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Cécile Rol-Tanguy (1919-2020)

Former French Resistance fighter and president of ACER, the French International Brigades memorial association, Cécile Rol-Tanguy, died on 8 May at the age of 101. She was the widow of Henri Rol-Tanguy, a prominent French International Brigade volunteer and leader of the Resistance in Paris.

 

The Rol-Tanguy family made the following announcement:

 

Cécile Rol-Tanguy died on 8 May 8 2020 at her home in Monteaux (Loir-et-Cher), at the age of 101. She was one of the last figures of the French Resistance and the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

 

Holder of the highest distinctions of the French Republic (Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, Grand Cross in the National Order of Merit, Medal of the Resistance, Cross of the Volunteer Combatant of the Resistance), she was emblematic of the place of women in the fight against Vichy and the Nazi occupier. Cécile Rol-Tanguy always stressed that she only accepted these decorations in tribute to all the women in the shadows, essential parts of the clandestine struggle. To the deportees, to the internees, to all those murdered by the enemy and yet so often forgotten at the hour of victory; to all the women who, like her, once the war ended, simply resumed their place in the daily life of their family and the country.

 

Born Cécile Le Bihan on 10 April 1919, she was the only daughter of François Le Bihan, electrician, activist of the French Communist Party since its creation in 1920, trade union leader of the CGT, deported and died in Auschwitz in 1943, and Germaine Jaganet, housewife and fellow member of the Resistance.

 

With Henri Rol-Tanguy.

 

Cécile Rol-Tanguy’s political activism dates from 1936, the Popular Front and the Spanish war. It was at the Syndicat des Métaux CGT in Paris, where she was employed, that she met Henri Tanguy, leader of Parisian steelworkers, volunteer fighter in the International Brigades on the side of the Spanish Republic. They married in 1939, just before the war during which he was mobilised on the front line.

 

At the end of June 1940, when the Wehrmacht entered Paris, she joined what became the Resistance. She typed leaflets, union newspapers and other illegal documents from the banned CGT and worked for communist lawyers who defended the first prisoners of the Vichy regime.

 

In August 1940, she welcomed Henri Tanguy to Paris, following his demobilisation and put him in contact with the clandestine leaders of the CGT. The couple went underground in October 1940. She was a liaison with the underground Resistance fighters.

 

Four years later she would type the order for the Parisian insurrection that her husband – now Colonel Rol, regional military chief of the FFI of the Ile de France – would dictate to her at the dawn of the insurgent victorious week in the capital, from 19 to 26 August 1944.

 

Pictured (centre) in 2014 at the International Brigade memorial on London's Southbank with daughter Claire Rol-Tanguy (left) and Marlene Sidaway, IBMT President.

 

She was the only woman present when General De Gaulle arrived at the FFI headquarters on 26 August in the Hôtel de Ville. Cécile and Henri Rol-Tanguy, with Lucie and Raymond Aubrac, would remain one of the two symbolic couples of the French Resistance.

 

Following the death in 2002 of her husband, who like her was a lifelong communist, Cécile took over as President of ANACR (National Association of Veterans in Resistance) and Honorary President of ACER / AVER (Friends of Fighters in Republican Spain / Friends of Volunteers in Republican Spain). In August 2019 she attended the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris ceremonies.

 

 

Posted on 9 May 2020.