Jean Moulin was born on June
. It seems rebelliousness ran in his family
, because his
great-grandfather was a soldier
of the Revolution
who proclaimed his support for the Republic
at a most unfortunate time.
Moulin’s father was the president of the League of the Rights of Man
Beziers. Moulin showed great artist
ic abilities at a young age, but
went into politics
instead. He later attained the following roles
in the government, being the youngest ever to attain most of them: Head of
Cabinet of the prefect of Savoy
(1922), Sub-prefect of Albertville (1925),
Sub-prefect of Chateaulin (1930) Sub-prefect
of Montargis (1934). Then
he was head of Cabinet of the Minister for the air of the Popular Front
in 1936. In 1938, he became the Prefect of Aveyron, and Prefect of the Eure
and Loir in Chartres in 1939. At this time, he requested permission
to leave his post and join the army, but his request was denied, and he grudgingly
went back to his post as Prefect. The German
s entered Moulin’s stationed
area on June 17, 1940. Moulin was busy carrying the wounded, and helping the
few doctors that remained to take care of those that were hurt when the Nazi
entered. When he finally arrived back to his post, he found some interesting,
to say the least, visitors waiting for him. Two German officer
sought him out to try and force him to sign a document blaming French soldiers
for atrocities committed by Germans. When he refused to sign it, he
was locked in a closest for the night to think over his decision. Nervous
about capitulating under torture the next day, he slit his throat with some
. The next day, the German captors found a rather unpleasant
. Moulin was rushed to the hospital
, and the Germans were
so embarrassed when the word got out, since at the time they were trying
to pretend they were on France
’s side, that they promptly let him go, and
turned to blaming someone else for the crime
s. Moulin returned to
his post, trying to protect the populace from the Vichy
, which was a Nazi
. He later lost his rank for his ideas, which were
classified as “too Republican
”. From there, he realized that he couldn’t
depend on the French government to fight the Germans, and thus began his career.
Moulin went to Paris in the winter of 1940-41
and argued there for the need of a Resistance with “republican legitimacy”.
But few people listened to him, so from there he went south, to the Unoccupied
Zone, adopted a new identity, and sought out leaders of Resistance groups.
When he finally arrived in London in October, 1941, he was the representative
of three Resistance groups. He went with one purpose in mind: to talk
to de Gaulle. de Gaulle was the leader of all the French movements, for the
most part, but they movements were beginning to move away from him as well.
Though he was a good leader, he was English-backed, and for that matter, he
was in England. The Resistants felt that he was seated safe and sound
in merry old England while they were daily risking their lives. Also,
they were worried that he would simply start another military dictatorship
after the war. But Moulin’s personality and beliefs helped to clarify
this matter. Within days of meeting Moulin, Charles de Gaulle dropped
much of what he had learned about the different sides of political matters.
He made it clear in a broadcast on November 15th 1941 that he wanted “to
remain faithful to the democratic principles that our ancestors set out.”
Now that de Gaulle was in the Republic mainstream, Moulin was parachuted
back to France January 1st, 1942, as de Gaulle’s “delegate general”.
Now the highest leader of the Resistance that was stationed
in France, and second only to de Gaulle, he was given funds to help him
pay for the working of the Resistance. He displayed great personal authority,
and remarkable political and administrative skills. He managed, with his funds
and skills, to unite the oftentimes competitive, and typically suspicious
(understandably so) Resistance groups, which tended to be touchy and argumentative
at best. In 1942 he created MUR, the Unified Resistance Movement.
After another visit to London in early 1943, he took charge on May 27th at
the first meeting of the National Resistance Council. On June 21,
he was captured, along with several other high ranking Resistance officials,
by the Nazis. He was tortured, revealing nothing, and just as the
final plans for his rescue were being made, he was transported to Paris:
mortally wounded yet still telling nothing. From there, he died on
July 8th, of a heart failure on the train to Germany, and was cremated.
In December 1964, his remains were placed in the Pantheon, to rest alone
with those of Victor Hugo, Jean Jaures, and Lazare Carnot, by the now
President de Gaulle during a special ceremony. His remains are one of very few
to be added in recent years. As de Gaulle said of him, “he was the martyr
of the Resistance”.