Palais de Chaillot, Paris, 7 June 1940
“Rumours are flying, all flatly contradictory, but it seems clear that the Germans are advancing on all fronts. It’s only a matter of advanced units of motorized troops – naturally – but however they try to explain it away in the newspapers and on the radio, I’m convinced that our position is extremely serious. Life at the Museum has become positively sinister. Most of the collections have been evacuated.”
Résistance is a woman’s journal that was written in a very dangerous and terrible time. Yet during the darkest of the darkest moments and in the most desperate of circumstances, Agnès Humbert embodies courage, strength and purpose.
Résistance was founded by intellectuals who had no knowledge of espionage, intelligence gathering or secret codes. Their strength was drawn from moral anger and used brilliantly in their fight against tyranny and injustice. Agnès Humbert, a 46-year-old art historian and ethnographer, was an improbable candidate for the task that lay ahead. Divorced, with two adult sons, she worked at The Musée de l’Homme, one of Paris’s most prestigious museums. Co-conspirators included the unlikely Jean Cassou, distinguished cultural and political figure of prewar France, Boris Vildé, an authority in the Polar Regions, and Anatole Lewitsky, a specialist on Siberian shamanism. Not the usual people selected for an underground movement.
Résistance is not an easy read because it gives graphic details of what actually happened in the work camps and prisons during World War II. It is intense and candid. While there are betrayals and deaths, it is primarily a story of redemption and about the friendships cemented by a common cause. As the story unfolds, I was captivated by the humour and the laughter; at the same time, I was awestruck by how many risks were taken to distribute their newspaper, Résistance.
Would I be as courageous? Would I see the danger? Would I resist evil? If you read Résistance – and I strongly suggest you do – these are the hard-hitting questions you will ask yourself when you meet Agnès Humbert.
Paris – The Birthplace of the Résistance