Resistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France

Resistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France


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"You may think you've read stories like this before, yet hers is special…Résistance was written by a woman of exceptional intelligence and courage. Her perceptions are…acute, honest and humane."—Newsday

Agnès Humbert was an art historian in Paris during the German occupation in 1940. Stirred to action by the atrocities she witnessed, she joined forces with several colleagues to form an organized resistance—very likely the first such group to fight back against the occupation. (In fact, their newsletter, Résistance, gave the French Resistance its name.)

In the throes of their struggle for freedom, the members of Humbert's group were betrayed to the Gestapo; Humbert herself was imprisoned. I n immediate, electrifying detail, Humbert describes her resistance against the Nazis, her time in prison, and the horrors she endured in a string of German labor camps, always retaining—in spite of everything—hope for herself, for her friends, and for humanity. Originally published in France in 1946, the book is now translated into English for the first time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596915596
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 8.28(w) x 10.88(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

Agnès Humbert was a distinguished art historian and a member of the Musee de l'Homme group in the French Resistance.

Barbara Mellor is a translator specializing in the fine and decorative arts, art history, architectural history, fashion, design, and all things French.

Joyce Bean is an accomplished audiobook narrator and director. In addition to being an AudioFile Earphones Award winner, she has been nominated multiple times for a prestigious Audie Award, including for Good-bye and Amen by Beth Gutcheon.

Read an Excerpt


A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France

By Agnès Humbert
Copyright © 2004

Tallandier Editions
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-559-6

Chapter One The Fall of the Third Republic

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 advance 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. All that's left is the library. I have just been given instructions to pack up the most valuable volumes - a more or less mechanical task that takes my mind off the turmoil going on all around me ... The entire population is leaving Paris; we are living in an atmosphere of panic; people seem to have lost all capacity for reasoned thought. Just now on the place du Trocadéro twenty or so people were simply standing there, craning their necks and staring up into the sky - where, so they said, they could see parachutists! Do they even know what a parachutist is, I wonder? My eyes are pretty sharp, and all I could see were swallows ...

Palais de Chaillot, Paris, 8 June 1940

This morning Georges Friedmann came to see me at the museum. He found me packing the last books into the last case, though without much enthusiasm as I am perfectly well aware that there is no longer the smallest chance of evacuating them. Friedmann wouldn't tell me the current whereabouts of his regiment. It is not hard to deduce that there has been a major retreat. He is deeply distressed by the disintegration of the army, and by the current barrage of orders and counter-orders. What can a humble lieutenant do, when chaos and arbitrary inconsistency are the order of the day at every rank, from the highest to the lowest? He remains admirably calm, and attempts to reassure me without masking the truth. He doesn't hide the fact that it's all going extremely badly, though he says the army is organizing a line of resistance along the Seine. He thinks this might hold the Germans up for a while - two or three weeks at most - and after that the invasion could be contained along the Loire. Despite everything, he has managed to keep his confidence, and I find that contagious.

I forgot all about lunch. Now it's three o'clock, and I am sitting in my office doing nothing. Every now and again I pick up the telephone and listen to the news bulletins on the Informations parlées. The news is depressing, conflicting, faltering. The doors of the Palais de Chaillot are shut. The silence is deathly. There is nothing to do but wait.

Paris, 10 June 1940

I have catalogued Friedmann's library. His books, manuscripts and documents are in packing cases stacked in my cellar. I write to him to tell him that I have undertaken this little enterprise purely and simply as a precaution against bombing raids. Against bombing raids ... oh, but of course. To myself, however, I can admit the truth: I know full well why I have moved these precious books - and these compromising documents - to my house, where no one will think of looking for them. It is as a precaution against enemy occupation. We have to get used to this appalling possibility: Paris may fall. It's one thing to think it, but it's quite another to say the words out loud: 'Paris may fall.' I'm stopped by a superstitious dread: I can't do it. Some things should never be said out loud, for fear they may come true ...

Paris, 11 June 1940

Never has Paris looked more beautiful, never has it been such a mass of flowers. The Cour du Carrousel looks as if it is ready for a flower show. I gaze at it from the office of the Director of the Musées Nationaux, where we have all gathered, suitcases in hand. We talk in low voices, as though in the presence of death. M. Jaujard moves from one group to another, so calm and controlled. I hear him say: 'I would like my Jewish colleagues to leave first.' The trucks are in the courtyard. We take our places in them, invited to do so by our director with the same unruffled cordiality, the same attentiveness to every detail, the same encouraging smile for each of us as he hands us our evacuation orders. We talk among ourselves. Yesterday I could not bring myself to utter the words 'Paris may fall'; today we say them almost carelessly, confident in the knowledge that the Allied armies have retreated only in order to regroup, to reorganize for the final phase of the war, which will be fought out along the Loire; confident in the absolute conviction that once the harvest is over the Soviet Union will enter the conflict. It's just a matter of holding out till then ...

With our spirits lifted and our minds almost at peace, we leave Paris for the Chateau de Chambord. Although the weather is glorious, the sun is blanketed by a thick black fog that leaves greasy black smears on our faces; as we said our goodbyes this morning, my son Pierre explained that this fog is man-made and designed to offer protection to the people of Paris as they flee. Then, after a moment's pause for reflection, he added: 'At least that's what they say ... but it's much too well done to be the work of that Civil Defence mob ...'

Vicq-sur-Breuil, 20 June 1940

Two days I have been here now, in what my head tells me is a lovely region of rolling hills. My heart, meanwhile, is filled with the scenes of savagery I have witnessed over the last nine days, on a journey that defies belief. Paris-Limoges. A speeded-up film full of double exposures, unreeling at a hectic pace as though the projectionist were drunk. So many images, chaotic and incoherent, jolting and jostling for space in my head. Leaving Paris among so many thousands of others, on foot or by bicycle or in cars - cars that had to be abandoned almost immediately for lack of petrol or spare parts. Mothers carrying small children ... One young woman, dropping with exhaustion, pushing a strapping baby squashed into a doll's pram that was far too small for it, so that it looked as if it would topple out at every step. How shall I ever forget the sight of her? Such a mass of people, laden down with the most unlikely looking parcels and packages - almost invariably including a washtub and a birdcage.

At Chambord, a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl called Emilienne was brought to us. That morning she and all her family had abandoned their farm in the Cher, heading southwards on foot and without any idea where they were going. A French army truck in headlong flight from the enemy had run over this lovely child. We telephoned the hospital at Blois: no reply. No doctors, no pharmacists. A passing army medic was good enough to stop off at the chateau for a few minutes. There was nothing to be done, he told me. We clustered round her, dumbstruck: a handful of administrators and curators, including Jean Cassou. I tried to staunch the blood; someone else gave her an injection of cacodylate: futile gestures that fooled no one. She died, apparently without pain. Jean Cassou and I knew each other already and have a lot in common, but this half-hour together at the side of a dying girl has bound us to each other with deep bonds of comradeship. We both know it.

At La Celle-sur-Cher, amid this impenetrable, heaving mass that choked the road, I saw a French general - a general - get out of his car and beg the crowd to let him through in a manner that was truly pathetic. I shall never forget his wheedling voice: 'Oh come on, let me through. I have to get through.' No one paid him the slightest attention. Only picture the scene: a general of the Debacle ...

Another sight that will haunt me was that of six haggard soldiers, their uniforms hanging in shreds. They'd abandoned their weapons long before. Between the six of them they had only one possession left: a frying pan.

At Valençay I heard the frantic screams of a mother who had gone out of her mind. She had lost her two little daughters and was shrieking for them everywhere. It was at Valençay that we learned that France was seeking an armistice. All around me, men were weeping silent tears. Jumping out of the car, I stamped and yelled: 'It's all lies, it's all lies, it's the German radio that's saying that just to demoralize us. It can't be true, it's not possible.' I can still hear my voice, as though it were someone else shouting. Within a few hours there was no longer any point in denying it: we had no choice, we had to admit that the unthinkable had happened. The people of France were on their knees, begging for mercy, still fighting here and there, fleeing in all directions, and now all I could hear was, 'Paris has fallen!'

Paris has fallen! Paris is in the hands of the Germans! Somehow we had to make our minds admit this abomination, somehow we had to grasp what it meant, because it was the truth!

At the army petrol depot at Limoges we wait our turn, hour after hour. Six huge Italian bombers fly overhead. I know only too well what would happen if a bomb were to fall on this vast fuel reservoir. But I'm past caring now; I'm too exhausted, too disheartened. I don't feel anything any more, no fear, no anxiety; I'm just numb. Ahead of us in the queue stands an army ambulance. I still have two oranges: perhaps the wounded it is carrying are thirsty? Then, through the half-open rear door, I catch a glimpse of the interior. Strewn on the floor are items of female clothing and a couple of empty champagne bottles. Sprawled in the stretcher berth is a woman in a jade-green crêpe satin slip heavily trimmed with lace, her bloated face mottled with powder and sweat. She is drunk, and dead to the world. Her companion flings his arms about and shouts. He needs petrol, and fast. So this is what our ambulances are carrying, while our wounded are abandoned and left to die.

Vicq-sur-Breuil, 20 June 1940

At last I have found Maman, comfortably installed at cousin Daisy's house in the little village of Vicq-sur-Breuil. The house is filled to bursting with refugees, both French and Belgian. I share a bed with Maman. After so many nights spent in rain-lashed fields, it's wonderful to sleep in a bed. I tell them about my journey, but I can see that no one believes me. An endless stream of refugees troops through the village, all heading for the south, where they hope to find food and safety. I watch this interminable procession from the dining-room window, stupefied. In front of the house a veteran captain directs the traffic, so saving the village streets from becoming completely choked. Where are my sons? Jean was in Newfoundland. Is he still there? And Pierre? Killed on the road, perhaps. People who left Paris after I did have been subjected to terrible bombing, I am told. If I listen hard I can hear artillery fire: so the armistice hasn't been signed. There is still fighting north of Limoges. Oh, how I long to know what is happening! Where are my friends? Shall I ever see them again? What are they thinking? Are they suffering the same torments as me? Or am I 'over-reacting', as Friedmann implied?

I turn the knob on the wireless set, which is tuned to London. By a pure fluke I find myself listening to a transmission in French. A voice announces an appeal to be made by a French general. I don't catch his name. In a delivery that is jerky and peremptory - not at all well suited to the radio - the general urges all Frenchmen to rally round him, to carry on the struggle. I feel I have come back to life. A feeling I thought had died for ever stirs within me again: hope. There is one man after all - one alone, perhaps - who understands what I feel in my heart: 'It's not over yet.' I hurtle outside and across the garden like a lunatic, charging up to the captain - to whom I have not so far spoken a word - panting and breathless. I couldn't care less, I just have to tell him the news: 'Captain, captain, a French general - I don't know his name - has just spoken from London: he says that the French army must regroup around him, that the war will go on, that he will broadcast again to give orders!'

The old captain looks up wearily: 'That'll be de Gaulle, the general. Oh yes, he's a right one, that de Gaulle. Oh, we know all about him, don't you worry! It's all a lot of nonsense. Me, I'm a reservist anyway. All I want is to get back to my business in Paris. Me, I've got a family to feed ... he's a crackpot, that de Gaulle, you mark my words.'

It is thanks to that 'crackpot' that this evening I decided not to put an end to everything after all. He has given me hope, and nothing in the world can extinguish that hope now.

Vicq, 20 July, 1940

Long walks every day help to calm my nerves. If I didn't have the excuse of foraging for food - we still have to eat, after all - I would stay shut up in the house in a stupor, stewing over the fate that lies in store for us, and how we can continue the struggle and 'pull through'. Jean has telegraphed to say that he is still a naval officer on board the Ville-d'Ys, currently in Newfoundland. So he is safe and well. And I've had a letter from Pierre at last. He appears to have experienced all sorts of adventures on the road out of Paris, but was cut off by the German army before he could get as far as the Limousin region. He is waiting for me in Paris, and he tells me that orders to return to my post will soon reach me. Maman remains remarkably calm, and listens to me talking for hours on end. Should I go back to Paris and hand in my notice at the museum? What should I do? I have written to Mme Osorio. Why not go to California? Palo Alto, where she lives, is a university town: surely I could teach history of art there? Or find a job as a curator in a museum or library? Or would it be better to hole up in some Provençal village and live off our savings? At times anything at all seems preferable to living under the swastika, and then just as suddenly I can't envisage any possible alternative to going back to Paris to be with Pierre. This is the solution that is the least creative and the least risky (or is it the most risky?). It is quite likely that I shall waste no time in getting dismissed from my post for my beliefs. The very occasional Lyon editions of Paris-Soir that I have managed to read here and there leave no room for doubt (for those still inclined to harbour any) as to the inclinations of the Laval government. But still, this puppet administration can't last for ever. The radio is my sole pleasure. On 14 July there was a broadcast from London of the Romain Rolland play Le 14 juillet. What a consolation! This morning we heard that as fast as German posters are put up in Paris they are slashed and torn down again. The people of Paris are rebelling already. So that's decided then: I'm going home!

Chapter Two Paris under the Swastika

Paris, 6 August 1940

It's a week now since I got back to Paris. I feel as though I am convalescing after a long and serious illness. I am completely numb and so very tired. The flurry of appointments in so many different offices in Limoges, my return papers being handed from one official to another, from one rubber stamp to the next, left me feeling sick at heart. And then the journey back, the frantic scramble to board the train at Limoges, and crossing the demarcation line at Vierzon at dead of night. I shall never forget the sight of two German soldiers entering our compartment by the dull light of their lamp, punctiliously greeting us with a 'Sieurs, dames', doubtless because they think it is the height of courtesy and terribly French. These are the first German soldiers I have seen. They demand to see my return papers, scrutinizing them in minute detail, checking all the dates and stamps before finally waving their lamp in front of my face. Whatever for? My photograph isn't on any of the documents. My appearance evidently proves inoffensive, and they indicate with a guttural grunt that I am in order. Idiotic though it is, my nerves are strained to breaking point. My teeth are chattering: I hope they can't tell, but I'm terrified the Germans will overhear their deafening clatter, like crazy castanets. How sickening it is to have to submit to inspection by these people, when all you want is to go home.


Excerpted from RÉSISTANCE by Agnès Humbert Copyright © 2004 by Tallandier Editions. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents Translator's
List of Illustrations....................vii
Preface by William Boyd....................ix
1 The Fall of the Third Republic....................1
2 Paris under the Swastika....................9
3 In the Prison du Cherche-Midi....................55
4 In the Prison de la Santé....................86
5 In the Prison de Fresnes....................91
6 In the Communal Cell....................108
7 Forced Labour....................111
8 At the Phrix Rayon Factory....................148
9 The Fall of the Third Reich....................205
10 Hunting the Nazis....................224
Afterword by Julien Blanc....................271
Appendix: Documents on the Resistance....................309
Translator's Notes....................325

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Resistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
JKathleen More than 1 year ago
I have read so much history about WWII, and I am amazed to read an account so different from the rest and utterly unimaginable and difficult to access as humanity in the modern age. This was wonderfully written and a truly widespread tale of the war's experiences. A must read.
crimekitty763 More than 1 year ago
The diary of a Frence woman living in Paris when the Nazis take control. She joins a Resistance group; but is captured by the Nazis and taken to Germany to a slave labor camp. This is her story of survival and continued resistance toward the Nazis. She finds clever ways to thwart the Nazis with every job she is assigned . When she is working in the Rayon-making factory; she adds small knots to the inner parts of the spools of rayon so they will be unsatisfactory for the Germans . The amount of deprivation and misery she endures is amazing. This is a translated copy of her diary. It certainly made me think several times of what I would do if placed in the same situation. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in WW II stories.
iris1948 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I don't usually read this type of nonfiction, I was caught in the immediacy of this memoir, and I am delighted that I read it. The daily details of Agnes Humbert's early work in the French resistance and her subsequent years of imprisonment were told in literate and descriptive detail. I would rate this book comparable to the Diary of Anne Frank. Amazingly calm and factual, the author portrayed even the most horrific circumstances of her ordeal with precise word pictures and calm detachment. An inspiring story of courage and determination, this book deserves my highest recommendation.
mmyea1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book tremendously but this does not mean I had a hard time getting through some sections. I am interested in WWII so this book was right up my alley. I did find that I would get so wrapped up in the book that I needed to keep a "fluffy" book on hand to switch between to help alleviate the mood. I would very much recommend this book to others.
almigwin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an utterly amazing memoir, which records, with great fidelity to daily detail, the experiences of a French Resistance heroine in Paris at the start of the occupation. She writes calmly about how she started a resistance group, which eventually grew, and joined with others before she was imprisoned and sent to forced labor. The tone is calm and factual, although there is fear and bitterness and anxiety, the author showed complete dedication to defending France against the Nazis from the day France fell. Her ingenuity at thinking of ways to do the work in the face of certain death is incredible. She shows great respect and affection for her colleagues, and was fortunate in the support of her mother and son.When she and two colleagues were creating the Resistance broadside, they kept a fire going to burn the compromising papers if caught, and pretended to be writing a play, with the scenario on the table, just in case of capture. Although she was not young, and the experiences in prison and forced labor deprived her of adequate food, clothing, and warmth, her courage never faltered. She spent less than a year in the Resistance, and four years in prison and forced labor. Many of her companions were executed, but she survived and her memoir was published in 1946. It has only recently come to light again, and was recently translated. It is hard to imagine anyone as calm, and good, and brave. and honourable as Agnes Humbert. She is a secular saint, in my eyes and joins the pantheon of the righteous with Miep Gies, Etty Hillesum, Irena Sendler. In the face of terrible evil, she stood firm and fought with all her intelligence and ability, to spread the word that the Nazis should be opposed no matter what the danger, and that de Gaulle is leading the fight.She is one of the greatest heroines I know.
bkbarons on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read a decent amount of WWII fiction and a marginal amount of non-fiction and memoirs. For the most part, they have been war/fighting based or centered on a concentration camp victim. I think this is the first time I have ever read about the Nazi labor camps as opposed to the concentration camps. Reading this true story, even this long after WWII, was both enlightening and heartbreaking. Agnes Humbert tells her story as she helps lead one of France's first resistance newspapers and the subsequent trials she goes through as she is arrested and detained first in French camps and then later in German labor camps. The suffering she and other political (and criminal) prisoners went through was unimaginable. And yet through it all, she maintained an admirable sense of humor and lightheartedness that both made it easier to stomach her tale and served to ensure that her and her companions were able to survive to see the next morning. I definitely recommend this read, especially to WWII enthusiasts and people who are interested in reading a truly inspirational story from a real life patriot and hero.
labrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great historical book, written as a memoir, of a woman who lived during and after Germany's occupation of France. This includes her initial imprisonment and forced labor prior to the fall of the Third Reich.
sweans on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is not for the faint of heart. While it's not particularly graphic, it's still greatly depressing.This book is written by a French woman who actually spent time in German labor camps during WWII. It's hard to read about the pain and torture that these people had to go through.It's an important historical piece and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the WWII era. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone looking for a quick lighthearted read. Agnes's words will stay with you long after you've put the book down.
iheartbookgossip on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book was very empowering and very interesting. Although it was confusing at times, I thought it was very informative. Will recommend this to others and friends.
morydd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was not what I expected. I think that this may be partially because the the title Resistance led me to expect more about the resistance movement in France in general, and not as much the story of a woman's personal resistance, not only of the occupiers of her homeland, but of imprisonment, despair and hate.The book spans nearly 5 years, of which only 10 months are spent as part of the active resistance movement. Those months are also at the very formation of that movement, so the work done, while vastly influential, is not as directly powerful as that which came later. I was quite surprised that the vast majority of this book is a chronicle of the author's time in prison and serving as forced-labor in Germany.The personality of Humbert shines through this book on every page, even at her lowest moments she has an energy that is almost palpable on the page. Yet her descriptions of the horrors she is witness to, and victim of, are almost dispassionate in their honesty.Although this book was not what I expected, I'm glad to have read it.
ToTheWest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Agnes Humbert's Resistance is the story of her life as France is occupied by Germans in World War II, her arrest for her underground activities, and her life after liberation. A section of the book is devoted to each of these three periods. However, although Humbert wrote the entire book in diary form, only the first third, recounting the occupation of Paris, is taking from her journal. The rest are reconstructions and are more accurately described as memoir, rather than a day to day accounting of events. Still, Humbert was a gifted writer, and her description of the fall of Paris and the populace's evacuation en masse paralleled the first "movement" of Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise which, although fiction, was also written almost as the events were happening. Her keen eye for detail renders her story all the more poignant, although one sometimes wonders how she was able to retain all of names and descriptions, despite years of not having her diary. Still, if one reads this as a memoir, rather than a diary, it is an elegant and valuable addition to the literature of World War II France and the citizens who lived through it.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Originally published in 1946, Agnes Humbert's journal became the most quoted source on the early days of French Resistance. Though being quoted frequently the book soon became obsolete and obscure obtainable only by academia. Republished in France in 2004, the book was finally translated into English this year, 2008.The first and last sections of the book are taken directly from Ms. Humbert's day to day diary. Here we are told of her experiences as the Germans occupy France and how she and her colleagues started the first outright resistance to the occupation. We are also told the day to day reflections of the days after France were liberated and the part she played in helping to separate the chafe from the wheat where the German citizens were concerned.The bulk of the journal was written almost immediately after the war and while not being an actual day to day journal it is a very closely remembered memoir of her German trial and sentencing as a political prisoner sent to Hard Labour camps and prisons, starting in France and eventually moving to Germany. This is a fabulous book, full of atrocities and monstrous behaviour by human beings but also shows the determination of one woman and those who surround her of keeping their dignity and holding their heads high as they are degraded each and every day.Highly recommended.
memmet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
highly readable account of her grim wartime experiences as a slave laborer in Germany
Myckyee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Résistance, Agnès Humbert¿s journal and memoir, is a haunting and heart-wrenching account of her experiences during the occupation of France throughout the Second World War.The first two chapters are presented in journal form, recorded by the author almost on a daily basis. The larger section of the book is comprised of her memoir written just after the war ended. Both segments recount the many men and women that Agnès Humbert knew and met and who joined her in the underground movement that helped define France during the war years. The courage shown by her and others is remarkable. They seemed to share an unshaken faith that it was only a matter of time before they were once more able to live without fear of persecution. There is plenty of anger and bitterness: ¿The Germans are a spineless lot on the whole, lacking any ability to reason things through or view them with a critical spirit; and they suffer from a total and absolute lack of initiative, inculcated by their educational system down the centuries.¿ This comment, made at the end of the war, is in response to Agnès stepping in to help when the native Germans did nothing to support other Germans with among other things, medical help. It¿s not politically correct, but for the mores of 1945, coming at the end of a brutal war, it was probably considered mild. However in other instances within the book, the author gives credit to Germans for unexpected kindnesses. When a Nazi judge sentenced some of her fellow resistance fighters at trial, he went to considerable trouble to later plead for leniency for them, saying they behaved honorably and more. Agnès was at the time encouraged by his honest and respectful behaviour towards the prisoners and afterwards, during his own war criminal hearing, she wrote a moving testimonial supporting him. In another notable statement that would not be looked favourably on in present-day societal norms Agnès criticizes polish prisoners of war for their behaviour once they were granted freedom in 1945. Throughout the book, her feelings for the enemy seemed to be scorn for the many but genuine affection for the few. I¿ve only read one other book that touched on the French resistance ¿ The Tiger Claw by Shauna Singh Baldwin. While that book does have some parallels to Résistance ¿ obviously the topic, but also both are based on actual events with the main characters being real (as opposed to fictitious) women - Resistance is the more true to life work, simply because it¿s written by the person who lived the events.Occasionally the narrative jumps around and individuals are introduced but then not mentioned for some time making it difficult to keep track of the connections between Agnes and her friends. However, this is a minor criticism given the circumstances under which this book was written and especially so since several tools are provided to alleviate this issue at the back of the book: an afterword explains some of the methods and motivations of the author; an appendix which includes documents and transcripts from the war and which are pertinent to the book; a bibliography and an index, both of which are extremely helpful in identifying notables within the book.I can recommend this book not just as an enjoyable read ¿ it¿s much more than that. It¿s a history lesson that teaches the fortunate what could still happen given the right circumstances.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Résistance is the harrowing journal and memoir of Agnès Humbert, a middle-aged art historian in Paris, and her experiences in Nazi occupied France during WWII. When Humbert first hears the rumors of an occupation, she is distraught and numb, but soon finds a strong will of opposition inside her. She begins to contact others who are like-minded and is soon embroiled in producing Résistance, a newspaper filled with propaganda, which she and her colleagues distribute anywhere and everywhere they can. Agnès meets several important contacts and knows that danger is only a heartbeat away, for if the Germans find out about her anti-Nazi sentiments and activities, she will be imprisoned. Though she knows the dangers, she continues with her work, only to be brought in for questioning regarding her activities. Following her eventual trial, Agnès is convicted and sent to prison. What ensues is the heart-breaking story of what she was subjected to after being becoming a political prisoner in France, and later Germany.The first section of this book was given over to the specifics and details of who and what her group of friends did in opposition to the German invasion. Many were implicated, yet as her journal was never found, Agnès was not the cause of any imprisonments or executions. Unfortunately, many of the people responsible for Résistance were tried and convicted anyway. I found this section to be a little dry and methodical. It almost seemed that this part of the book acted as a type of ledger of information, rather than a chronicle. Many of the people were only briefly mentioned, and I had some trouble in understanding who was who and what part they played in the opposition. While I believe that it was important to know the events that led up to her imprisonment, this section seemed a little too matter-of-fact.The majority of this book was devoted to the time that Agnès spent as a prisoner and laborer. During this time she suffered many abuses at the hands of the Germans. The tortures that she and her fellow prisoners faced in the prison were terrible, from starvation and beatings to severe confinement. Despite their atrocious treatment, the women were able to form friendships and take joy in the company of others, sharing news and small victories with each other. Many would not recant their political ideology even after being subjected to daily bouts of cruel treatment. I found it hard to believe that things could get any worse for them, but when they were moved to a German work camp, what had come before paled by comparison. In the labor camps, it was obvious that life was expendable and cheap. The overseers' attitudes went beyond the malicious and into the area of savagery. They were worked like dogs, with no care given to injuries or illness, and the living conditions and rations were pitiful. While Agnès and her fellow laborers struggled, inhaling caustic chemicals that gave them temporary blindness and suppurating ulcers, they still found ways to share political information and news among themselves. Sometimes these friendships were cut short, as their overseers didn't like their fraternization, and women would be moved to other areas of the workhouse. Agnès, nevertheless, found ingenious ways to sabotage her work, as it was the only way she could oppose the occupation from inside its confinement. She never let them break her spirit, no matter what was forced upon her. When help finally arrived in the form of American troops in April of 1945, Agnès had been imprisoned for 5 years. Despite her experiences, she immediately took charge and helped the American forces seek out fleeing Nazis and created a temporary hospital for the refugees and Germans alike. She took command of many aspects of this new civilian life, and was greatly esteemed by the Allied forces, fellow prisoners and the community.One of the most amazing thing about this book was Agnès' remarkable wit and sense of humor. No matter what horrors the day brought her,
tara35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is summertime in 1940 when Germany takes Paris. Soon after, Agnes Humbert bands together with a group of like-minded friends to publish Resistance - a French resistance newsletter. By the Spring of 1941 Humbert has been arrested, spends time in a French prison, and is then deported to Germany to a work camp. She suffers there until the end of the war, and while awaiting transport back to France, assists the Americans with their work in Germany.Humbert wrote Resistance in 1946 shortly after the war, the beginning and end parts taken directly from her diary, the middle portion, by necessity written from memory, yet still in a diary format. This gives the book a strong sense of immediacy. I was feeling a bit lost in the opening pages of the book, there were many names and locations that I found difficult to keep track of. The story becomes quite intense when Humbert is arrested, tried and imprisoned. What is most striking in Humbert's writing is her sense of humor, her bravery, and her feistiness. Humbert finds herself working (slaving) in a rayon factory. I didn't know a thing about the manufacturing of rayon, but have discovered that it is quite dangerous and toxic. Humbert and her fellow prisoners are not given protective gear as the paid workers are, and the prisoners are suffering from terrible wounds, temporary blindness, and clothing that is disintegrating instead of covering them. Humbert suffers so much but never loses her sense of self and compassion for others. Not only is Resistance an intensely personal story, it is an informative one as well. It was fascinating to read about the French Resistance and especially how its members were treated once imprisoned and charged. Resistance was out of print for many years, until Barbara Mellor the translator of this book, came across it and knew it was a story that transcended time. We have her to thank for bringing this story to our attention. I end with a quote from Agnes Humbert from 1943, when she is thinking about her inanimate objects waiting for her at home:I think about my books, especially: which one shall I open first when I get back? I can see my bookshelves, and the rows of my beloved books. By the time I get back I shall have quite forgotten how to read, and I'll have to start all over again by looking at picture books like a child.
jreeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This journal provides accounts of bravery and dignity in the face of the constant cruelty of Nazi Germans and their collaborators. Our generation would do well to observe their example. I am only 2/3's done as I write this review.
mabrown2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a firsthand account of a woman living in occupied Paris during WWII who was a member of the French resistance. She was eventually arrested, imprisoned and then deported to Germany to work in a labor camp where she continued to act as a strong, supportive presence to other women prisoners and fought the Nazis as best she could by sabotaging her work whenever possible. What surprised me most about this story (which is beautifully told) was how Humbert's wit and spirited humor stayed with her even through some of her darkest moments. It was truly a riveting read, and all of it was true!
bkwurm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I came across Agnés Humbert's Résistance completely by accident while browsing the "New in Hardcover" section in Barnes & Noble one day, but rarely have I been more grateful for following my instincts on an unfamiliar book and author. From the moment I picked it up this book has haunted me. Too compelling to put down, but too harrowing to read straight through without breaks to recover emotionally, reading this book became a delicious struggle between my need to continue and my desire to stop and reflect. Résistance begins with Agnés Humbert's actual journal entries from the summer of 1940 and the beginning of the Nazi occupation of Paris. She describes the conception and birth of the French Resistance from a completely new point of view, almost as if it was a game she and her friends invented to annoy the Nazis. But it is the very casual way in which she describes certain horrors that brings home to the reader the atrocities of the Nazi occupiers. Her descriptions of the bravery, strength and loyalty of her compatriots brought tears to my eyes.The later portion of the book, after Humbert's arrest, are also written in journal form, but these entries were written just after her release when the war ended. She writes "my memories are so clear that I am able to commit them to paper as they happened and in strict sequence. I remember everything as clearly as though it were written in notebooks". This portion of the book is truly an intimate look into the life of a prisoner of war, and you get the impression that as gut-wrenching as Agnés' experiences are, she actually got off somewhat easily compared to the treatment of so many other prisoners in Nazi camps.Now that I've told you how clear she is in expressing the horrors of war, I need to tell you how very hopeful Humbert's book is. Although the tears flowed freely while reading many passages, the bleakness never took over, and often my tears were tears of admiration for a woman who was oppressed in so many ways, both physical and spiritual, and yet was still able to resist in any small way she could what she knew to be evil. You could not ask for a better narrator, a better guide through the unbelievable cruelties and unexpected kindnesses of the Nazi prison camps.Humbert's journal/book covers the time period from just before the Nazi occupation of Paris to the end of the war and the American liberation of the prison camps in Germany. It is not a comprehensive view of the entirety of WWII, but it's not meant to be. It is one woman's harrowing and hopeful experience of losing her certainty in her country's leaders, but keeping her confidence in the spirit of her nation.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In her memoir, Resistance: A Woman¿s Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France, Agnes Humbert spelled out her acts of resistance and eventual imprisonment during German-occupied France in the 1940¿s. Humbert was a 43-year-old art historian when the Nazis invaded Paris, and she and her fellow intellectuals refused to be complacent with German occupation. Together, they created the short-lived Resistance newspaper ¿ an underground publication devoted to undermining Nazi propaganda. After five months, the Gestapo detained Humbert and her allies, and for five years, she survived harsh imprisonment for her crimes, including serving time in a German work camp. Through Humbert¿s writing, readers learned about the interrogation and punishment of French nationalists, and how strenuous German work camp life was for its prisoners. Humbert¿s style was easy and clipped, only containing the essential elements about her comrades and their activities. Humbert described her involvement in the Resistance as inconsequential, but historical sources (according to the book notes) showed that Humbert was a very important player. This inconsistency left me unsettled: was Humbert really insignificant or just humble? It¿s important to note that Resistance was written primarily after Humbert¿s liberation. However, Humbert still wrote it in a diary-style (each entry was marked with a date), as if she had a journal and pen in prison with her. This was not the case. She worked feverishly on her ¿diary¿ for nine months after her release, and she had a solid memory because she recalled details such as times, dates, people¿s appearances and the weather. Her eye as an art historian probably helped, but I wondered how one could remember such intricate details. For me, Humbert¿s account would have been stronger if she had written it as a chapter-to-chapter memoir. With that said, Resistance is a primary resource for readers interested in World War II history. Undoubtedly, Agnes Humbert was a brave, smart woman who loved her country (she also had a wicked sense of humor). While I disagree with the format of the book, the historical information gleaned from it was worthwhile and illuminating.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the summer of 1940 Agnes Humbert watches her beloved Paris become overrun by invading Germans. She like most Parisians at the time can hardly believe what is happening and feels demoralized to see her city become a home for Nazis and their supporters. Suddenly French soldiers become the play thing of the German army and the citizens of France are subjected to new levels of humiliation. But Agnes had always been a woman of action and decides along with some of her friends and colleagues to resist in whatever way possible. Since many of them were intellectuals and had always found solace in the written word, they begin a newspaper, Resistance, which they use as an anti Nazi tool. The rapidity with which the paper is formed and takes off is almost hard to believe. Agnes and her friends seem like little children setting up a private club. But since they lack other avenues through which to protest the collapse of their society, the written word becomes their ally. Unfortunately for Agnes, she is betrayed by one of their number. She is picked up by German soldiers and after spending some time in a French jail, she is deported to Germany. It is in Germany that she faces horrors almost unimaginable. She is fed very little food, given improper clothing and despite the biting cold, her shoes can barely get her around. Brutality and inhumane treatment reign supreme. When human beings are allowed power unchecked, embrace their baser instincts and this held very true in this prison. She and the other women are forced to work in a factory that had such harmful chemicals that at one time or another almost all the women would lose their eye sight for a few days at a time. The wardresses and soldiers were for the most part cruel and harsh and would find excuses to punish the prisoners. In one incident, the wardress refuses the women water for three to four days because of some perceived offense. The women were forced to drink the water from the toilet. But despite these horrors, Agnes still manages to find points of happiness and has a biting sense of humor. Once when she had the flu, she asked the wardress for an aspirin. The wardress gives her one aspirin. Unfortunately, Agnes was not cured by the next day and when she asks the wardress for another aspirin, she is punched in the stomach and sent flying down the stairs. Her response "I spent the rest of the day reflecting on German remedies for flu". She gains a small measure of happiness from sabotaging the products she is forced to produce. The incidents of sabotage may be small but they serve as sources of strength. The book is generally very well written and keeps you engaged. It is written in the form of a journal with the first part of it written before her imprisonment. The vast majority of the book was written from memory after she had been released. One problem I had with the book was that in the beginning she mentioned so many friends and acquaintances that I lost track of who was who. A very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A true thrill to absorb.
Barbaraketubah More than 1 year ago
This book really pulled at your heartstrings, hard to believe the cruelty that is now being denied by different groups. Resistance kept you on your toes and wondering "what if" til the very end!
slinger More than 1 year ago
What would you do if you saw your country conquered by a foreign power? I hope that I would have the courage to start a resistance movement like Agnes Humbert, and that I could write a diary half as good as hers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago