French Resistance propagandist Cremieux-Brilhac dead at 98

AP News
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Posted: Apr 10, 2015 6:30 PM

PARIS (AP) — Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac, a Jewish member of the French Resistance in charge of propaganda during World War II, has died. He was 98.

He died Wednesday 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 Britain. 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 southeastern France for centuries. His code name "Brilhac" was added after he became a resistance fighter. He joined 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 cooperation with Gen. 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 symbolizes his resistance to Nazism and would never leave him," the Defense 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 toward it."

At a November 2012 colloquium, Cremieux-Brilhac recounted his efforts in the communication campaigns out of Britain, 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 Hollande was expected Wednesday at France's Invalides military museum.