the German occupation shared in the Southern Zone.

In the summer of 1942 Libération Sud asked Raymond to lead its new military wing. In March 1943 he was arrested by French police, along with other local resistance leaders. Lucie then went to the prosecutor pretending to be an agent of De Gaulle. She warned him that he would be a dead man if Raymond (then François Vallet) was not released. He was let out shortly afterwards and Raymond and Lucie then organised the escape of the other resistance fighters when they were being transferred to hospital.

In June 1943 Raymond was arrested again in Lyon with Jean Moulin and eight other national resistance leaders. This time the arrest was by the Gestapo, headed at the time by Klaus Barbie.*

*Barbie, known as the ‘Butcher of Lyon’, had personally tortured French resistance fighters. The US helped him escape to Bolivia after the war, where in 1980 he was implicated in the 1979 Garcia Meza fascist coup d’état. After the Junta was forced out of power in 1982, Barbie was extradited to France, tried and convicted of crimes against humanity. His lawyer maliciously used the trial to accuse Raymond Aubrac of being the agent who had denounced Moulin, an accusation only finally declared false in the European Court of Human Rights in 2004. Barbie finally died of cancer in prison in 1991.

Courageously, Lucie Aubrac went to see Barbie personally and persuaded him that she had to marry Raymond (now Claude Ermelin) before he was executed because she was six months pregnant by him. Allowed to leave the Prison Montluc for the marriage Lucie organised an attack on prison wagon, killing five guards and rescuing Raymond and another ten resistance fighters.

After several months in hiding, on February 8 1944 the family arrived in London on one of the special planes that moved at night between France and England. Lucie gave birth to her daughter twelve days later.

Lucie Aubrac’s wartime exploits were made into a film in 1997

In October 1944 Aubrac was nominated to the Provisional Consultative Assembly as one of just 12 women out of 248 delegates. Based in Algiers from November 1943 to July 25 1944, after the liberation of France its second series of sessions were held at the Luxembourg Palace in Rue Vaugirard from November 7 1944 to August 3 1945.

Aubrac first staying on getting back to Paris with her two children at the Hotel Pont Royal in the Rue Montalembert. Her husband Raymond Aubrac was Commissioner in charge of Marseilles, stirring up opposition by requisitioning 15 collaborationist companies between September 10 and October 5 1944.

From January 1945 until the spring of 1946, the reunited family lived in a sequestered flat in Rue Marbeuf. At this time, Raymond, sacked for his left views as Marseille Commissioner, was now responsible for the national de-mining programme, while Lucie was active in the Consultative Assembly.

Aubrac immediately launched a weekly paper Privilèges des femmes to inform French women of their new rights. After 13 issues it folded, judged too communist by the socialists and not communist enough by the PCF.

From March to July 1945 she was editor of La Femme (Woman), the weekly paper of the Femmes de la Libération (FLN) before her proximity to the PCF saw her removed.

By December 1945 La Femme had stopped referring to the militancy of women in the resistance and was reinforcing a woman’s traditional role

From 1945 to 1947 Lucie Aubrac made several attempts to join the Communist Party – but despite the support of several leading Communists including André Marty each was rejected.

Despite this, In October 1946 she stood for election as a deputy in the SaôneetLoire department on the list of Communists, republicans and resistance fighters led by the Communist Waldeck-Rochet. She was only put in third place by the PCF, with only the first two getting enough votes to be elected as deputies.

Aubrac was still considered too ‘indisciplined’ and her first book about the resistance movement was considered to have not made enough about the role of the PCF. She was criticised for not submitting everything she wrote to the Party before publishing it.

In November 1946 she was resinstated as a teacher and given a post in the Lycée Jacques-Decour in Avenue Trudaine, where she worked for most of the next ten years. It was the only lycée in France renamed in honour of a resistant after the occupation.

Despite the PCF’s reticence about Lucie, her husband was an open supporter of many Communist policies. When Ho Chi Minh came to Paris to follow the negotiations with the government, he stayed at their new house and became god-father to their daughter Elisabeth.

Ho Chi Minh stayed with the Aubracs for six weeks in August and September 1946 while following the negotiations led by Pham Van Dong on the future of Indochina. He is photographed here with new baby Elisabeth and Lucie Aubrac by l’Humanité on September 16 1946.

Campaigning against France resuming its colonial policies in IndoChina and elsewhere, In 1948 Lucie and Raymond jointly founded Le Mouvement pour la Paix (Peace Movement).

Became a major anti-racist campaigner.

Lucie Aubrac in her 90s

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Ahmed Ben Bella

1916-2012 • Algeria

Anti-Colonialism • FLN • Human Rights

Ahmed Ben Bella was radicalised by the Algerian massacres of May 8 1945. This is a key date. It marked the end of the Second World War in Europe and was celebrated with victory marches all over Algeria. 

Ben Bella had volunteered to fight the Germans in 1939. Serving in the French Moroccan 5th regiment as part of the French expeditionary army he was decorated by De Gaulle after the April 1944 battle of Monte Cassino. 

On 7 March 1944 De Gaulle’s French National Liberation Committee had agreed that 62,000 Muslim Algerian soldiers should be given French citizenship and allowed to vote. On 8 May 1945 the French colonial authorities agreed that marches could go ahead, but on condition that only French flags were waved. 

Massacre of up to 30,000 Algerians on 8 May 1945

At Sétif, a young man carrying an Algerian flag was shot dead by a policeman. The demonstrators then turned on the police and local Europeans. Gunfire takes place at Guelma and Kherrata and reprisals supported by De Gaulle then take place over the following two weeks. By the end of May 1945 100 European-origin people and somewhere between 3,000 and 30,000 Algerians were dead. 

Ben Bella then joined Messali Hadj’s Parti du peuple algérien and in 1947 the Organisation spéciale, the armed section of Hadj’s nationalist movement. In May 1950 he was arrested in Algiers and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for a bank robbery. 


In April 1952 Ben Bella escaped from his Algerian prison and got to Marseille and then Paris, where he was hidden in an attic in the Rue Rochechouart. By 1953 he had got to the recently established Egyptian republic via Switzerland. He was then responsible for supplying arms to the FLN, flying frequently from Egypt to Italy, Spain and Morocco. 

Ben Bella and four other FLN leaders arrested after their plane was intercepted on October 22 1956

Twice he narrowly escaped bombs planted by the French Secret Service. Finally, on 22 October 1956, the French air force forced a regular Air Atlas-Air Maroc airliner carrying Ben Bella and four other FLN leaders flying from Morocco to Tunisia to divert to Algiers. In Morocco anti-French protests led to the deaths of 60 Europeans. 

Inside the Prison de la Sante where Ben Bella experienced the worst conditions of his 6 years in jail

Ben Bella and the four other political leaders of the FLN were then taken to Paris and jailed in the La Santé prison for the two and a half year. While he was there several FLN fighters were guillotined on the prison’s scaffold. 

Ben Bella and Che Guevera at Algiers airport in 1964

Elected president of Algeria in 1963, Ben Bella made Algeria a global centre for Third World socialism. He experimented in self-managed cooperative businesses and promoted revolutionary movements. 

The new Algerian president and his defence minister Boumediene who would imprison Bell Bella in 1965

Ben Bella was overthrown in June 1965 by his defence minister, Houari Boumédiène. Held a prisoner until 1980 he then left Algeria and lived in Switzerland from 1983 to 1990. Back in Algeria his new political party was banned in 1997. 

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Honoré Daumier

1808-1879 • France

Artist • Caricaturist • Human Rights

Master of French political caricatures he was a democrat, often close to the working class, jailed for six months in the Sainte-Pélagie prison under Louis-Philippe in 1832.

Daumier’s cartoon: ‘Past, Present and Future’ depicting Louis-Philippe’s size and greed reflected continuous republican criticism and occasional insurrections

Imprisonment did not stop his attacks on the Orleans regime. In 1835 he published his most famous sketch of the Massacre of Rue Transnonain.

Daumier sketched the 14 April 1834 massacre of men, women and children at 12 rue Transnonain by Louis-Philippe’s troops

He was very sympathetic to the Commune. where he belonged to the Artists’ Federal Committee, elected on April 17 1871 where, as representative of the Beaux-Arts section, opposed Courbet‘s proposal to knock down the Vendome column.

For much of his working life Daumier submitted cartoons to the Le Charivari  (Hullabaloo) journal in existence from 1832 to 1893, whose editorial offices were at 16 Rue du Croissant.

From 1869 until his death he lived at No. 42, Rue Rochechouart, an address that became still more significant for the left in 1889, since it was there that the Second International was founded.

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Geneviève De Gaulle-Anthonioz

1920 – 2002 • France

Human rights • Resistance Activist

Resistance activist and survivor of Ravensbruck she became a leading campaigner against poverty and was president of the ATD Charity from 1964 to 1998;

A commemorative plaque was placed at 4 rue Michelet on International Women’s Day.

On 27 May 2015 her empty coffin, along with those of Germaine Tillion, Jean Zay and Pierre Brossolette was placed in the Panthéon to honour four resistance fighters.

De-Gaulle Anthonioz was the first woman to be awareded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, Germaine Tillion was the second.

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Frantz Fanon

1925 – 1961 • Martinique

Anti-colonialism • Human rights • Philosophy • Psychiatry

Frantz Fanon a philosopher and psychiatrist who charted the psychological, sociological and philosophical damage of colonisation

He joined the French Army fighting Vichy and the Nazis in 1943, and then, having witnessed the racism of the French in Algeria, studied psychiatry in France. From 1954 he supported the Algerians in their war of independence.

On 19 September 1956 he spoke at a Conference on the ‘Crisis of Black-African Culture’ organised by the Présence africaine journal. This was held in the Descartes ampitheatre of the Sorbonne. Along with Fanon, other speakers included Aimé Césaire and other international speakers such as Dos Santos and Richard Wright.

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Daniel Guérin

1904 -1988 • France

Human rights • Libertarian communism

Guérin joined Pierre Monatte‘s revolutionary syndicalist group in 1930. He rejoined the SFIO in October 1935 to work with Marceau Pivert ‘Left Revolutionary’ tendency. In 1937 he organised a meeting opposing colonial repression with speakers from Algeria, Morocco, Indochina and Tunisia ( Habib Bourguiba ).

In February and March 1939 Guérin corresponded with Trotsky, although he disagreed with the declaration of the Fourth International.

In September 1960 Guérin and his wife Anne were among the first signatories of the ‘121 Call’ by artists, musicians and writers to recognise the Algerian war as a legitimate struggle for independence, demanding conscientious objectors be supported. Other signatories included De Beauvoir, Sartre, Sagan, Boulez, Rosmer, Breton, Truffaut, Lefebvre and Signoret.

in 1963 he wrote a report for Ben Bella on workers’ control in Algerian businsses, and after Ben Bella was overthrown in June 1965 he helped found a committee defending him and other victims of the subsequent repression.

In 1965 he published a book on Anarchism that sold thousands

Having written about his sexuality in the 1950s, in 1968 he became known as the ‘grand-father’ of the gay rights movement in France.

In 1969 he joined the Libertarian Communist Movement just founded by Georges Fontenis. In the 1970s he increasingly was interested by the ideas of Rosa Luxemburg.

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Stéphane Hessel

1917 – 2013 • Germany

Human rights • Resistance

Stéphane Hessel lived in Paris from 1924 and was naturalised French in 1937.

A French and United Nations diplomat for 40 years, he was a founder of the socialist think-tank, the Jean-Moulin Club, close to Pierre Mendès France. Campaigner for the regularisation of migrant workers he joined the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in 2009 and his 2010 call for a ‘peaceful insurrection’ against liberalism sold half a million copies.

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Alexandre Ledru-Rollin

1897 – 1874 • France

Republican • Universal suffrage • Second Republic

A lawyer and key figure in the left republican resistance to King Louis-Philippe in 1846-1848. His call for universal male suffrage is enacted under the Second Republic. He lived in exile from 1849 to 1871.

George Sand (on the left in this critical cartoon) did write several of Ledru-Rollin’s ministerial directives between March and May 1848

  • 10 rue François Miron: Birthplace of Ledru-Rollin
  • 11 rue des Bourdonnais: Ledru-Rollin, Blanc, Cavaignac, Arago and Flocon set up the office of the republican democratic journal La Réforme at this address on 29 July 1843. On 24 February 1848 this is the headquarters of the left republicans, who draw up a left list here to become members of the Provisional Government.
  • 14 Rue Davy: In 1847 Ledru-Rollin attends secret meetings with other republicans including Blanqui, Caussidière and Barbès. The police spy on the meeting place after being given information by an informer, but Ledru-Rollin narrowly misses being arrested.
  • Palais Royal garden: This is renamed the Palais National on 26 February 1848, and the Rights of Man club sets up there. Ledru-Rollin, Arago, Blanc, Flocon and Albert are involved as are Lamartine and others.
  • 4 rue Serpente: Ledru-Rollin’s home in 1848 when he was Minister of the Interior in the provisional government.
  • Paris Town Hall, 10 place de l’ Hôtel de Ville: On May 15 1848 Ledru-Rollin and Lamartine give the orders to the National Guard to evict the demonstrators, who included virtually all those left republicans they had worked with over the previous ten years, from the Town Hall.Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle
  • 81 Avenue Denfert-Rochereau: Ledru-Rollin’s home while he was organising the first elections using universal male suffrage in 1848.
  • 4 Rue de Tournon: in 1848 the Hôtel  de Montmorency was the town house where both Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin stayed in the centre of Paris, three minutes walk to the Luxembourg Palace. George Sand lived with her son just round the corner in the Rue de Condé while she worked for Ledru-Rollin between March and May 1848.
  • Palais du Luxembourg
  • 270-292, Rue Saint-Martin. Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. After the vicious repression of the demonstration that turned into a riot of 13 June 1849 with cavalry charges at the demonstrators and seven being killed at the barricade at No. 261, in a protest against French troops being sent against the Roman Republic, Ledru-Rollin, Raspail, Arago and Considerant met at the Conservatoire to decide their next steps.

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L’abbé Pierre / Henri Grouès

1912 – 2007 • France

Resistance • Christian socialism • Human rights

Using his wartime pseudonym, L’abbé Pierre, the Catholic priest Henri Grouès helped establish the resistance movement in the Vercors during the Second World War. In 1949, while he was a deputy (from 1945 to 1951 and part of a Christian socialist parliamentary grouping) he established the Emmaüs international charity.

Grouès campaigned for the right of conscientious objectors to refuse to fight in Algeria and from 1954 became known as a tireless campaigner against poverty and homelessness.

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Victor Schoelcher

1804 – 1893 • France

Human rights • Anti-slavery campaigner • Republican

This revolutionary republican campaigner against slavery was born in Paris in what was then the 5th arrondisement and is now in the 10th, at 60 Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis.

His father was a wealthy owner of a porcelain factory who was well able to afford to send his son to the Lycée Condorcet that opened in 1803 in what is now 8 Rue du Havre, the monastery built just before the Revolution in the 1780s. When Schoelcher was there it changed its name. It had been called the Lycée impérial Bonaparte from 1805 to 1815 and then became the Collège royal de Bourbon from 1815 until February 1848.

As a wealthy young man Schoelcher entered the circles where got to know George Sand, Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt. In 1828 his father sent him off to represent the business in Mexico and the United States and then to Cuba in 1829 where he found slavery absolutely abhorrent.

Returning to France in 1830 Schoelcher became a journalist and art critic and well as a lifelong campaigner against slavery. In 1832 he sold the business he inherited from his father to enable him to concentrate on journalism and politics.

In 1833 his first book, On the slavery of Black people and Colonial Law was an indictment of slavery and called for its abolition. It also argued that although the workers had made the 1830 Revolution, they were being deprived of their rights.

In 1834 he was one of a large number of young republicans who were jailed at Sainte-Pélagie prison after the Rue Transonain massacre in April.

Elected to the National Assembly after the 1848 February Revolution he drafted the bill abolishing slavery.

On December 3 1851 he went to the barricade at the corner of the then Rue Sainte-Marguerite (now Rue Trousseau) with the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. He and other deputies such as Alphonse Baudin wanted to strengthen the mobilsation of workers protesting Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’État of the previous day.

Schoelcher then led several of the unarmed deputies out to talk with the soliders sent to suppress the revolt. Alphonse Baduin, jumped up to the top of barricade with a flag and was immediately shot dead.

Exiled from 1851 to 1870 he later wrote a biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

After his return to France in 1870 he was elected to the National Assembly and sat on the extreme left of the deputies in Versaillais during the Commune. In 1875 he was elected a senator for life.

Schoelcher photographed by Nadar in the 1870s

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Jean Zay


Radical • Education • Popular Front • Assassination

There are 126 schools in France named after Jean Zay. But few now know much about the 40-year-old Radical Party Jewish deputy who became Minister of Education and Fine Arts in Blum‘s Popular Front government of 1936, and kept that position until 1939.

First elected a deputy to the National Assembly for his home town of Orleans in 1931, from 1934 to 1937 Zay lived in the Rue de Verneuil, and then, in the Rue de Bourgogne until his resignation to join the Army on September 2 1939.

After four years a prisoner of the Petain government, he was murdered by revengeful score-settling anti-Semitic Petainist French uniformed Milice exactly two weeks after D-Day in June 1944.

His body was eventually found in 1946 in a ravine where the Milice had shot and hid him. From 1948 to 2015 he was buried in Orléans cemetery and then, under the Hollande presidency, his remains were placed in the Pantheon with three others who had opposed the Vichy Government.

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