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Lucie Aubrac, 94; awarded medal for heroism in French Resistance

March 16, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Lucie Aubrac, a hero of the French Resistance who helped free her husband from the Gestapo and whose dramatic life story became a successful French film, has died. She was 94.

Aubrac, whose maiden name was Lucie Bernard, died Wednesday in a hospital in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, where she spent the last two months, said her daughter, Catherine Vallade.

French President Jacques Chirac called Aubrac an "emblematic figure," saying "a light of the Resistance has gone out."

Born June 29, 1912, in the eastern city of Macon, Aubrac was teaching history and geography when she and her husband, Raymond Samuel, an engineer of Jewish descent, helped create Liberation-Sud, or Liberation-South.

Liberation-South was one of the first networks set up by the Resistance, a French movement that continued fighting Germany after France's 1940 defeat in World War II. It linked civilians and armed bands of partisans working secretly to oppose the Nazi occupation.

The couple adopted the nom de guerre Aubrac in the Resistance.

In 1943, Aubrac helped orchestrate her husband's escape from a Lyon prison. She persuaded the local Gestapo leader, Klaus Barbie, to let her meet with Raymond. During the visit, they planned his escape.

Aubrac led the armed commandos that rescued her husband and other Resistance prisoners during their transfer to another jail, Denis Peschanski, a historian at the National Center for Scientific Research, told France Info radio Thursday.

The couple and the first of their three children fled to London in February 1944. Aubrac gave birth to their second child days after their arrival, Le Monde newspaper said.

She received the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, for her work in the Resistance.

After the war, Aubrac became a vocal critic of French policy in Algeria, which was then a colony in North Africa, and defended immigrants' rights. After she retired from teaching, she toured schools across France, speaking to students about the Resistance and promoting the values of the movement, Peschanski said.

She wrote about her wartime experiences in the 1984 book "They'll Leave Exhilarated," published in the United States in 1993 as "Outwitting the Gestapo."

French director Claude Berri based his 1997 movie "Lucie Aubrac," starring Carole Bouquet, on Aubrac's book.

In 1998, the Aubracs won a lawsuit against French historian Gerard Chauvy, who suggested in his 1997 book "Aubrac, Lyon 1943" that the couple may have been double agents responsible for betraying French Resistance leader Jean Moulin, who died after being tortured by the Gestapo.

Aubrac's survivors include her husband and three children.

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