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French Resistance propagandist dies

Published 10/04/2015

Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac hailed Britain's help in freeing occupied France (AP)
Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac hailed Britain's help in freeing occupied France (AP)

Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac, a Jewish member of the French Resistance in charge of propaganda during the Second World War, has died aged 98.

He died at his home in Paris, said his son Michel Cremieux, without specifying the cause of death.

Cremieux-Brilhac lived history as a soldier and director of Free France wartime radio broadcasts from England.

Later, he wrote and spoke about history - helping to create La Documentation Francaise, France's state-run publishing house, and recounting his wartime experiences.

In his historical writings he hailed Britain's help in freeing occupied France.

He was born Jean-Louis Cremieux in the Paris suburb of Colombes, into a Jewish family that had lived in south-eastern France for centuries.

His code name "Brilhac" was added after he became a resistance fighter. He joined with a movement of anti-fascist intellectuals in France in the 1930s.

French president Francois Hollande's office said in a statement that he was a "hero" of the French fight against Nazism.

Captured by the Nazis and sent to Germany, Cremieux-Brilhac escaped and fled to the Soviet Union only to be held as a war prisoner.

The Nazi invasion of the USSR in 1941 led to Soviet co-operation with General Charles de Gaulle's expatriate Free France forces, and the resistance fighter was released to travel to London in September. He became a liaison officer with the Resistance-supporting BBC - earning his code name.

"After 15 months without a day of freedom, he joined the Free French in London. That's when Jean-Louis Cremieux became 'Brilhac' - a name that symbolises his resistance to Nazism and would never leave him," the defence ministry said in a statement.

The presidential palace said he was one of the first people to speak out about the Nazi gas chambers.

As a historian, Cremieux-Brilhac broke with "a certain Gaullist tradition by which France freed itself by its own forces", said Laurent Theis, Cremieux-Brilhac's publisher with Editions Perrin.

"He underlined the decisive contribution of Great Britain and the debt that our country had towards it."

At a November 2012 colloquium, Cremieux-Brilhac recounted his efforts in the communication campaigns out of England, and how Resistance giant Jean Moulin in 1942 called on him to set up a secret service that regularly parachuted documents like "a little sabotage manual" - with the covers made to look like train schedules or birthday-wish books - into occupied France.

"In the tumult of history, he lived an exemplary life of commitment and duty," the presidential statement said.

Cremieux-Brilhac is survived by three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, his son said.

A funeral ceremony attended by Mr Hollande is expected to take place on Wednesday at France's Invalides military museum.

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