Lucie Samuel, better known as Lucie Aubrac, was born on 29 June 1912. A history teacher in peacetime, Lucie became a leading member of the French Resistance.
In 1939, Lucie married Raymond Aubrac and after the Nazis occupied France in 1940 the couple joined the Resistance. In 1941, the Aubrac’s group sabotaged the train stations at Perpignan and Cannes, and distributed thousands of anti-Nazi flyers.
Despite harassment and threats from the Nazis, the Aubracs published an underground newspaper, Libération. With the help of local printers and trade-unionists, 10,000 copies of Libération were produced and distributed in July 1941, bringing news and hope to the French people; a reminder that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.
In March 1943, the Gestapo arrested Raymond. In May, they released him, only to arrest him again in June. With Raymond sentenced to death, Lucie concocted an audacious escape plan.
Under French law, engaged couples were allowed to marry if one of them was soon to die. Therefore, Lucie claimed that Raymond was her fiancé. She was pregnant at the time, carrying her second child (of three).
Lucie informed the Nazis that Raymond’s name was “Ermelin” (one of his many aliases) and that he had been caught in a raid while innocently visiting a doctor. She claimed that she was unmarried and that Raymond was the father of her expected child.
Furthermore, Lucie pleaded with the Gestapo that they should allow Raymond to marry her before his execution. The Gestapo believed her story and granted her wish.
Later, after the ‘marriage’ ceremony, as the Gestapo escorted Raymond back to his prison the local Resistance executed Lucie’s plan. In cars, they ambushed the prison lorry and liberated fifteen prisoners. In the melee, Lucie freed Raymond and the couple escaped.
In 1944, Lucie was the first woman to sit in a French parliamentary assembly and in 1945 she published a short history of the French Resistance.
Outwitting the Gestapo, a semi-fictional version of Lucie’s wartime diaries, followed in 1984. Lucie published her book after notorious psychopath, Klaus Barbie ‘The Butcher of Leon’ claimed that Raymond had betrayed the Resistance after his arrest.
Undoubtedly, there were factions and conflicts within the Resistance, particularly between the Gaullists and the Communists. As a result of these conflicts, betrayals did occur. However, when seeking the truth it is difficult to place great faith in a psychopath, particularly one who had reason to hate the Aubracs.
In support of the Aubracs, twenty leading Resistance survivors published a letter, condemning the accusations. Voluntarily, the Aubracs appeared before a panel of leading French historians. After examining the case, the historians concluded that Raymond was not a traitor.
To date, the Aubracs’ story has featured in two films – Boulevard des hirondelles, 1992, and Lucie Aubrac, 1997. While, in 1996, Lucie was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government for her heroism during the Second World War.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a statement after Raymond’s death in 2012, said that Raymond’s escape from the Nazis had “become a legend in the history of the Resistance” and praised him and all Resistance members as “heroes of the shadows who saved France’s honor, at a time when it seemed lost.”
While President François Hollande said, “In our darkest times, he [Raymond] was, with Lucie Aubrac, among the righteous, who found, in themselves and in the universal values of our Republic, the strength to resist Nazi barbarism.”
Lucie once said: “Resistance is not just something locked away in the period 1939-45. Resistance is a way of life, an intellectual and emotional reaction to anything which threatens human liberty.”