Jean­nie Rousseau de Clarens, valiant WWII spy, dies

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Jean­nie de Clarens, an am­a­teur spy who passed a wealth of in­for­ma­tion to the Bri­tish about the devel­op­ment of the V1 and V2 rock­ets dur­ing World War II and sur­vived stays in three con­cen­tra­tion camps for her ac­tiv­i­ties, died Aug. 23 in Mon­taigu, south­east of Nantes, France. She was 98.

The death was con­firmed by her son, Pas­cal.

In 1943, Jean­nie Rousseau, as she was then known, was an in­ter­preter in Paris for an as­so­ci­a­tion of French busi­ness­men, rep­re­sent­ing their in­ter­ests and help­ing them ne­go­ti­ate con­tracts with the Ger­man oc­cu­piers. She was young and at­trac­tive. She spoke flaw­less Ger­man. She was a fa­vorite with the Ger­man of­fi­cers, who were com­pletely un­aware that the woman they knew as Madeleine Chauf­four had been re­port­ing to a French in­tel­li­gence net­work, the Druids, or­ga­nized by the Re­sis­tance.

Get­ting wind of a se­cret weapons project, she made it her mis­sion to be on hand when the topic was dis­cussed by the Ger­mans, coax­ing in­for­ma­tion through charm and guile.

“I teased them, taunted them, looked at them wideeyed, in­sisted that they must be mad when they spoke of the as­tound­ing new weapon that flew over vast dis­tances, much faster than any air­plane,” she told The Wash­ing­ton Post in 1998. “I kept say­ing, ‘What you are telling me can­not be true!’ I must have said that 100 times.”

One of­fi­cer, ea­ger to con­vince her, let her look at draw­ings of the rock­ets.

Most of what she heard was in­com­pre­hen­si­ble. But, blessed with a near- pho­to­graphic mem­ory, she re­peated it in de­tail to her re­cruiter, Ge­orges La­mar­que, at a safe house on the Left Bank.

In Lon­don, in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts, led by Regi­nald V. Jones, mar­veled at the qual­ity of the in­for­ma­tion they were re­ceiv­ing from Paris, no­tably a star­tling doc­u­ment called the Wach­tel Re­port. De­liv­ered in Septem­ber 1943, it iden­ti­fied the Ger­man of­fi­cer in charge of the rocket pro­gram, Col. Max Wach­tel; gave pre­cise de­tails about op­er­a­tions at the test­ing plant in Peen­emünde, on the Baltic coast in Pomera­nia; and showed planned launch lo­ca­tions along the coast from Brit­tany to the Nether­lands.

Re­ly­ing on this in­for­ma­tion, the Bri­tish or­ga­nized sev­eral bomb­ing raids against the plant, which de­layed devel­op­ment of the V2 and spared un­told thou­sands of lives in Lon­don.

In 1940-1944: The Se­cret His­tory of the At­lantic Wall” (2003), his­to­rian Remy Desquesnes called the Wach­tel Re­port a “mas­ter­piece in the his­tory of in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing.” When Jones asked who had sent the re­port, he was told that the source was known only by the code name Am­niarix and that “she was one of the most re­mark­able young women of her gen­er­a­tion.”

Jean­nie Yvonne Ghis­laine Rousseau was born April 1, 1919, in Saint-Brieuc, in Brit­tany. Her fa­ther, Jean, a vet­eran of World War I, was a se­nior of­fi­cial with the for­eign min­istry and, af­ter re­tir­ing, the mayor of the 17th Ar­rondisse­ment in Paris, on the Right Bank. Her mother was the for­mer Marie Le Char­p­en­tier.

Adept at lan­guages, Rousseau per­formed bril­liantly at the elite Sci­ences Po, grad­u­at­ing at the top of her class in 1939. When war broke out, her fa­ther moved the fam­ily to Di­nard, in Brit­tany, which he thought would be be­yond the reach of the Ger­mans.

When the oc­cu­py­ing forces ar­rived, Rousseau agreed to act as an in­ter­preter for town of­fi­cials and kept her ears open. “The Ger­mans still wanted to be liked then,” she told The Post. “They were happy to talk to some­one who could speak to them.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.