Jean Pierre Moulin (French: [ʒɑ̃ mu.lɛ̃]; 20 June 1899 – 8 July 1943) was a French civil servant who served as the first President of the National Council of the Resistance during World War II from 23 May 1943 until his death less than two months later.
Moulin in 1937
|Born||20 June 1899|
|Died||8 July 1943 44) (aged|
|Resting place||Panthéon, Paris|
|Known for||First President of the National Council of the Resistance|
Blanche Élisabeth Pègue
A prefect in Aveyron (1937–1939) and Eure-et-Loir (1939–1940), he is remembered today as one of the main heroes of the French Resistance, unifying it under Charles de Gaulle. He was tortured by German officer Klaus Barbie while in Gestapo custody; he died in the train that transported him to Germany before crossing the border. His death was registered at Metz railway station.
Before the war
Jean Moulin was born at 6 Rue d'Alsace in Béziers, Hérault, son of Antoine-Émile Moulin and Blanche Élisabeth Pègue. He was the grandson of an insurgent of 1851. Antoine-Émile Moulin was a lay teacher at the Université Populaire and a Freemason at the lodge Action Sociale. Jean Pierre Moulin was baptised on 6 August 1899 in the church of Saint-Vincentin in Saint-Andiol (Bouches-du-Rhône), the village where his parents came from. He spent an uneventful childhood in the company of his sister Laure and his brother Joseph (who died of pneumonia in 1907). At the Henri IV High School of Béziers, he was an average student.
In 1917, he enrolled at the Faculty of Law of Montpellier, where he was not a brilliant student. However, thanks to the influence of his father, he was appointed attaché to the cabinet of the prefect of Hérault under the presidency of Raymond Poincaré.
Mobilised 17 April 1918, Jean Moulin was assigned to the 2nd Regiment of Engineering (based in Metz after the victory). After an accelerated training, he arrived in the Vosges at Charmes on 20 September and was preparing to go to the front lines when the armistice was proclaimed. He was posted successively to Seine-et-Oise, to Verdun, then to Chalon-sur-Saone; he worked as a carpenter, a digger and later a telephonist for the 7th and 9th Engineer Regiments. He was then demobilized and resumed his duties at the prefecture of Montpellier on 4 November 1919.
After World War I, Moulin resumed his studies and obtained a law degree in 1921. He then entered the prefectural administration as chief of staff to the deputy of Savoie in 1922, then as sous-préfet of Albertville, from 1925 to 1930.
After being rejected by Jeanette Auran, Moulin, aged 27, married a 19-year-old professional singer, Marguerite Cerruti, in the town of Betton-Bettonet in September 1926. Cerruti quickly became bored with the marriage and Moulin responded by offering her further singing lessons in Paris whereupon she disappeared for two days. Biographer Patrick Marnham cites one of the causes of the divorce being Moulin's mother-in-law, who had wanted to prevent her estate passing into Moulin's control upon Cerruti's 21st birthday. Moulin attempted to hide his rejection by the bourgeoisie by excusing his wife's disappearances and only informing his family after the divorce.
Moulin was appointed sous-préfet of Châteaulin, Brittany in 1930, but also drew political cartoons for the newspaper Le Rire on the side under the pseudonym Romanin. He also illustrated books by the Breton poet Tristan Corbière, including an etching for La Pastorale de Conlie, Corbière's poem about Camp Conlie where many Boon soldiers died in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. He also made friends with the Breton poets Saint-Pol-Roux in Camaret and Max Jacob in Quimper.
In 1932, Pierre Cot, a Radical Socialist politician, named Moulin his second in command or chef adjoint when he was serving as Foreign Minister under Paul Doumer's presidency. In 1933, Moulin was appointed sous-préfet of Thonon-les-Bains, parallel to his function of head of cabinet of Pierre Cot in the Air ministry under Albert Lebrun. On 19 January 1934, Moulin was appointed sous-préfet of Montargis, but he did not assume this office and chose to remain under Pierre Cot. In the first half of April Moulin was appointed to the Seine préfecture, and, 1 July, took his place as secretary general in Somme, in Amiens. In 1936 he was once more named chief of cabinet of Pierre Cot's Air ministry of the Popular Front. In this capacity, Moulin was involved in Cot's efforts to assist the Spanish Republic by sending them planes and pilots. For the Istres-Damas-Le Bourget race he presented the winners with their prize; Benito Mussolini's son was one of those winners. He became France's youngest préfet in the Aveyron département, based in the commune of Rodez, in January 1937. It has been claimed that during the Spanish Civil War Moulin assisted with the shipment of arms from the Soviet Union to Spain. A more commonly accepted version of events is that he used his position in the French aviation ministry to deliver planes to the Spanish Republican forces.
In January 1939, Moulin was appointed prefect of the Eure-et-Loir department. After war against Germany was declared, he asked multiple times to be demoted because "[his] place is not at the rear, at the head of a rural departement". Against the opinion of the Minister of the Interior, he asked to be transferred to the military school of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, near Paris. The Minister forced him to return to Chartres, where he had trouble ensuring the safety of the population. When the Germans got close to Chartres, he wrote to his parents, "If the Germans — who are able to do anything — make me say dishonorable words, you already know, it is not the truth".
He was arrested by the Germans on 17 June 1940, as he refused to sign a false declaration that three Senegalese Tirailleurs had committed atrocities, killing civilians in La Taye; in fact those civilians had been killed by German bombings. Beaten and imprisoned because he refused to comply, Moulin attempted suicide by cutting his throat with a piece of broken glass. This left him with a scar he would often hide with a scarf—the image of Jean Moulin remembered today. He was found by a guard and taken to hospital for treatment. Because he was a Radical, he was dismissed by the Vichy regime of Marshal Petain on 2 November 1940, along with all other left-wing préfets. He then began writing his diary, First Battle, in which he relates his resistance against the Nazis in Chartres; this was later published at the Liberation and prefaced by de Gaulle.
Having decided not to collaborate, he left Chartres for Saint-Andiol, Bouches-du-Rhône to study and join the French Resistance, and decided to negotiate with Free France. He started to use the name Joseph Jean Mercier, and went to Marseille where he met resistants, including Henri Frenay and Antoine Sachs. He reached London in September 1941 after travelling through Spain and Portugal, and was received on 24 October by De Gaulle, who wrote that Moulin was, "A great man. Great in every way.". He summarised the state of the French Resistance to De Gaulle. Part of the Resistance considered him too ambitious, but Charles de Gaulle had confidence in his network and skills. He gave him the assignment of coordinating and unifying the various Resistance groups, a hard mission that would take time and effort to accomplish. On 1 January 1942, he parachuted into the Alpilles and met with the leaders of the resistance groups under code names Rex and Max:
- Henri Frenay (Combat)
- Emmanuel d'Astier (Libération)
- Jean-Pierre Lévy (Francs-tireurs)
- Pierre Villon (Front national, not to be confused with the present-day Front National political party).
- Pierre Brossolette (Comité d'action socialiste)
He succeeded to the extent that the first three of these resistance leaders and their groups came together to form the Mouvements Unis de la Résistance (MUR) in January 1943. The following month, Moulin returned to London accompanied by Charles Delestraint, head of the new Armée secrète, which grouped together the MUR's military wings. He left London on 21 March, 1943, with orders to form the Conseil national de la Résistance (CNR), a difficult task since the five resistance movements involved (besides the three already in the MUR) wanted to retain their independence. The first meeting of the CNR took place in Paris on 27 May 1943.
On 21 June 1943, he was arrested at a meeting with fellow Resistance leaders in the home of Frédéric Dugoujon in Caluire-et-Cuire, a suburb of Lyon, as were Dugoujon, Henri Aubry (alias Avricourt and Thomas), Raymond Aubrac, Bruno Larat (alias Xavier-Laurent Parisot), André Lassagne (alias Lombard), Colonel Albert Lacaze, Colonel Émile Schwarzfeld (alias Blumstein) and René Hardy (alias Didot).
He was, with the other Resistance leaders, sent to Montluc Prison in Lyon, in which he was detained until the beginning of July. Interrogated extensively on a daily basis in Lyon by Klaus Barbie, head of the Gestapo there, and later more briefly in Paris, Moulin never revealed anything to his captors; he is believed to have died near Metz on a train headed for Germany from injuries reportedly sustained in a suicide attempt.
Barbie alleged that suicide was the cause and Moulin biographer Patrick Marnham supports this explanation.
Betrayal and death
René Hardy was caught and released by the Gestapo, who had followed him to the meeting at the doctor's house. Some believe him guilty of a deliberate act of treason; others think he was simply reckless. Two trials found him innocent. A recent TV film about the life and death of Jean Moulin depicted Hardy as collaborating with the Gestapo, thus reviving the controversy. The Hardy family attempted to bring a lawsuit against the producers of the movie.
There have been many suppositions in the postwar years that Moulin was a communist. No hard evidence has ever backed up this claim. Marnham looked into the assertions, but found no evidence to support them (although Communist Party members could easily have seen him as a "fellow traveller" because he had communist friends and supported the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War). As préfet, Moulin even ordered the repression of communist 'agitators' and went so far as to have police keep some of them under surveillance. At the trial of Klaus Barbie in 1987, his lawyer Jacques Vergès made much out of speculation that Moulin was betrayed by either Communists and/or the Gaullists as part of an attempt to distract attention away from the actions of his client, by making the true authors of Moulin's arrest his fellow rèsistants rather than Barbie. Vergès failed in his effort to acquit Barbie, but he did succeed in creating a vast industry of various conspiracy theories, many very fanciful, about who betrayed Moulin. Leading historians such Henri Noguères and Jean-Pierre Azéma rejected Vergès's conspiracy theories, in which Barbie was somehow less culpable than the supposed traitors who tipped him off.
The British intelligence officer Peter Wright in his 1987 book Spy Catcher wrote that Pierre Cot was an "active Russian agent" and called his protege Moulin a "dedicated Communist". Clinton wrote that Wright based his allegations against Moulin entirely on secret documents that he claimed to have seen, which no historian has ever seen, and on conversations that he is supposed to have had decades ago with others long dead, which made his case against Moulin very "dubious". Henri-Christian Giraud, the grandson of General Henri Giraud who had been outmaneuvered by de Gaulle for the leadership of the Free French movement hit back in his two volume work De Gaulle et les communistes published in 1988 and 1989 which outlined a conspiracy theory suggesting that de Gaulle had been "manipulated" by the "Soviet agent" Moulin into the following the PCF's line of "national insurrection" and thereby eclipsed his grandfather, who he maintained should have been the rightful leader of Free France. Taking up Giraud's theories, the lawyer Charles Benfredj argued in his 1990 book L'Affaire Jean Moulin: Le contre-enquête that Moulin was a Soviet agent who had not been killed by Barbie, but had been allowed by the German government to go to the Soviet Union in 1943, where Moulin supposedly died sometime after the war. Benfredj's book was published with an introduction with Jacques Soustelle, the archaeologist of Mexico and wartime Gaullist whose commitment to Algérie française had made him a bitter enemy of de Gaulle by 1959. The essence of all the theories about Moulin the alleged Soviet agent was that because de Gaulle had agreed to co-operate with the Communists during WW II (which was apparently all Moulin's work), that this had set France on the wrong course and led to de Gaulle granting Algeria independence in 1962, instead of keeping Algeria as a part of France as he should have done.
It has also been suggested, principally in Marnham's biography, that Moulin was betrayed by communists. Marnham points the finger specifically at Raymond Aubrac and possibly his wife, Lucie. He alleges that communists did at times betray non-communists to the Gestapo, and that Aubrac was linked to harsh actions during the purge of collaborators after the war. In 1990, Klaus Barbie, by then "a bitter dying Nazi", named Aubrac as the traitor. To counteract the accusations levelled at Moulin, Daniel Cordier, his personal secretary during the war, wrote a biography of his former leader. In April 1997, Vergès produced a "Barbie testament" which he claimed that Barbie had given him ten years earlier which purported to show the Aubracs had tipped off Barbie. Vergès's "Barbie testament" which was timed for the publication of the book Aubrac Lyon 1943 by Gérard Chauvy, which was meant to prove that the Aubracs were the ones who informed Barbie about the fateful meeting at Caluire on 21 June 1943. On 2 April 1998 following a civil suit launched by the Aubracs, a Paris court fined Chauvy and his publisher Albin Michel for "public defamation". In 1998, the French historian Jacques Baynac in his book Les Secrets de l'affaire Jean Moulin claimed that Moulin was planning to break with de Gaulle to recognize General Giraud, which led the Gaullists to tip off Barbie before this could happen.
Ashes presumed to be his were buried in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and later transferred to the Panthéon on 19 December 1964. The speech given at the transfer site by André Malraux, writer and minister of the Republic, is one of the most famous speeches in French history.
The current French education curriculum commemorates Jean Moulin as a symbol of the French resistance and a model of civic virtuousness, moral rectitude and patriotism. As of 2015, Jean Moulin was the fifth most popular name for a French school and as of 2016, and his is the 3rd most popular French street name of which 98 percent are male. Lyon 3 university and a Paris metro station have also been named after him. Another member of the resistance, Antoinette Sasse bequeathed her will to found The Musée Jean Moulin in 1994.
The fictional Jean Pierre Melville film Army of Shadows (based on a book of the same name) depicts, through the character of Luc Jardie, played by Paul Meurisse, several events in Moulin's war experience with some inaccuracy - in the film his homosexual male secretary is replaced by a female assistant.
In 1993, commemorative French two-franc, one hundred franc and five hundred franc coins were issued showing a partial image of Moulin against the Croix de Lorraine, using a fedora-and-scarf photograph which is well recognised in France.
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