When Hitler invaded Paris in June 1940, scuffles left a couple of German soldiers wounded outside the Gare du Nord; otherwise the French acquiesced in bewildered silence. The city’s new masters meant business. Any citizen found in possession of firearms or Free French propaganda would be jailed or executed.
The decision to enter the Resistance was not difficult for a handful of French women. Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier, niece of the creator of the Barbar children’s stories, felt a moral revulsion for the Jew-hatred of Vichy France. While she did not blow up any bridges, derail locomotives or eliminate members of the SS, she ran heroic risks in smuggling anti-Nazi propaganda past German blockades in Paris and establishing a network of underground contacts. Marie-Claude’s was among the first Resistance cells in occupied France and, miraculously, it never lost sight of a future beyond Hitler’s defeat.
Review by Ian Thomson