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The Book That Lit The Pyres
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France (33)

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Who Betrayed Jean Moulin ?

Jean Moulin & Klaus Barbie

An ideal culprit exonerated by justice, hypotheses never verified, political controversies which obscure the investigation. The real causes of Jean Moulin's arrest may never be known.

On the night of December 18 to 19, 1964, a military vehicle transported the coffin containing the ashes of Jean Moulin, covered with a tricolor, through the capital. The next day, his remains enter the Pantheon of great men to whom the country is grateful. The lyricism of André Malraux accentuates the solemnity of an event which consecrates the memory of this little-known man who became a national icon, and whose tragic death under the torture of Nazi executioners made him the symbol of the Resistance. By this gesture, General de Gaulle freezes the fight of the "army of shadows" in a heroic gesture, but the national communion around this great figure does not dispel all the gray areas which obscure the arrest of Jean Moulin.

The beheaded resistance

On June 21, 1943, Klaus Barbie, head of the Gestapo branch in Lyon, succeeded in a masterful crackdown by arresting the main leaders of the Internal Resistance. It all started with the arrest, on March 13, 1943 in Lyon, of several members of the Secret Army and extensive documentation that revealed the organization's organizational chart. On June 9 in Paris, the Gestapo took over the military leader of the Secret Army, General Delestraint; this is another very severe blow to the Resistance. Jean Moulin, president of the National Council of Resistance, who was entrusted by de Gaulle with the mission of unifying all the networks, decides to act quickly to find a successor to Delestraint and organizes a clandestine meeting of the main leaders in Caluire, in the Lyonnaise suburb, at the home of Doctor Dugoujon.

Colonel Albert Lacaze arrives first, followed by André Lassagne from Liberation-Sud, Henri Aubry and René Hardy from Combat. They are soon joined by Brunot Larat. Finally, at 3 p.m., arrive Jean Moulin, Raymond Aubrac and Colonel Schwartzfeld. The meeting can begin when suddenly the Germans burst in. Interrogated on the spot, the eight men were then taken away, but René Hardy managed to escape. The Caluire meeting was a mousetrap, the Germans were obviously well informed. But by whom?

René Hardy, an ideal culprit

For many still today, René Hardy is the one who betrayed Jean Moulin. Of course, he is the only one to have escaped, almost miraculously, the ambush of Caluire. Above all, we know that two weeks previously, he had been arrested in Châlons-sur-Saône, questioned by Klaus Barbie and then released three days later. Hardy will appear in court at the Liberation, for the first time in 1947 before the Court of Justice of the Seine, a trial during which he concealed this arrest. A second time before the Military Tribunal, in 1950. Each time he was exonerated.

Reports drawn up by the German intelligence services are however disturbing, which explain that René Hardy, interrogated and then "returned", would have spoken a lot and allowed important arrests. One of these reports refers in particular to a meeting in Lyon of the main leaders of the Resistance. Hardy will always challenge the charges against him, questioning the validity of German reports, which are known to have been sometimes written with the sole intention of sowing suspicion and further undermining underground networks. The main accused in the Caluire drama died in 1987, never knowing whether he took a terrible secret with him. But to designate a single man as a possible culprit is to ignore the bitter rivalry and the extreme dissent that tore the Resistance apart.

"The" French Resistances

Far from the heroic legend of an "army of shadows" united in the fight against oppression and united around General de Gaulle, the Resistance is deeply divided. It is also the role of Jean Moulin to succeed in federating the different groups, for a more effective action but also because in London de Gaulle must imperatively convince of his legitimacy while the Americans preferred to play the general card. Giraud in Algiers. He must therefore quickly prove that he is indeed the leader of Free France.

Uniting the resistance implies drawing closer to the Communists, and in January 1943 de Gaulle met Fernand Grenier, representative of the Communist Party, who accepted the idea of ​​a union. It remains to convince other political sensitivities, but also the unions. This is the mission of Jean Moulin, appointed president of the CNR, the National Council of the Resistance, which brings together in Paris, on May 27, heads of clandestine networks, political and union leaders. The need to fight together against the occupier is unanimous, but how can we reconcile, in the perspective of the Liberation and the political reconstruction of France, antagonistic views? In Combat, neither Frenay nor Bénouville are willing to obediently accept the authority of De Gaulle. Among the Communists, the same mistrust of London is coupled with the activism of some for whom the Liberation should also be the time of the proletarian revolution. As for the Socialists, they are moved by the excessive attention paid by de Gaulle to the Communists ...

Moulin, Moscow agent?

We see it, in the debates which shake the difficult cohesion of the resistance movements, the Communist Party holds a central place, a party of which Jean Moulin was close. In 1933, he was Deputy Chief of Staff at the Foreign Ministry and then Chief of Staff to Pierre Cot at the Air Ministry under the Popular Front. He had passed arms and ammunition to the Spanish Republicans. This convinced left-wing man therefore had close relations with the Communists. Too many perhaps think they know some historians, who thanks to the opening of part of the archives of the former USSR make Moulin a possible agent of the Comintern. This is to forget that Jean Moulin, ardently republican and deeply anti-fascist, had, like many patriots, to distance himself from his Soviet sympathies after the signing of the German-Soviet pact. The hypothesis of a Jean Moulin agent of Moscow and "given" to the Gestapo by the most anti-communist elements of the Resistance is just as fragile as the one - the reverse - which sees in the Caluire affair the hand of the Communists, who would have very badly seen this former left-wing man becoming too quickly and too faithfully a Gaullist. Would Hardy then have been the instrument of a perverse political game that was beyond him?

The "mole", the worst enemy

If Soviet agents worked within the Resistance, just like American and British agents, the most formidable enemies of the underground networks are undoubtedly the "moles" infiltrated by the Nazi intelligence services. Many of them have been sincere resistance fighters, "turned" against their former companions by blackmail and death threats against their families. Others have been real agents in the pay of the occupier. Their role has long been understated so as not to mar the glorious history of these movements too much, but we know that they have wreaked considerable havoc in the ranks of the Resistance.

Captain Kramer, officer of the Abwehr, the espionage service, will testify at the Liberation of the methods used by his services, and will affirm that he had, in the region of Lyon, about fifty "moles" capable of infiltrate the Resistance. During 1943, they will demonstrate formidable efficiency. It was Kramer's agents who delivered General Delestraint, but also Bertie Albrecht, Frenay's secretary. The smallest precautions did not always escape the increasingly tight mesh of the Gestapo nets. Neglecting, even once, the precautionary instructions inevitably risked exposure. One of those rules was for a meeting to be interrupted at the slightest delay by one of the participants. In Caluire, Jean Moulin arrived half an hour late ...