Missak Manouchian – A Hero Of The Anti-Fascist French Resistance During World War II
Missak Manouchian (1906-1944) was an Armenian genocide survivor, who during World War II, became the military commander of one of the most active French Resistance group, which carried out assassinations and bombings of Nazi targets. He is considered a hero of the French Resistance.
Missak Manouchian was born in 1906 in the village of Adiyaman in Western Armenia. Manouchian’s father died in 1915 during the Armenian Genocide, and his mother – during the flight from the massacres. Missak and his brother, having become refugees, ended up in Syria, then spent 5 years in an Armenian orphanage in Lebanon.
In 1925 he moved to France, first to Marseille and then to Paris. Together with his wife, Meline Manouchian, he participated in the anti-fascist movement of the French Resistance.
On June 22, 1941, the day the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union, the Gestapo arrested Missak Manouchian and members of his group during a raid on one of their secret hideouts. He was sent to the “Compiègne” concentration camp, where he did not stop fighting against fascism, organizing an underground organization.
Having escaped from the camp, in March 1943 Missak Manouchian joined the “Stalingrad” detachment (named after the Battle of Stalingrad), which was subordinate to the structure of the “Free Riflemen and French Partisans.”
In August 1943, Manouchian led three detachments, numbering a total of about 50 fighters. Since August 1943, a group under the command of Manouchian has carried out almost thirty successful attacks on the German occupiers, including the operation to liquidate the commandant of Paris, General von Schamburg, who distinguished himself by mass executions, and SS Standartenführer Julius Ritter, who was responsible for sending 600,000 civilians to forced labor in Germany.
In order to somehow reassure the population throughout Paris, the Germans pasted up red posters listing the victims from the activities of the partisans, where they were called the “Army of Criminals.” The arrow on the posters pointed to a photo signed: “Manouchian. Armenian, gang leader, 56 attacks, 150 dead, 600 wounded.” But in France, Manouchian and his comrades have become a symbol of the struggle for freedom.
On the morning of November 16, 1943, Missak Manouchian was arrested by the German command at the underground headquarters in Evry. A total of 68 people were arrested on suspicion of having links with his group.
Manouchian was tortured and 3 months later, on February 21, 1944, at the age of 37, he was executed along with 21 members of his group (“Manouchian’s Group”).
Missak Manouchian was posthumously awarded the French Legion of Honor. Streets and squares in Paris, Marseille, Valence and Yerevan are named after Missak Manouchian and his comrades.
In 1978, at the request of the Soviet Committee of War Veterans, the monumental sculptor Ara Harutyunyan made a monument to Missak Manouchian from red tuffa in the form of an Armenian khachkar, inside which a bronze bust of Manouchian was installed. The monument was erected near Paris, in the suburbs of Ivry. The following words are carved on the monument: “Glory to the one who died for France to live.”
In 2009, the director Robert Guédiguian shot the film “Army of Criminals” ( “L’armée du crime”) about Missak Manouchian and his comrades, in which Simon Abkarian played the main role.
On July 14, 2020, a bust of Missak Manouchian was installed at the French Embassy in Armenia in memory of the Armenians who died for France.
On April 27, 2022, the Mayor of Marseille called for the reburial of the remains of Armenian resistance fighter Missak Manouchian in the French Pantheon.