Memory of French Resistance Stays Strong

Museum Preserves History of Struggle in Small French Town


By Mary Jane Fine

Published July 21, 2012, issue of July 27, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

It is difficult, if not impossible, in this town to forget World War II, and that is a matter of not-inconsequential pride. The Resistance movement was born here, and the reminders are everywhere.

The Maternity Hospital, a short walk from the city’s center, hid Jews in its basement, repelling Nazi searches with a sign that warned, falsely, of contagious diseases.

Nearby, is the bronze statue of 19th-century French statesman Léon Gambetta. One can envision it in the 1940s when he held a Resistance-made sign in his north-pointing hand, directing the occupying troops: “Nach Berlin,” or “To Berlin.

Here in the heart of the Midi-Pyrénées Lot Valley, the Musée de la Resistance, de la Deportation et de la Liberation du Lot aims to remind the world: Never forget.

“To be a Resistant was to refuse the victory of Nazism,” explains one of several informative booklets for sale at the museum in the town of 23,193 people. “It was to choose to act clandestinely in order to hasten the German defeat … . To resist was an individual decision, not easy to take: to revolt against the government of your own country, to risk your life and the security of your family.”

The Resistants were postal clerks and railway workers, shopkeepers and medical personnel, ordinary people who undertook acts of heroism, large and small – ferrying messages, intercepting letters, aiding clandestine travelers to reach their destination, sabotaging the movement of German convoys, supplying food to those who fought, hiding Jews in the back rooms and closets of their homes.

Eighty-eight-year old Marcel Michot, vice president of the museum, was one who opted for the risk. After the war, people went 50 years without speaking of the Holocaust, Michot says through his young British translator, Louise Butler, who guides tours for English-speaking museum visitors. “They were young, starting families and living their lives,” Michot says, noting that there was also a desire to forget the nation’s pain and shame. “When they retired, they decided to do something important.”

That “something” fills the museum, where each of the three floors is dedicated to Resistance members killed by the Nazis. A former barracks that faces onto the Place General de Gaulle, the museum opened on June 18, 1992, a significant anniversary.

It was on June 18, 1940, that military leader Charles de Gaulle said: “Every means in the universe will be used to crush our enemies. That which will be the flame of the resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.” His broadcasts via BBC from London spurred the Resistance movement.

For Michot, a flame was lit in 1941, when, as he recalls, a friend said to him, “Come to my house; there’s something that may interest you.” He was speaking of the Resistance unit led by his father. Even to confide such information to the then-16-year-old Marcel Michot was risky, betrayal always a possibility, death its frequent consequence. But the young Michot joined – and later married the daughter of his unit’s leader. In her teens, she played a role as a liaison agent. “When you put an arm in, you may as well put in the rest,” Michot says, delivering the French maxim with a smile and a classically French shrug.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.