Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

Basque Communist partisans against the Nazis

  • On 21 February, Missak Manouchia and Meliné Assadourian introduce the remains of Armenian marriage into the Paris Pantheon. Communist poet and partisan, Manouchian directed spectacular actions in occupied France during the Second World War, until it was captured and killed by the Nazis. Many Basque militants also participated in the French Communist resistance, but their history is not yet written in capital letters.
FTP-MOI erakundeko erresistentzia komunistakokideak Marseillan 1944an. Argazkia Julia Pirottek atera zuen hiria naziengandik askatu berritan eta Parisko Ejertzitoaren museoan gordetzen da.
FTP-MOI erakundeko erresistentzia komunistakokideak Marseillan 1944an. Argazkia Julia Pirottek atera zuen hiria naziengandik askatu berritan eta Parisko Ejertzitoaren museoan gordetzen da.

It is 80 years since the shooting of misses in Manouchia at the fort of Mont-Valeria with 21 other diners. The Nazis published a very popular red poster to announce the executions: He had the slogan “The Army of Crime” written and spread it everywhere. Manouchian's team had long been carrying out spectacular armed resistance actions and the occupants used propaganda to capture and condemn them to death.

Red Nazi poster on the Manouchian group.

On 21 February he is buried in the Pantheon of Paris in Manouchia, along with his wife Meliné Assadouriana, also a member of the resistance. They will therefore be in the place given only to the famous French, along with Voltaire, Victor Hugo or Marie Curie. The decision of the Emmanuel Macron government has been taken by many as recognition of foreigners who fought against the Nazis during the Second World War.
“We have earned citizenship on merit”

Manouchian and Assadourian were an Armenian marriage survived the genocide of the early century and exiled to France. Manouchian demonstrated great literary and poetic Armenian ability and joined communist ideas. He thus joined the Armenian Support Committee and the Communist Party of France (PCF).

It is not surprising, therefore, that when the Nazis conquered France they acted against them with communist partisans in the FTP or Franc-Tireurs et Partisans (Snipers and Partisans), specifically in the FTP-MOI subgroup. MOI means Main d’Ouvre Immigrant, the workforce of immigrants, indicating its composition. In these FTP-MOI, where Manouchian had at his command a group of foreigners, many were Romanian and Hungarian fugitive Jews, and also from other backgrounds.

Latest words from Manouchian

Missak Manouchia was born on 1 September 1906 in Hisn-i Mansu, Armenia. At nine years old, at the beginning of the Armenian genocide, his father was killed with arms in his hands and his mother starved to death shortly afterwards. Missak and his brother Gared survived thanks to a Kurdish family. In 1925, both brothers landed in Marseille and then Missak started working as a tornero at the Citröen factory in Paris; Gared became ill and died in 1927.

Self-taught, Missake soon showed her fondness to literature and in 1925 wrote a poem called Vers la France. He was also the director of the Zangou newspaper of the Armenian Support Commission, among others, and was associated with Aram Andonian, journalist and famous chronicler of the Armenian genocide. Missak travelled to Sorbonne University as a literary lecture listener with his friend Kégham Atmadjian, co-founding Tchank (Saiatu) magazine. He published not only works of Armenian literature, but also Armenian translations.

On 21 February 1944, while in detention, he sent his last letter to his wife Meliné Assadourián, who concluded by saying: "I forgive all those who have hurt me, or those who have wanted me to do harm, except those who have betrayed us to save their skin and sold us." These last words have given an opportunity for many interpretations, because they say that in Manouchia and his team explain how they were captured by the Nazis.

The “Manouchian group”, with which it became popular, carried out spectacular actions in Paris in 1943. For example, they succeeded in killing Colonel Julius Ritter, a close collaborator of the powerful authority Fritz Sauckel, responsible for organising a slave job for the Nazis throughout Europe.

But after raids of Nazi general intelligence, the majority were arrested on 16 November that same year, when Assadourián was able to escape in secret. Manouchia and his friends were tortured and Geheime Feldpolizien were left in the hands of the secret military police of Wehrmacht.

On 19 February the following year, the German military court sentenced him and 22 others to death in a parodious trial before journalists at the Paris Continental hotel. Then the Armenian turned his head and threw them: “You have French citizenship by inheritance, we have earned with merit.” After two days, all but one were shot: Olga Bancic, a Jewish activist from Romania, was transferred to Germany to Stuttgart prison and was killed a few months later, with her head cut.
Wanted Nazi victims

Missak Manouchian and Meliné Assadourian, a marriage that survived the Armenian genocide, both members of the French communist resistance.

As the war broke out in August 1939, Molotov and Ribbentrop signed a German Soviet non-aggression pact, which was accepted by the PCF President. This gave rise to a dark time for this party, in which many members were separated, Soviet admirers, but against Hitler’s fascism. But the 1941 Bizargorri operation radically changed the situation. When the Germans attacked to invade the Soviet Union, the PCF revised its political line and undertook resistance. From then on the Communists became the favourite victims of German retaliation operations.

During the Second World War, occupied France will fight with many groups, but it was more important than what has been recognised as a communist party, through its armed arms: first in the Organisation Spéciale and then with the FTP. They were organized into small command groups in the form of a “triangle,” so if someone is arrested and tortured, they could only betray a couple of friends.

In the Northern Basque Country there were also FTP commands, although there are hardly any references to its militants. Participation was large: Communists born in the North, children of migrants from the South, exiled from the 1936 War...

In the Northern Basque Country there were also such commands, although there are hardly any references to their militants. Participation was large: Communists born in the North, children of migrants from the South, exiled from the 1936 War... In addition, we know that in Euskal Herria too many women had worked hard on the pre-existing clandestine groups, although in the FTP we do not have many documents to indicate their presence. Despite calls to the action unit, the
FTP did not have too many relations with the resistance gathered by General De Gaulle, at least in Iparralde. The fragmentation is due to ideological antagonism and discrepancies in objectives, and this mutual distrust also led to a shortage of weapons for the Communists, even when the French Interior Forces (FFI) later joined the central organization, about to end the war.

Basque refugees, invisible partisans

As soon as the German occupation began, the Communists of Iparralde created an area of resistance in the Bokale and Biarritz area, but it did not become too clear. On the contrary, the real engine of the FTP of the Basque coast was the exiled Republicans of the South and the Spanish State, although French historiography has made them invisible.

A team of about 400 members was formed for the whole of southwestern France, under the direction of Fernando Vázquez and Víctor Lasa, and Officer Francisco Tellechea assumed responsibility for the Baiona-Biarritz-Hendaia sector.

Tellechea, the son of a Donostian family who migrated to Baiona, organized countless resilient spaces at the end of 1941 until his entry into the institution and his arrest in April 1943: sabotage study, weapons storage, intelligence gathering, clandestine press dissemination, border work... But finally, about twenty members of the network he knit ended up in prison or in German concentration camps from 1943, especially in Buchenwald.

Telleches network

Donostiarra Francisco Tellechea Aranguren created a network within the communist resistance Franc-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP) on the coast of the continental Basque Country with Republican refugees from the South and the Spanish state. They worked between 1941 and 1943, until they were captured and terminated in Nazi German jails or deported to concentration camps like Buchenwald. Some of them are called:

Lucio Alvareda, José Alzuri, Guillermo Alzuri, Antonio Berbel, Mariano Busto, Luis Dupain, Juan José Esnal, Juan Fraile, Alfonso García, Pedro García, Jean Hazen, Eugenio Halli, Santiago Huerta, Félix Martín, José Leflas, Santiago.

That same year, in 1943, the Basque communist militants of Iparralde created a new group in the vicinity of Bokale, Nos and Angelu, which in this case was close to the trade union of the well-known factory of Forges de l’Adour, and performed two major large-scale actions. Firstly, they stole the latest technology Leduc aircraft engine from the Latécoère factory and concealed it.

The most spectacular was the July 13 in Biarritz: The Hispano-Switzerland company had at its garage the Reine-Nathalie Avenue of 400 Junker aircraft wings, ready to send them to Germany. Under the direction of René Saubes de Biarritz and Jean Baptiste Amsoy de Cambo, a command completely destroyed. The gigantic fire that could be seen from all over the city and the panic among the German soldiers who cared for the site.

Propaganda, raids and concentration camps

Another of the most active areas was Bordeaux, where the 3rd FTP group of the city was at the orders of José Goytia, Madrid born, but in fact Mungia. Accompanied by bilbaíno Celestino Pajares, in October 1942 an action worthy of mention was made.

At that time Gestapo and the French collaborating police began a brutal repression against the resistance of the Gironde area. Members of the FTP team from Goytia and Pajares, far from scare, spread Nazi propaganda throughout the city

At that time Gestapo and the French collaborating police began a brutal repression against the resistance of the Gironde area. Members of the FTP team from Goytia and Pajares, far from scare, spread Nazi propaganda throughout the city and attacked some German patrols. They were arrested on January 29, 1943 and in this raid the tolosarra Eugenio González and the Navarro Jesusa del Campo also fell.

Further north, in the city of Cognac, the marriage formed by Lucio Vallina and Marguerite Maurin got deep into the FTPs, in communist resistance to occupation. Lucio was from Ziortza-Bolibar, a family of emigrants, under the supervision of exiled Spanish anti-fascist militants. On the contrary, Marguerite gave shelter to the combatants, carried out liaison duties and hid weapons in neighbouring farms. His son Jean also accompanied them in these clandestine acts, although he was only fifteen years old.

Prisoners in Buchenwald, 1940. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

But this militancy was radically cut off on July 28, 1942. When, after a complaint, the marriage and its three children ended in the dungeons of Gestapo. Lucius was shot on 21 September and Marguerite took to Auschwitz and died there. His eldest son Jean ended up in Sachsenhausen camp until he was released in April 1945.

We know more cases of Basque citizens who were part of the FTP. Altsasuarra Francisco Izagirre, for example, was removed by Gestapo in the department of Lot, along with a number of colleagues: they were arrested while traveling in a car to a secret place and never came to police station.

Bilbaina Lola García, who was Pablo Neruda's secretary in the Chilean consulate, was transferred from Fresnes prison to the Ravenbrück compound after being cruel tortured. She joins the communist resistance with her husband, Joaquim Olaso, head of the PSUC, and was arrested at his home in Paris in 1942, when they were meeting with other friends.

Misses in Manouchia

Sestaoarra was murdered as in Manouchia

In this story there is also a Basque who had the same fate as Manouchian: Galo Borutz, son of Sestao. He was exiled and working at a metallurgical crawler outside Paris. Little is known of him, but he was killed a few days later than in Manouchia, in Mont-Valerián.

All of them are just a sample of Basque militancy on FTP. Its footprint is much wider and plentiful: It extends to cities such as Brittany, Marseille, Savoia or Toulouse.

In 1945, after liberating France from the Nazis, in the context of the Cold War the war broke out from the memory of the resistance, who highlighted, and De Gaull’s vision excelled from the rest. Thus, the memory of the communist partisans was forgotten, even more so that of the militants of Hego Euskal Herria, the most invisible. Now, the Missa route with Manouchian could serve to reclaim this story.

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