The Press

Resistance worker later fled French jail after joining Algerian independen­ce f ight


Annette Beaumanoir was a wartime medical student in Paris. She was also a member of the French Communist Party, working with the resistance to undermine the Nazi occupation and the collaborat­ionist Vichy regime.

Her parents, who ran a small restaurant in northwest France, frequently sent her food parcels that arrived via friends.

One day in June 1944, those friends told Beaumanoir that they had learnt of an impending police raid. They asked her to warn a woman called Victoria, who was sheltering a Jewish family named Lisopravsk­i. Although the Communist Party did not permit unauthoris­ed rescues,

Beaumanoir visited Victoria’s apartment and met the


Two of their children, Daniel, 16, and Simone, 14, agreed to leave with her.

Beaumanoir, who has died aged 98, took the teenagers to a shelter used by the resistance and then left the city on an errand. While she was gone, the shelter was raided by the Gestapo. Everyone there was arrested except for Daniel and Simone, who escaped over the rooftop of an adjoining cinema and found a new hiding place.

When Beaumanoir returned to Paris she decided to take the pair to her parents’ house in rural Brittany. Her mother, Marthe, was waiting for them even as her father, Jean, was being questioned at the police station after the authoritie­s had found his name and address during a raid on his daughter’s room in Paris.

The investigat­ion proved fruitless and Jean was released without charge. Marthe took Daniel and Simone into the family home, where Simone helped in the restaurant and Daniel worked with the gardener.

After the liberation of France, the Lisopravsk­is remained in touch with their rescuers and, in August 1996, Beaumanoir and her parents were recognised by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembranc­e organisati­on, as ‘‘righteous among the nations’’. Asked why she had risked not only her own life but also her parents’ lives, Beaumanoir replied: ‘‘I hate racism. For me, it’s a physical thing.’’

Yet her resistance work was far from over. After the war she ended up in Marseille, but fell out with the Communist Party after being put to work on its women’s magazine. Meanwhile, she had married nerve specialist Joseph Roger. They became friendly with a group of priests who were working with members of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), which was seeking independen­ce for their country from French colonial rule. ‘‘My husband and I took care of treating Algerian militants, therefore fully fledged illegal immigrants,’’ she explained.

Beaumanoir grew increasing­ly dismayed by reports of atrocities being carried out by the French during the war of independen­ce (1954-62), comparing them to the actions of the Nazis. In November 1959 ‘‘the red doctor’’, as she became known, was arrested on terrorism charges, a move that shocked local society. ‘‘The city of Marseille has never had a bigger talking point in many a long year,’’ reported one British newspaper.

She was jailed for 10 years by a military tribunal and held in solitary confinemen­t. In time she was allowed to socialise and soon found herself helping her fellow inmates with their correspond­ence, including writing letters from a murderess to her husband. She recalled encounteri­ng port prostitute­s, postwar orphans and others whom she would ‘‘never have met otherwise’’, adding: ‘‘I was a kind of star there.’’

However, she was pregnant and after a few months was temporaril­y released for the birth of a son, her third child. She fled to Tunisia, leaving behind her husband and children; he died in 2012. There she worked as a psychiatri­st with soldiers from the FLN who had been traumatise­d by the war. After independen­ce, President Ahmed Ben Bella granted her Algerian citizenshi­p.

Bella was deposed in 1965 and Beaumanoir fled once more. Unable to return to France because of her unfinished sentence, she instead settled in Switzerlan­d and, for the next 25 years, ran the mental health services at the University Hospitals of Geneva.

In the preface to her memoir, The fire of memory (2009), Beaumanoir suggests that, if she had her time again, she would do much the same. Asked during one of her many school talks if she had ever stopped fighting, she replied emphatical­ly: ‘‘Non!’’

Anne Beaumanoir, known as Annette, was born in Brittany, the daughter of a champion cyclist who competed in the Tour de France in the early 1920s. He was disinherit­ed after falling for Marthe Brunet, a cowgirl. Anne was born before her parents were married and her birth was not initially registered. At 5 she fell ill with meningitis; when she regained consciousn­ess the first thing she saw was a bicycle, a gift from her parents who by then had married and registered her existence.

Jean and Marthe were politicall­y active, supporting the Internatio­nal Brigades in the Spanish civil war. They also sympathise­d with the communists, though her father warned his daughter: ‘‘In this party, half of them are busy spying on the other half.’’

She began her medical studies in Rennes, moving to Paris in 1942, cycling around the city for the communists. ‘‘We stole a lot of bikes to get around because we had to avoid taking the Metro.’’ Speaking in 2018, she added: ‘‘In Paris, I was given false papers and ration cards with my new name . . . We only knew the pseudonyms of the other resisters and weren’t allowed to talk about personal things among ourselves.’’

According to her memoir, she became pregnant by a German Jew known as Roland but had a terminatio­n for ‘‘the cause’’. In August 1944 she took part in the liberation of Marseille, the only time she fired a gun, recalling: ‘‘I missed.’’

After entrusting the Lisopravsk­i children to her parents, she returned to resistance work with Roland. He was arrested by the Gestapo but escaped from a deportatio­n train only to be shot by French militia.

She met Joseph Roger on the street barricades erected in Paris during the final days of the German occupation; they were married in 1948. After the war she resumed her medical studies in Marseille, becoming a professor of neurology and publishing some significan­t medical papers on infant epilepsy. By 1957 she had acquired an internatio­nal reputation; then came her arrest and flight from France.

It was not until the 1990s that Beaumanoir received an amnesty and was permitted to return to her homeland, though she continued to be outspoken and, until the age of 90, was helping undocument­ed migrants.

‘‘In this party, half of them are busy spying on the other half.’’ Jean Beaumanoir’s warning to his daughter about communists

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