Jean-Baptiste Lebas

Jean-Baptiste Lebas (French: [ʒɑ̃ batist ləba]; 24 October 1878 – 10 March 1944 [1]) was a French Socialist politician, deputy to the National Assembly of France during the Third Republic, who served twice as minister under Léon Blum’s governments. He was mayor of Roubaix and member of the Resistance during World War II.

Jean-Baptiste Lebas
Member of the National Assembly
In office
16 November 1919 - 31 May 1924
11 May 1924 - 31 May 1928
1 May 1932 - 31 May 1936
3 May 1936 - 31 May 1942 [1]
Minister of Labour
In office
4 June 1936  21 June 1937
Preceded byLudovic-Oscar Frossard
Succeeded byAndré Février
Minister of Posts, Telegraphs, and Telephones
In office
29 June 1937 - 18 January 1938
13 March 1938 - 10 April 1938
Preceded byRobert Jardillier
Fernand Gentin
Succeeded byFernand Gentin
Alfred Jules-Julien
Mayor of Roubaix
In office
19 May 1912 - 7 March 1915
21 October 1918 - June 1940
Preceded byEugène Motte
Henri Thérin
Succeeded byHenri Thérin
Fleuris Vanherpe
Personal details
Jean-Baptiste Lebas

24 October 1878
Roubaix, France
DiedMarch 10, 1944(1944-03-10) (aged 65) [1]
Sonnenburg, Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia
Resting placeCemetery of Roubaix
Political partySocialist (SFIO)
Spouse(s)Angèle Hennion [2]
Nickname(s)Jean Lebas

First step in politics

Jean-Baptiste Lebas is the son of Félicité Delattre and Jean-Hippolyte Lebas.[3] He was born at home in Roubaix, an industrial city where his father was a textile worker. A Republican under the Second Empire and a syndicalist, Jean-Hippolyte Lebas was a socialist who had become member of the Parti Ouvrier Français (POF) at its foundation in 1880.[4] Altogether, it was observable that Jean-Baptiste Lebas had been brought up in a working class family and steeped in a left-wing milieu in his birth town.

In 1896, following his father at the age of eighteen, he joined the POF. In 1900 he wrote under the pen name Jacques Vingtras a brochure premised by Jules Guesde and entitled: Socialisme et patriotisme.[5] He entered a career as accountant for the cooperative society La Paix in 1901. In 1906 he became assistant secretary for the local branch of the SFIO.[6]

Mayor of Roubaix

In 1908 Lebas was elected to the municipal council of Roubaix. Then he came to be the mayor of the city in 1912.[7]

German troops invaded the city of Roubaix at the beginning of World War I. Lebas refused to grant the German forces the list of inhabitants in the prime of life whom occupiers wanted for compulsory labour. Therefore, he was arrested on 7 March 1915 and imprisoned in the fortress of Rastatt.[8] After he was released, he has been awarded the Legion of Honour in October 1916 for his courage.

Between the two world wars, Lebas developed and implemented a social policy for his city aimed at constructing decent and salubrious housing and providing access to education.[9]

Lebas was elected deputy for the first time in 1919 alongside Jules Guesde.[7] Afterwards, he was re-elected in 1924, 1932 and 1936.[1]

In 1936 he rejoined the first Blum's government as Minister of Labour. Following the Matignon Agreements he introduced a law that granted the first annual leave of two weeks for workers and employees as well as a forty-hour work week.[10]


For some undeclared reason, Lebas did not take part to the vote against the constitutional change that established an authoritarian regime under the government of Marshal Philippe Pétain.[7]

On 21 May 1941, as a member of a resistance movement he was arrested together with his son and his niece by the Gestapo and imprisoned [11] in France before being deported to Germany. He died at the Sonnenburg concentration camp in 1944.[12]

After liberation, a large monument was erected by the municipal council to honour one of its most famous mayor in 1949.[13] On 31 August 1951, his body was repatriated to France alongside the one of his son and those of six other Roubaisians died in concentration camps.[14][15]

See also


  1. Base de données des députés français depuis 1789, Database on members of the French National Assembly
  2. FORUM ROUBAIX - © BASE THÈCLE Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Mariage Jean-Baptiste LEBAS et Angèle HENNION 15/02/1902
  3. Le Marois, Jacques (ed.). "Jean Baptiste LEBAS". Geneanet (in French). Paris, F: Claranet. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  4. Piat, Jean (1994). Jean Lebas : de la Belle Époque à la Résistance [Jean Lebas: from the Belle Epoque to the Resistance] (in French). Roubaix, F: Maison du Livre. p. 15. ISBN 9782950871107. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  5. International Institute of Social History, Holdings: Socialisme et patriotisme. Avec préf. de J. Guesde.
  6. Thierry Delattre, Jean-Pierre Popelier, Philippe Waret: Roubaix de A à Z. Éditions Alain Sutton, Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire 2006, p. 65
  7. David Gordon: Liberalism and Social Reform: Industrial Growth and Progressiste Politics in France, 1880-1914 (Contributions to the Study of World History). Greenwood Press 1996, p. 81
  8. Philippe Nivet: La France occupée 1914-1918. Armand Colin, Paris 2011, p. 178
  9. Geert Thyssen, Frederik Herman, Walter Kusters, Sarah Van Ruyskensvelde, Marc Depaepe: From popular to unpopular education? The open-air school(s) of «Pont- Rouge», Roubaix (1921-1978) in History of Education & Children’s Literature (HECL) © 2010 pp. 199-227
  10. Shombit Sengupta: Corrugated Slices: The Social Jalebi. SAGE Publications Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi 2015, p. 96
  11. Louis Lévy (translated by William Pickles): France is a Democracy. Left Book Club Edition, London : Victor Gollancz, 1943, p. 58
  12. Mnichowski Przemysław: Obóz koncentracyjny i więzienie w Sonnenburgu (Słońsku), 1939-1945. Warszawa 1982, p.88
  13. Bibliothèque numérique de Roubaix, Monument Jean Lebas. Roubaix 1950, Médiathèque
  14. Jean-Baptiste Lebas, le « serviteur » de la ville, Clément Martinet, Nord Éclair 2012
  15. Le corps de Jean Lebas celui de son fils Raymond et ceux de six autres Roubaisiens morts dans les camps de concentration sont revenus hier dans leur ville natale, Jules Delignies, Nord Matin 1951

Further reading

  • Thierry Delattre, Jean-Pierre Popelier, Philippe Waret: Roubaix de A à Z. Éditions Alain Sutton, Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire 2006, ISBN 2-84910-459-0.
  • Alain Guérin: Chronique de la Résistance. Omnibus 2000, Paris 2002, ISBN 2-25807-816-4.
  • Jean Piat: Jean Lebas: de la Belle Époque à la Résistance. Maison du livre, Roubaix 1994, ISBN 2-95087-110-0.
  • Marc Sadoun, Maurice Duverger: Les Socialistes sous l'Occupation. Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, Paris 1982, ISBN 2-72460-460-1.
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