Thursday 19 January 2017

French Resistance propagandist dies

Published 10/04/2015 | 16:56

Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac hailed Britain's help in freeing occupied France (AP)
Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac hailed Britain's help in freeing occupied France (AP)

Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac, a Jewish member of the French Resistance in charge of propaganda during the Second World War, has died aged 98.

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He died at his home in Paris, said his son Michel Cremieux, without specifying the cause of death.

Cremieux-Brilhac lived history as a soldier and director of Free France wartime radio broadcasts from England.

Later, he wrote and spoke about history - helping to create La Documentation Francaise, France's state-run publishing house, and recounting his wartime experiences.

In his historical writings he hailed Britain's help in freeing occupied France.

He was born Jean-Louis Cremieux in the Paris suburb of Colombes, into a Jewish family that had lived in south-eastern France for centuries.

His code name "Brilhac" was added after he became a resistance fighter. He joined with a movement of anti-fascist intellectuals in France in the 1930s.

French president Francois Hollande's office said in a statement that he was a "hero" of the French fight against Nazism.

Captured by the Nazis and sent to Germany, Cremieux-Brilhac escaped and fled to the Soviet Union only to be held as a war prisoner.

The Nazi invasion of the USSR in 1941 led to Soviet co-operation with General Charles de Gaulle's expatriate Free France forces, and the resistance fighter was released to travel to London in September. He became a liaison officer with the Resistance-supporting BBC - earning his code name.

"After 15 months without a day of freedom, he joined the Free French in London. That's when Jean-Louis Cremieux became 'Brilhac' - a name that symbolises his resistance to Nazism and would never leave him," the defence ministry said in a statement.

The presidential palace said he was one of the first people to speak out about the Nazi gas chambers.

As a historian, Cremieux-Brilhac broke with "a certain Gaullist tradition by which France freed itself by its own forces", said Laurent Theis, Cremieux-Brilhac's publisher with Editions Perrin.

"He underlined the decisive contribution of Great Britain and the debt that our country had towards it."

At a November 2012 colloquium, Cremieux-Brilhac recounted his efforts in the communication campaigns out of England, and how Resistance giant Jean Moulin in 1942 called on him to set up a secret service that regularly parachuted documents like "a little sabotage manual" - with the covers made to look like train schedules or birthday-wish books - into occupied France.

"In the tumult of history, he lived an exemplary life of commitment and duty," the presidential statement said.

Cremieux-Brilhac is survived by three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, his son said.

A funeral ceremony attended by Mr Hollande is expected to take place on Wednesday at France's Invalides military museum.

Press Association

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