Transcript for Episode 459: Jean Moulin, Standing Up to Tyranny

Category: French History

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 459. Quatre cent cinquante-neuf.

[00:00:23] Bonjour. I’m Annie Sargent and Join us in France is the podcast where we talk about France. Everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:37] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks.

[00:00:42] In the shadows of Nazi-occupied France, a beacon of hope and defiant and defiance emerged. Jean Moulin. From art to espionage, Moulin’s life reads like a thrilling spy novel. Listen to this episode as we unravel the mysteries surrounding France’s iconic hero of the Resistance. Discover tales of secret meetings, uncover operations, and a burning desire to free France.

[00:01:10] This is the story of Jean Moulin, the heartbeat of the French Resistance.

Thank you, patrons

[00:01:16] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip drive with me around the Southwest of France.

[00:01:33] You can browse all of these unique services at my boutique

No travel tips section

[00:01:41] Annie Sargent: Again today, there won’t be a travel tips section, after my conversation with Elyse because the recording ran long.

[00:01:48] But I want to thank one new patron, Brad Sandleback. To join this wonderful community of Francophiles go to and to support Elyse go to

[00:02:12] I’m recording this intro early because I’ll be taking off for the Alps next week with my husband, but I’m planning on releasing a video of a drive I’ll, I’ll take this weekend, a beautiful scenic drive uh, in the Pyrenees. Hopefully. It’ll all work out. Hopefully, I won’t mess up the video always a possibility because, you know, I’m really comfortable with audio, but I’m just learning the ropes when it comes to video. But I practiced, I think I got this.

[00:02:37] At any rate, Merci patrons, your support makes all the difference. And uh, I really, um,

[00:02:41] my thanks also to Wendy Shipnuck-Ferris for her one time donation, using the green button on any page on JoinusinFrance.Com that reads, Tip Your Guide.

[00:02:53] Wendy wrote: I have been listening to your podcast for the last month. I have been to France about 20 times and leave again this weekend. I love your shows.

[00:03:04] Merci, Wendy, lovely to have another Francophile on board as a listener.

Next week on the podcast

[00:03:10] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, a trip report with Jessica Kosmack about the Grand Prix de Monaco experience.

[00:03:17] You may wonder why I’ve released two episodes uh, about car races uh, so close together. Well, that’s because tickets for those events go on sale this month, so this is when hearing about those events is going to be most helpful. As more and more people visit France, it’s truly staggering the number of visitors we’re getting this year.

[00:03:39] Planning in advance is the name of the game, and that’s why you need to know about these things uh, if you’re considering vi, if you’re considering doing the same trip yourself. I.

Annie and Elyse about Jean Moulin

[00:03:57] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse!

[00:03:58] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie!

[00:04:00] Annie Sargent: We have a um, beautiful, yet difficult uh, topic of conversation. Today we’re talking about Jean Moulin. Now he is someone that you must have seen his name a million times when you visit France because he is a hero of the Resistance. He, he is a hero of the Resistance and he is uh, one person that probably, it’s possible he has as many buildings and streets named after him as uh, Jean Jaurès or someone like that.

Jean Moulin, icon of the history of the Resistance

[00:04:23] Elyse Rivin: Exactly. He’s, He is um, by French standards, he has come to be the icon of uh, the whole history of the Resistance. And of course, we are really talking about the French Resistance to the German occupation during World War II. And he, he is, um, and now you can tell me if you remember this or not, but as far as I understand, he’s the one that everyone learns about in school.

[00:04:48] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes. Uh, You do learn about him in school and you also hear about him you know, if you watch any kind of his history programs or read books or, you know, if, if you’re in that kind of more intellectual, you know, like people who think and chat and you know, listen to France Culture or whatever, you’re going to hear about him.

Museum of the Resistance and Deportation in Toulouse and Paris x

[00:05:07] Elyse Rivin: Right. And, uh, he, he is, if you, if, And there are a lot of people who do go to visit uh, museums about the Resistance. I, I’ve had quite a few people, of course, I do the Resistance Walk here in Toulouse, and people are always asking, there’s a, a Museum of the Resistance and Deportation in Toulouse. But the very big one, of course, is in Paris.

[00:05:24] And uh, there’s also a special museum in his honor in the uh, town of Saint Andiol, which is in the Hérault, which is where he was from. Uh,

[00:05:33] Annie Sargent: I didn’t realize it. It wasn’t, it’s not in Béziers?

[00:05:36] Elyse Rivin: No, it’s not in Béziers. It’s actually his family who, his sister who was, um, I guess if I remember correctly, a couple of years younger than him. Uh, She was the one that was responsible for setting up a memorial.

[00:05:47] And then they did turn it into a museum in his honor. But it’s actually in his hometown, which is next to Béziers, actually next to Béziers.

Jean Moulin, the writter

[00:05:55] Annie Sargent: Yes, and his sister is also the one who published his book uh, after he passed. She’s the one who she, because he wrote, He was an excellent writer, you know, he was a really, really good writer and he wrote lots of um, narrative about what was happening. And she, she, he gave it to his sister. Yes. And his sister hid it in a box under a tree.

[00:06:14] Literally, she just dug it up and hid it in a box. And it was published about a year after he died.

[00:06:22] Elyse Rivin: Yes, he was, what’s fascinating about uh, Jean Moulin is that even though he is known as a hero of the Resistance, and he was of course a member of the government, and he was a member of the government in exile. And he was actually an armed resistant, he was actually also an artist and he had several books of this, of drawings and characters published during his lifetime. And it turns out that if he had had his druthers, uh, he would’ve uh, studied art. But uh, that was not what his family wanted.

[00:06:54] So his destiny was pretty much carved out for him, you know?

[00:06:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, he published under the pseudonym Romanin.

[00:07:02] And uh, you can, I mean, He published in newspapers, he published uh, kind of cartoons, caricatures, that sort of work. And it’s really pleasant. I mean, you know, he, He did really good work, I think.

[00:07:11] Elyse Rivin: And a lot of his personal friends were in fact artists and writers. And that was, uh, he liked that kind of um, atmosphere and community.

[00:07:18] Annie Sargent: So a, a fascinating um, person obviously. Why don’t we go back to the beginning Elyse, and tell us about his life a little bit and, and uh, the things he did?

About Jean Moulin’s life

[00:07:28] Elyse Rivin: Okay. So, uh, Jean Moulin, uh, that is his uh, full .Uh, legal name, he was born actually in June of 1899 in Béziers. And he died in July of 1943. Uh, It is assumed that he died in the train station of the city of Metz because he was about to be sent to uh, Berlin. Uh, And we’ll, we’ll talk about of course the his, his destiny, uh, and that’s the whole point of, of the story of Jean Moulin.

[00:07:58] Um, He, He, It’s interesting that his FA family, was a family uh, that was very like, uh, very secular. Um, His father was uh, someone who believed uh, fervently in the idea of a Republic. And uh, he also was someone who spoke Occitan, which I find fascinating. So he knew how to uh, speak uh, Occitan, I don’t know if he knew how to read and write it.

[00:08:20] He probably did, huh? He, So he must have had a wonderful sing-song accent. Uh, I’ve never heard him speak. I don’t know if there are any recordings of him actually speaking.

[00:08:29] Annie Sargent: I’m Not aware of any, but I will look. If I find it, I’ll insert it.

[00:08:32] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, because it’s so, hi. His parents were both teachers. They came from a very, very uh, a well-educated but simple, very simple middle class background.

[00:08:39] But his father was so devoted to the idea of a Republic that he instilled that very, very young in uh, Jean, uh, who um, in spite of his uh, real desire to be an artist, uh, followed uh, in the footsteps of his father who had, was a, a, basically a, what the French would call a functionnaire. He worked for the Department of the Hérault, uh, as a member of the local government. And uh, he was a normal student, he was not a brilliant student of any kind. But he did go to University in Montpellier and studied uh, political science.

[00:09:11] Annie Sargent: Now his mother was a devout catholic.

[00:09:14] Oh, was she? Yes.

[00:09:15] So this is, this is a formidable, so his father was dedicated to the ideals of the Republic to like duty and that sort of thing, leftwing, very leftwing. Mm-hmm. And his mother was dedicated to um, the church and belief. And the, you know. All, So it’s, it’s like a formidable mix of uh, motivations within himself, although he was quite secular. Him, you know, Jean Moulin, himself was secular and left wing, but he came from uh, a tradition of uh, devoted catholics.

[00:09:44] Elyse Rivin: Well, you know, That’s interesting, because I I, I, didn’t read that about his mother, but it’s also interesting to know that one of the things about Jean Moulin, and I think it’s really one of the most important things about him, was his sense of integrity and honesty. And I think that that would come from both sides, because if you are really in a true sense of the term, a good Christian, then you do not do harm to others. And this was basically one of the things that kept him, uh, as a motivation, his entire, not very long life, uh, really.

[00:10:14] Annie Sargent: Yes, doing good was very important to him. Both uh, doing good as far as, you know, I have commitments that I have to keep, but also I have to be kind and loving. And, And he did both.

Scarf and fedora

[00:10:26] Elyse Rivin: And he did both. Now it’s also true that he was rather handsome. Uh, There’s a wonderful, beautiful statue of him in bronze in the garden here, in the Jardin des Plantes in Toulouse. And uh, when I do the Resistance Tour, I always end up by taking people to see him. And there is a little corner where there are several statues like that.

[00:10:42] Uh, Very elegant with his fedora and, uh, and the scarf around his neck. But he was a ladies man and apparently, um, it was one of the few weaknesses that he had. Uh, he, He really had a tendency, he liked women, women liked him, he was married very, very short for a very short time to someone who very quickly left him because I don’t think he could stay in place for very long.

[00:11:01]Uh, But it’s interesting that in spite of all of his political conviction and everything else, he had this other side to him as well.

[00:11:09] Annie Sargent: Yes, he was a bit of a player with the ladies. Uh, And the photo that uh, we have of him with his fedora and his um, scarf, that was taken well before the war. So he looked very, very different uh, during and after the war. I will try to find a photo of him uh, standing with uh, German soldiers um, in the Chartres when he was the Préfet of Chartres. and,

[00:11:35] and

[00:11:35] He still had a scarf around his neck, yes. but for a very different reason that we will talk about in a second.

[00:11:42] Yeah.

[00:11:42] Elyse Rivin: So, basically this is what happened with, with Jean Moulin. He, He continued his studies, uh, but thanks to his father, uh, he had, who had some connections, uh, he managed to get himself a job even while he was still a university student. And he got a job working at the Prefecture. Now I have a very difficult time and I know that you have done better than I have at doing this, is really trying to explain what the Prefecture is.

[00:12:07] Annie Sargent: It is the representative of the President in a department.

[00:12:12] Elyse Rivin: So it uh, includes all the functions including being head of the local police.

[00:12:17] Annie Sargent: Yes, it’s the executive branch of the department, so yes, police is part of that.

[00:12:22] Elyse Rivin: Uh, So what happened was, uh, The, the people, he went to work as a, just a sort of, you know, assistant to assistant, basically.

[00:12:28] Uh, It’s kind of like when you, your father pulls the strings to get you a job while you’re, you know, a part-time job, while you’re a student. Uh, Which is not something that you would normally do here. But uh, what happened was that, uh, everybody soon, very quickly recognized that he had excellent organizational skills and he enjoyed the contact with other people.

[00:12:45] He was really dis, dis destined to do this kind of work. He was, He was good at, uh, kind of an overview, he was good at organizing things. He was good at making contact with other people. And so, uh, even though he continued his studies, um, he actually managed to get himself a promotion in the Perfecture. Uh, And then eventually what happened was he, In, in uh, 1917, uh, he’s very young, he wound up, luckily for him, getting drafted into World War I just a few weeks before the Armistice was signed. Otherwise, he would’ve been sent to the front. And so he never saw any, any battles in, in World War I.

[00:13:23] Annie Sargent: He, But he was a reservist for a long, long time. It a reservist

[00:13:25] Elyse Rivin: He was a reservist. Yes. You know,

[00:13:26] Annie Sargent: And you know, this is something that I should explain. Uh, when In France, when, uh, when people are reservists, it’s of course that they will go serve if called upon, but it’s also a salary.

[00:13:35] It’s a salaried position.

[00:13:36] It’s, And so there were a lot of people who uh, would just sign up to continue with the, uh, the military because it gave them a stipend.

[00:13:45] And he was never a rich guy.

[00:13:47] But he had, he always had a good you know, solid uh, job as a civil servant. Um, But anyway, so it’s important to know that he was all, but he never rose very high in the ranks. I think he was a sergeant or something at the highest, he, you know, he never, uh, but as a Préfet, a Préfet is also also wears a military uniform in the, in the, uh, kind of official functions of the Préfet, they dress up and they have this nice uh, military-like uniform. So he was always between the two worlds. Mm-hmm.

[00:14:15] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And, And that makes me think, there are a few women Préfet now, and when you see them in the uniform, it’s kind of strange, you know?

[00:14:21] Annie Sargent: No, it’s lovely. I like it. We need more of them. Yes.

[00:14:24] Elyse Rivin:I like, well I like the fact that women are Préfet, but I don’t like the uniform, but that, you know, I’m not a uniform person myself, so there you go. Yeah.

[00:14:30] Um, There you go. Um,

Start of the political career, Front Popular

[00:14:30] Elyse Rivin: At the age of 23, uh, you can see that he’s starting to have a career and he is named assistant to uh, Chief of Staff of, um, of the Prefecture. And uh, he is sent to the Savoy area, which of course is in the Alps. And uh, he has uh, officially really declared his uh, politics, which means that he’s uh, he’s part of the Front Populaire, which was very important in the 1920s and 1930s, which is a left-wing government.

[00:14:56] And it is the government that created a minimum wage and a paid vacation and did a great many things to help a population that was really relatively poor at the time.

[00:15:06] Annie Sargent: Right. So this was a, a socialist uh, party uh, by today’s standards. And it is important to mention that uh, in those days, people were very, very political. So people read newspapers of different uh, political views and they, it mattered a lot. And it’s a little bit what’s I, I liken it to a little bit of what’s happening in America today where people are so obsessed with one side or the other.

[00:15:36] It was very much like that in France back then.

[00:15:39] Elyse Rivin: I, I would think that there’s a, maybe one of the differences is though, that there were more options back then in France, there wasn’t just one or two like it seems to be here.

[00:15:48] Annie Sargent: Well, yes, yes. Because we don’t have this winner take all thing, so we have more parties. Yeah.

[00:15:53] Elyse Rivin: Anyway, between uh, 1922 and uh, 1930, he rose in the ranks uh, as a member of the various prefectures. Uh, He went from being assistant to being an under secretary, and then in 1930 he was sent uh, to Brittany, to the Finistère where he actually made some very, very good friends among the artist colonies.

[00:16:15] There were quite a few uh, in, in Brittany at the time. And he made the, the, he became friends with a man who was his mentor. Uh, uh, Someone who was very important politically at the time, a man named Pierre Cot. And in 1932, he was appointed to the Office of Foreign Affairs under the Minister Pierre Cot, and it was the beginning of his real rise.

[00:16:37] And uh, And it was the beginning of the time when people started to really talk about him. He was a brilliant member of the government. And uh, we’re talking about someone who is barely 32 years old.

[00:16:48] In 1933, he was. he became um, Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs, uh, which is extremely young to have a position like that.

Chief of Staff for the Minister of the Air Force

[00:16:57] Elyse Rivin: And then finally in 1934, he was sent to the North, to Paris, and uh, in 1936 he becomes chief of staff for the Minister of the Air Force, uh, they call it Minister de l’Air. It’s for the, basically for the Air Force. And he has reached a stage where um, people have high uh, hopes for him. I, I might,

[00:17:18] I wonder, I did not really read this anywhere, but if things had not turned out the way they did in terms of World War II, I would guess that there were people that were hoping he would probably be a candidate for president or something like that. Because he was someone who had this charismatic quality.

[00:17:38] He was socialist, but not extreme. He was able to bring people, rally people together. Uh, He had a great sense of politics and a great sense of government. Um, He was one of those people, you know?

[00:17:50] Annie Sargent: Yes. A great civil servant, someone who made a lot of connections across political, the political spectrum as well. He was not a you know, doctrinarian so much as other people, but he had convictions obviously. For all these years he was really making the connections that were going to become very, very important uh, late later.

1936-1937n Civil War in Spain

[00:18:14] Elyse Rivin: Later on. Yes. And then we get to the beginning of this fatal period of time for France and uh, eventually for him, which is uh, 1936, 1937. There is the Civil War in Spain and secretly, but with the approval of the president of France, he becomes responsible as Chief of Staff for the office of the Air Force of sending pilots and planes to Spain to help the Republicans in their fight against Franco.

[00:18:46] And this is apparently, the documentation for this, of course, is simply revealed after World War II is over, but his politics were so, so incredibly anti-fascist that he was probably able to convince a lot of the people higher up that this was absolutely necessary, and it is considered to be really his first act of subterfuge and resistance.

[00:19:09] Annie Sargent: Right. So he was good at organizing overtly and covertly, both.

[00:19:16] Elyse Rivin: Yes, good, a nice way of putting it. Yes, indeed. Yes.

1937 Jean Moulin is named préfet

[00:19:19] Elyse Rivin: And 1937, the pinnacle for the moment of uh, his promotions, he is named Préfet, which is of course an extraordinarily thing. Uh, At the age of 38 uh, he’s the youngest Préfet in France. And uh, unfortunately there is uh, the rumbling of what is about to happen, which is of course uh, the beginning of uh, the menace with, with uh, the fascists and, and uh, the Germans.

[00:19:42] And in 1939, he’s named Préfet of Eure and Loir, which is where there is the city of Chartres, which as most of you know, of course, is just the southwest of Paris.

[00:19:55] R Right, so he was first named Préfet of the Aveyron and then soon after that he was uh, named as the Préfet of Eure and Loir, and I should say it’s Eure and Loir.

[00:20:10] Very hard. That’s a hard one in French. That’s a very hard one.

[00:20:13] Annie Sargent: Because we have two, we have two rivers, we have two rivers right there: La Loire and le Loir. La Loire and le Loir

[00:20:20] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:20:24] Um, And so there he is. There is Jean Moulin, um, Préfet. And war is declared in 1939. And one of the first things that the Germans do after they have actually come in from the north and the northeast is they start to bomb uh, Paris and the region around Paris, and they bomb Chartres to smithereens. Uh,

[00:20:46] It is a fact, I don’t know how many of you have visited the sha, uh, the, the cathedral, but it is one of those miracles that they managed to get the glass of the windows out. That is how they saved it. Because most of the glass that you actually see is the original. But the reason why it is back in the building is because they were able to take it out before the bombing began.

[00:21:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah, Chartres was in a terrible state uh, during the war, as a matter of fact, both the Mayor and the Bishop fled the city.

[00:21:19] Both of them fled the city.

[00:21:21] How noble of them. how noble of them.

[00:21:22] Exactly, and and that’s what Jean Moulin thought, like, oh, he, he was left administering a department with refugees.

[00:21:33] All over the place.

[00:21:34] Elyse Rivin: All over the place. Because what happened was the city basically emptied of its 23,000 inhabitants, but instead gained almost 100,000 poor refugees, people fleeing Paris, people fleeing Belgium on their way south. We’ve talked about what happened there. Uh, He was in a situation that was basically untenable because he did not know how to help all of these people.

He refuses to sign with the Germans

[00:21:59] Elyse Rivin: And in the process of withstanding uh, the rules and the orders coming from the Vichy government, which of course, uh, signed basically a pact with the Germans. Uh, He re was told by the Germans to sign a document saying that a group of the, uh, uh, I just watched the movie about them by Omar Sy, it’s very interesting to see.

[00:22:21] Mm-hmm. The, The French had, in their colonies, um, they had many, of course, many colonies in Africa. There was uh, a group of several thousand sharp shooters that were from Senegal that were first of course, in World War I, and then they had them, they recruited them again for World War II, among others.

[00:22:37] They’re from many of different colonies. And the Germans, who of course, besides being anti everything, were also extremely racist. Um, They wanted him to sign a paper saying that a massacre that had occurred that killed hundreds and hundreds of people was the fault of these uh, Senegalese sharp shooters.

[00:22:55] And he refused. Uh, He absolutely refused. He was arrested as Préfet uh, and he was beaten and he was tortured and he was put into a jail cell with uh, another, with one of these Senegalese officers. And interestingly, I, I was listening to a podcast on your, my Fran Ccio, which is really, I do listen to. Um, They were talking about the fact that many people think that this was um, a, a kind of pivotal moment in his life because they were surprised to discover that at that moment, and he’s not yet, really a full-time resistant, he tries to kill himself and what he does is he cuts his throat. Yeah. With a piece of glass. And it is the Senegalese officer who actually saves him. He actually stops the bleeding, calls the attention of the, of the guards. And because he is still a technically a member of the French government, even if it’s the Vichy government, they take him out and they do save him. But in fact, he of course has this scar on his neck, which is the reason why he has this scarf around his neck forever and ever after that.

[00:24:04] Annie Sargent: Right. So So we have to make it clear that the Eure and Loir department was under the Vichy government. So at the same time pretty much, you have Pétain, who was the hero of World War I, telling French people that they have to stop the fight because the Germans are going to kill us, so we need to not resist and go along with whatever they ask.

[00:24:31] And almost at the same time, you have De Gaulle saying to French people, we have to resist, we have to unite, we have to not let this happen!

[00:24:41] And Jean Moulin, as a Préfet, is in a difficult situation. Because he is technically the representative of the French government, which is the Vichy government in his department.

[00:24:53] And when we have to remember, I mean, honestly, at the root of Nazism is a fundamental, a hatred of lots of people. Mm-hmm. Black people, Jews, uh, gypsies, um, handicapped people. Uh, Oh, I’m sure I forget some. Uh, that they, you know, they wanted, now We know this now, today, we know what happened later, but right in the middle of it, Jean Moulin, he, he didn’t know yet. He didn’t have the big picture yet. He’s faced with these German officers who demand that he writes an official document that accuses these black people of Hein heinous crimes, which he knows they did not commit. He knows it’s German officers that did this. Right.

[00:25:39] He refuses to sign it.

[00:25:41] He refuses to sign it.

[00:25:42] He just says I, I won’t do that. And it’s interesting because if you’ve signed something under duress, I would argue it has no value.

[00:25:51] But, so he could have signed and said, look, I was under duress, there’s nothing I could do.

[00:25:56] But he did not, did he? I mean, he just said, no, I won’t do it.

[00:26:01] And he didn’t flee like the Mayor and the Bishop, but he didn’t go along either. It was a really complicated situation he was in, and when faced with a certain, he wrote several times: I fear that I will sign. Yes. If they torture me long enough, I fear I will sign.

[00:26:21] And that’s why he attempted suicide. Yes. Because he could not bring himself, he wanted to stop himself from signing something that was obviously a lie.

[00:26:32] I mean, it’s it’s just amazing.

[00:26:33] Elyse Rivin: He wrote to his mother, and he said, you will forgive me if you ever find out that I did this thing that I find abhorrent to do, and instead you must forgive me if I in fact kill myself.

[00:26:46] Basically, it was, he was faced with that as a dilemma. Now, you are absolutely right. I think, there are very few people faced with this kind of torture, uh, knowing that the alternative in, in the case of someone like him who is, is a Préfet, they probably would not have executed him right away, but there was certainly in the process of torturing him already.

[00:27:08] And he was the Préfet. So if you can imagine if they’re already torturing someone who is the official head of the local, even puppet government, uh, at that point then there’s no hope for anybody because that means that there’s absolutely nothing that they will stop at, you know?

[00:27:24] That’s right.

[00:27:25] Annie Sargent: Also, so like you said, this Senegalese soldier saved him at the moment, uh, but then the Germans decide that they need to patch him up.

[00:27:36] Yes. They, They need him alive because he is the representative of the French government and they need him to talk the population into going along with whatever they’re asking.

[00:27:50] And I have to say here, the average and probably the majority of French population, were just as narrow-minded and racist as Germans were. They were, they just were.

[00:28:04] Okay. And then you have also, the fact is too, that people in an occupied situation under war conditions want to save their own necks.

[00:28:16] Elyse Rivin: And it is, It’s a case of survival and you’re We we’re dealing with, it’s a very complicated story, we have other things to talk about in relation to this part of the history.

[00:28:24]Uh, It’s so, so, so complicated. The, The fact is that Jean Moulin was one of these people whose idea of integrity was so important to him that this became the guiding light of the rest of his life, which was not for very many more years. Right? He resigns.

[00:28:43] Annie Sargent: No, he No, he didn’t resign.

[00:28:45] He

[00:28:45] Elyse Rivin: He was asked to resign, so were 26 other Préfet at the same time. So uh, Pétain got rid of 26 Préfet and installed people who were more to his liking, who were more rightwing and more narrow-minded and more racist and everything.

[00:29:00] And, And ready to do what the, what the “milices” and France did, which was be as horrible as the Germans occupying the country.

[00:29:06] Yeah,

[00:29:06] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Or be puppets, like the real puppets.

[00:29:10] So what does Jean Moulin do?

Jean Moulin joins De Gaulle

[00:29:12] Annie Sargent: 1940, he decides that he’s going to join De Gaulle in London. And De Gaulle, who, by the way, we’ve never, I don’t think we’ve ever really done a, a, a, an episode about him. No. We will, we’ll get there. there. Charles De Charles De Gaulle was a one star general. He was one of the very few.

[00:29:30] He was not famous. He was, He was a one star general. We all know what that means, which means that it’s of the generals, it’s not the highest ranking. Um, He was one of the very few who said, We will not allow the Germans to run this country. We will not simply sign a paper saying, You can take over. And he left.

[00:29:50] He left with his wife, he left with his family. He and several others fled and he went to London and he, all by himself basically, defacto set up a government in exile and he became the image and the voice, uh, and very much the voice, uh, with the help of Char of Churchill, of what is called the Free French Government.

[00:30:12] And Moulin decided now that he was no longer going to be a representative of this horrible Vichy government, that his purpose in life was to join De Gaulle and help in any way he can, to create a resistance uh, movement that will be cohesive. And so he manages with the help of a lot of people, by going through Spain and Portugal to make it under a false name with false papers.

[00:30:42] He makes it to two London and he meets De Gaulle.

[00:30:46] So it’s really interesting, because uh, as the Préfet, one of the things that a Préfet does, a Prefecture in general to, still to this day, is that they make official IDs. And of the 26 Préfet that were sacked at the same time in nine, in, uh, November uh, 1940, he’s the only one who made himself a set of false papers in the name of Joseph Mercier.

[00:31:13] Somehow the other ones didn’t think of this.

[00:31:16] Elyse Rivin: Well, wait,

[00:31:17] Annie Sargent: you know.

[00:31:17] Yeah.

[00:31:17] You wonder.

[00:31:18] So that’s why I say, French people went right along with it. We have to face this, it couldn’t have happened without a lot of help.

[00:31:27] Elyse Rivin: Yes.

[00:31:28] From French people.

[00:31:29] Unfortunately. Yeah.

[00:31:30] So, here we have this face-to-face between De Gaulle and uh, this young man who he has already heard of, uh, and they both are impressed by the other.

[00:31:42] Uh, De Gaulle is impressed by uh, the fervor and the determination of Moulin, and uh, he brings with him all the information he has gathered about what the Vichy government is doing, about the various resistance or groups that he has found out about. And there are of course many. And in exchange, De Gaulle lays out his plans and he tells him about his contacts with Churchill, about his contacts with the Americans.

[00:32:08] And basically what happens is that, uh, by 1941, De Gaulle decides to officially, even though all of this is basically what the French would call officieux, which means that there really, really is no French government anymore except for the Vichy government. But, But De Gaulle has created what he considers to be the real government in exile, and so he announces basically to everyone that he’s in contact with, that Jean Moulin is now his representative as head of the Resistance. And he gives Moulin a job that is absolutely enormous.

[00:32:46] In fact, he has two jobs.

[00:32:48] His jobs are:

[00:32:51] 1. To help organize a secret armed army, that is secret army. That is because it has to be secret, it has to be considered to be official, but secret armed by the British, armed by the Allies. But it has to be led by a French General, who was one of the, there were several generals who actually did work, of course, in coordination with De Gaulle, both in North Africa and in London.

[00:33:19] 2. And the second most important job that he gives Moulin is to create what is called in French the CNR, which is the National Committee of Resistance, which is an umbrella organization that will try to bring together the numerous, unfortunately, far too numerous different resistant groups that have been created all over. First the Free Zone, which is of course the half of, of France, and then of course, uh, just about everywhere in the country, and part of the problem with this is that, even though Moulin is very persuasive and very good at trying to bring people together, we have groups that have all of them, one goal in common, which is to get rid of the Germans, but they are very different in spirit.

[00:34:09] Some of them are right-wing, some of them are extreme left-wing, some of them are actually Communists, some of them are just local people who want to fight to get rid of the occupying forces, and many of these groups, even though they have their own particular organization, they don’t necessarily want to work with the other groups.

[00:34:30] Annie Sargent: They didn’t trust one another. Because when you have somebody who’s right-wing and nationalists, so that’s why they want to get rid of the Germans, they don’t want to cooperate with Communists. There was a huge fear of Communism and that fear of communism still animates a lot of politics to today in America, by the way.

[00:34:53] Elyse Rivin: Mm-hmm.

[00:34:53] Yeah, Yeah, and it animated De Gaulle unfortunately too, because one Oh, yes, yes. one of the worst things that happened, and it, it, of course, it did not stop the Allies and uh, uh, eventually from winning, thank goodness. But one of the problems that did exist was that Roosevelt, Churchill, and De Gaulle, all had such a fear of the communists.

[00:35:11] And it is a fact; today, it’s very hard, I think, and especially hard for Americans to understand just how important the Communist groups were in the resistance. Many of them were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Many of them had suffered enormously before they arrived in France. They were the first ones to take up arms.

[00:35:31] They were the first ones to actually do sabotage. And what happened was, some of them were reasonable and were willing to work with other resistant groups, but some of them would not, because there was a hierarchy in the Communist Party that was really important for them to listen to the orders of the people who were in charge of the Communist Party.

[00:35:52] And so when they were told not to help another group, they did not. And so, uh, it is extremely complicated, this whole thing. And Moulin took this job on. This, He took on the charge of trying to work out this organization knowing that it was going to be extraordinarily difficult.

[00:36:12] Between 1942 and 1943, he made several clandestine trips by back and forth between France and London.

[00:36:19] He was parachuted in back into France, uh, with the help of the British, very often. He brought promises of arms in exchange for better cooperation between these various groups. Some of the groups agreed to work with them, some of them did not. They did not want to work with their fellow resistant groups.

[00:36:38] They did not want to have De Gaulle. They resented the fact that there was this guy that they’d never heard of named De Gaulle in London, telling them, I’m the new head of the French government. You should listen to me. I’m trying to work this all out. Uh, it, it, it,

[00:36:49] It’s cats and dogs, and, and, and rabbits, and, and pigs and, and uh, all kinds of other things trying to work together. Of course

[00:36:56] Annie Sargent: And of course, the Germans encouraged all this. You know, I, If you want to take over a country, well make sure the people in that country fight one another. It will. will be very helpful for, for your purposes.

[00:37:07] Elyse Rivin: It is beyond imagination I think now for us to co comprehend just how complicated and complex this whole thing was. And Moulin did the best he could. And he contacted the leaders of all these different groups and he was on the verge of really setting things up so that there would be a coordinated National Committee of the Resistance. When, um, the word spread, uh, basically he, he was using a false name.

[00:37:34] He’d, He’d basically set up a, a kind of cover story, uh, which was, sounds very minimal as far as I can see of being a, a, a gallerist, of owning an art gallery in Nice. He had a, a fake name. He was going around the country. Every single resistant knew who he was. Every resistance group knew about him. It was a kind of uh, what the French call a “secret de Polichinel”.

[00:37:56] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:37:57] Elyse Rivin: So “secret de Polichinel”. Yeah. Which makes a secret. That’s really not a secret at all. Um, And there you go. And so there he is. Uh,

Code Name Max

[00:38:04] Elyse Rivin: After working so hard for these two years, uh, doing all of this work in June, he decides to call a meeting of uh, With the heads of seven of the most important of the resistant groups in a small village near Lyon. Um,

[00:38:20] June of 1943, by this time the Germans have taken over all of France. They had moved into the Free Zone in November of ’42, after the Allies came up through North Africa and they realized that they had left out a second section in terms of protection, and so they decided to take over the rest of the country. And so, uh, Jean Moulin sets up this meeting on the 21st of June in this town.

[00:38:45] And of all of the uh, people that are supposed to show up uh, one does not. Uh, It turns out to be one of the two who was actually a military general who had become a member of one of the uh, more neutral, if you want to call it, resistant groups.

[00:38:57] And instead, uh, strangely enough, um, there’s another resistant uh, member of another group, a man named René Hardy, who does show up by surprise.

Arrested by the Germans

[00:39:07] Elyse Rivin: Uh, And uh, what happens is that is there is a trap, uh, and uh, the Gestapo is waiting for them all and they are all arrested. And of course the big catch, the big fish is Jean Moulin. Mm-hmm.

[00:39:21] Code name Max, by the way.

[00:39:23] Code name Max. And uh, of the uh, seven people who are arrested, uh, two are released. Five never survive, but the person that they really wanted, the head of Gestapo was Klaus Barbie, who is one of the most barbaric human beings ever to live. And Klaus Barbie is in charge of the Gestapo in Lyon, and for over two weeks, every single day, he tortures Jean Moulin. And Uh, I think that the word is probably not quite enough to describe what he probably did to him, and he’s going to be shipped off, that is Jean Moulin, is about to be shipped off to Paris, um, to be basically finished off.

[00:40:07] When the word comes, this is incredible, that Hitler he sends a message saying that they do not, he does not want them to kill him because he wants to see in flesh and blood this person who is in charge of setting up all these resistant groups, he wants him sent to Berlin. And so in Paris, when he is barely able to stay alive, they put him in a train.

[00:40:36] And he is shipped off, technically, theoretically, on his way to Berlin to be brought to Hitler. And the train obviously has to make several stops and it is in Metz, uh, that he actually dies of his uh, wounds from the torture while in the train uh, going to Berlin.

[00:40:58] Annie Sargent: And it’s important to note that he had been tortured so much. So the Germans wanted him to talk and name all the people who were in the resistance and I. he refused. He did not talk. He did not give out any names, and because of that, they beat him in the face so badly that in the end he couldn’t even talk if he wanted to.

[00:41:22] They broke every bone in his face, probably repeatedly.

[00:41:27] So um, it, he really died a, a, a terrible death. Uh, You know, the whole thing is tragic, but the way he died is just awful.

[00:41:35] And he is, he did not give off. he did not give out a name, he did not give out any information. This is a man who had in his head the names of every single resistant groups, the names of every single leader, of every group. He knew where the arms were going, where the arms were coming from. He had all of this information.

[00:41:52] It didn’t even matter. It wasn’t written down on paper. He had it all inside his brain. And he basically died martyred, uh, to save the integrity of the resistance.

[00:42:05] And this is, how many years after he tried to cut his throat in the shock, this is simply four years later, he dies at the age of 44. He died at the age of 44.

Père Lachaise plot number 10,137

[00:42:15] Annie Sargent: His body was cremated, and the irony of ironies, uh, he is buried in Père Lachaise plot number 10,137 if you want to go and pay your respects to it. However, there is no certainty of course, that it is actually his ashes, but it is assumed and everybody accepts that, de facto, that it is indeed uh, the ashes of of Jean Moulin.

[00:42:39] He, He was for De Gaulle the greatest loss imaginable. He was the person who had, He had the highest hopes of trying to unify and, and help create uh, an, an atmosphere of cooperation, which of course, is something that was barely able to be contained and of course was, was desperately needed, because as the Germans even realized that the Allies were going to win, the next thing that happened was of course the fear of civil war in France.

[00:43:07] And uh, one of the functions that, uh, of Jean Moulin was to try and prevent the idea of this kind of civil war happening. Yeah.

[00:43:14] Yeah. For a long time, I mean, immediately they started recognizing his valor and, and his immense uh, uh, contribution to the war effort.

[00:43:23] But it’s really impossible to understate the cojones of this guy.

[00:43:30] I mean, he said um, in his book, um, let me see, I, his book was called Premier Combat.

[00:43:37] Uh, So First Combat, perhaps English, I’m not sure. Hmm.

[00:43:39] I would say, yeah. I’m not sure it really works. It, That’s the translation, but… …yeah.

[00:43:43] A beautiful, extremely well written book that I can only recommend. If, I mean, There’s a lot of fiction about World War II, but this is not fiction. Yeah. He lived it. Yeah.

[00:43:53] It’s way better than fiction. and he. His whole life was to bring people together despite ideology and get them to, um, get them to cooperate towards a goal of preserving French identity, the French Republic.

[00:44:09] Elyse Rivin:In a, in a, In a country that would be less racist and more uh, liberal in its ideas. Uh, and Uh, And he had his, he,

[00:44:14] He had his ideals. He was given the Legion of Honor in 1945. He was given the, the, I don’t even know how he say that in English actually. The, uh,

[00:44:23]the, yeah,

[00:44:23] It’s a high, it’s one of the highest awards. He was given so many awards. And then of course, uh, the ultimate, uh, in 1964 on Charles De Gaulle, who of course was considered to be the great hero uh, besides uh, several of the generals of, of the French.

[00:44:37] He became president. Uh, Actually became president twice. Uh, In 1964, Charles De Gaulle, uh, as president decided it was time to bring the ashes of Jean Moulin to the Pantheon. And of course, this is the prerogative of the President to decide who goes into the Pantheon. And it certainly was time for Jean Moulin to be brought to the Pantheon.

[00:45:02] And at the time, uh, there was a, a man named Andre Malraux who was the Minister of Culture, who was a very interesting man who was, had been a communist and who was no longer a communist, who was a writer, who was a great uh, uh, uh, a person of a great culture in general. And vision.

[00:45:17] And vision. And he gave an incredible, long, very moving, very long, I listened to the whole thing the other day.

[00:45:24] It’s very long.

[00:45:25] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:45:25] And he had this weird voice, right? The treble sort, I used to think it was the microphone, but actually it was the way he spoke.

[00:45:32] That’s how he spoke. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:45:33] Elyse Rivin: They had this kind of way of uh, emoting, right? Yes, yes, yes.

[00:45:37] It was, even actors uh, talk like that back then. It was

[00:45:41] It was a very, It was a very strange. Yeah, but it, it’s, it’s, if you can, uh, it, it, He goes through the, basically he summarizes all of the brave actions uh, of Jean Moulin. And uh, he just talks about why, of course it is so important that Moulin be part of the uh, Pantheon. And uh, right now, there are, at the last uh, figure I saw was that there are 434 schools named after him.

[00:46:04] I’m sure that there are, I have no idea if anyone knows how many streets are named after him, how many, parks, how many, many, how many places.

[00:46:11] He is in the curriculum uh, for all the books about history of World War II. Uh, I, I would venture to say that I would guess for the youngest generation that they know more about Jean Moulin than they do about De Gaulle.

[00:46:24] Uh, Probably.

[00:46:25] Probably, you know, I mean, De Gaulle was just this tall guy with a big nose who became president, you know, and uh, Jean Moulin is a hero and that kind of makes a difference somehow.

[00:46:35] Annie Sargent: Well, he’s a martyr to the cause.

[00:46:36] Elyse Rivin: To the cause.

[00:46:37] Annie Sargent: Know? Whereas uh, De Gaulle was not.

[00:46:39] I mean, he gave his life to the cause, but he lived. He, He died peacefully in his bed. It’s different, you know, so you have to salute the people who give their life for the cause, obviously.

[00:46:51] And then of course, the ultimate is the portraits, as Annie has mentioned, is that the wonderful images, the sculptures and pictures of Moulin with his red scarf and his fedora. And uh, the scarf when you know, what the scarf is there for, uh, why it’s there.

[00:47:06] Well, and the, the photo of him uh, standing with the German officer uh, in Chartres, it, it was taken in August. He didn’t need a scarf in August.

[00:47:16] Okay? He, It was to hide the scar.

[00:47:17] Yeah. Scarring. Yeah.

[00:47:17] Yeah.

[00:47:17] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:47:17] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:47:17] And, And I think that was a, um, a really, it’s what launched him into this determination. And later he wrote in his book that he had already died.

[00:47:28] Elyse Rivin: He didn’t care what happened anymore. As far as he was concerned, he was supposed to die when he cut his own throat. And okay, he didn’t. And then he dedicated his life to the service of bringing all these different people together and trying to get them to be reasonable and see the bigger picture. Bigger picture is we get rid of the invader.

[00:47:51] And then trying to work it out among ourselves. Yeah.


[00:47:55] Annie Sargent: And he dedicated his whole life to that going forward. Not a very long life, life after that, unfortunately. And then he did it. I mean, without him, I don’t know that that we would have free France today.

[00:48:08] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know. I mean, De Gaulle certainly did help.

The ultimate mystery

[00:48:11] Elyse Rivin: The ultimate mystery too, of course, is that, you know, of the seven people who were arrested that fatal day, fateful day, um, the person who showed up who had not been invited, whose name was Rene Hardy. He was actually tried twice, and acquitted.

[00:48:26] Annie Sargent: And acquitted twice. Um, For being the traitor. For being the traitor. There was a traitor. There was a traitor. There’s a very wonderful uh, French movie for television that I saw a number of years ago with uh, an actor that I like, very much named Charles Berling, um, who plays uh, Jean Moulin, uh, that, that is really centered around that particular event, what led up to it and the, the uh, arrest and all of that.

[00:48:50] And of course, uh, the, the speculation because no one knows for sure who actually did uh, give him up to the Gestapo, right.

[00:48:58] Yeah. And you know, we, we all love a good villain. So it, it turned out that in the narrative, in the popular narrative, Klaus Barbie, uh, was talked about an awful lot. Um, and,

[00:49:09] And he was tried and he was a, you know, I mean, pretty barbaric.

[00:49:12] Yes. He was a horrible, horrible person. And so there’s was a lot written about him as well.

[00:49:17] But I think it’s really important to talk about the people who were so,

[00:49:23] um,

[00:49:23] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:49:23] Annie Sargent: so right. He was right. He, you know, Jean Moulin got it.

[00:49:28] You,

[00:49:28] He, He got what was important and he tried to bring out the best in people, which is sometimes a futile uh, effort.

[00:49:38] But in his case, I think it worked.

[00:49:41] Elyse Rivin: Let’s hope.

[00:49:42] Yeah.

[00:49:42] Thank you so much, Elyse. That was a wonderful um, conversation. uh, you know, I really recommend people learn as much as they can about him. There’s lots and lots that we did not mention. He did so much. There’s so many books, so many historians have looked into him, you know, lots and lots of uh, resources and I think he’s an inspiring uh, character.

[00:50:03] Yes, indeed. Merci Elyse.

[00:50:06] De rien.

[00:50:07] Au revoir.



[00:50:15] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.


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Category: French History