missak manouchian

Uncredited Photographer     Marcel Rayman, 21-Year Old Polish-Jewish Member of the FTP-MOI Group of the French Resistance After His Arrest and Just Prior to His Execution by the Nazis, Paris     1943


Rayman was part of the Missak Manouchian group of FTP-MOI Anti-nazi resistance group.  He was a member of the Equipe Speciale, the Special Unit, of his Resistance cadre, meaning he was one of the most active and daring members of that team.  His mother and brother had previously been deported to the camps, where they were murdered.  The execution of Rayman and the other members of the Manouchian Group was actually overseen by the freakin’ Red Cross, who collected last letters from those about to be murdered by the nazis. Here in an excerpt from Rayman’s last letter, written to his surviving family members:

Dear Aunt, Uncle and Cousins:

At the moment you read this letter, I’ll be no more. I’m going before the firing squad today at 3:00. I regret nothing that I’ve done. I am completely peaceful and calm. I love you and hope you will live happily. Please give the following note to Mama and Simon (Rayman’s brother) if they return some day, as I hope they will.

My dear aunt, I would so much have liked to see you again, as well as my little cousin, who I’ve almost never seen. I’m together right now with three of my comrades who will meet the same fate as me. We’ve just received a package from the Red Cross and we’re eating like kids all the sweets I so love. I kiss you all one last time; you, my aunt, my uncle, my little Fernande, my little Madeleine, and also my little Elise. Here we are all in …

I’m sure this will cause you more pain than me.

Marcel

L’Affiche Rouge (The Red Poster), Poster Issued by the Nazi Occupiers After the Arrest of the Resistance Group Led By Missak Manouchian, Paris     1943


The Manouchian Group, part of the Communist FTP-MOI, was a resistance group made up almost entirely of immigrants to France, several of whom were refugees fleeing from Franco’s Spain and who had been members of anti-fascist militias in Spain.  Members of the FTP-MOI had committed nearly all acts of armed resistance against the Nazis in the Paris region during 1943.  Late in that year, 23 members of the group were arrested.  The arrested group consisted of eight Poles, five Italians, three Hungarians, two Armenians, a Spaniard, three French people and one woman, who was a Romanian immigrant.  Eleven of the 23 were Jews.  The 23 were all executed, 22 of them by firing squad, the woman member by beheading.  The Nazis and the Vichy collaborators made much of their being foreigners and communists, trying to discredit the Resistance in the eyes of local people.  The poster asks “Liberators-Liberation by the Army of Crime,” and several of the group members are identified on the poster by the country of origin and whether they were Jews.  The attempt backfired, as it has been documented that at many spots throughout Paris where the poster was placed, Parisians placed flowers below the posters and wrote on them “Morts Pour La France (They Died for France).

Missak Manouchian, Leader of the Most Significant Group of Armed Anti-fascist Resisters in Paris, a Section of the FTP-MOI, Made Up almost Entirely of Immigrants to France     Uncredited and Undated Photograph

My dear Melinée, my beloved little orphan,

In a few hours I will no longer be of this world. We are going to be executed today at 3:00. This is happening to me like an accident in my life; I don’t believe it, but I nevertheless know that I will never see you again.

What can I write you? Everything inside me is confused, yet clear at the same time.

I joined the Army of Liberation as a volunteer, and I die within inches of victory and the final goal. I wish for happiness for all those who will survive and taste the sweetness of the freedom and peace of tomorrow. I’m sure that the French people, and all those who fight for freedom, will know how to honor our memory with dignity. At the moment of death, I proclaim that I have no hatred for the German people, or for anyone at all; everyone will receive what he is due, as punishment and as reward. The German people, and all other people, will live in peace and brotherhood after the war, which will not last much longer. Happiness for all … I have one profound regret, and that’s of not having made you happy; I would so much have liked to have a child with you, as you always wished. So I’d absolutely like you to marry after the war, and, for my happiness, to have a child and, to fulfill my last wish, marry someone who will make you happy. All my goods and all my affairs, I leave them to you and to my nephews. After the war you can request your right to a war pension as my wife, for I die as a regular soldier in the French army of liberation.

With the help of friends who’d like to honor me, you should publish my poems and writings that are worth being read. If possible, you should take my memory to my parents in Armenia. I will soon die with 23 of my comrades, with the courage and the serenity of a man with a peaceful conscience; for, personally, I’ve done no one ill, and if I have, it was without hatred. Today is sunny. It’s in looking at the sun and the beauties of nature that I loved so much that I will say farewell to life and to all of you, my beloved wife, and my beloved friends. I forgive all those who did me evil, or who wanted to do so, with the exception of he who betrayed us to redeem his skin, and those who sold us out. I ardently kiss you, as well as your sister and all those who know me, near and far; I hold you all against my heart. Farewell. Your friend, your comrade, your husband,

Manouchian Michel

P.S. I have 15,000 francs in the valise on the rue de Plaisance. If you can get it, pay off all my debts and give the rest to Armenia. MM

—  the final letter of Missak Manouchian  written to his wife while he awaited execution by the Nazis. Melinée Manouchian eluded Nazi capture and survived the war.
Son enfance, il l’avait passée dans le sein libre de la nature. Ses yeux étaient habitués à de larges horizons. Il était familier des montagnes et avait savouré le mystère de leur grandeur. Des animaux et des oiseaux, des arbres et des fleurs, des plantes et de la terre, il avait appris le secret de l’amour.
—  Missak Manouchian
Quand j’erre dans les rues d’une grande ville,
Ah ! Toutes les misères, tous les manques,
Lamentation et révolte, de l’une à l’autre,
Mes yeux les rassemblent, mon âme les recueille.
—  Missac Manouchian
Que les flambeaux de la conscience éclairent nos esprits !
Que le sommeil et la lassitude ne voilent point nos âmes !
A tout moment l’ennemi change de couleur et de forme
Et nous jette sans arrêt dans sa gueule inassouvie.
—  Missac Manouchian