Monday, 23 April 2018

France 1958 - Heroes of the Resistance (Part 3 - Simone Michel-Lévy)

It is defined as the act of fighting against something that is attacking you, or refusing to accept something. We are of course talking about resistance. And perhaps none typify and deserve the distinction of this title than the French Resistance, La Résistance in French.

It all began in the summer of 1940. The Nazis had barnstormed into France and the swastika was now flying high in Paris from such prominent places as the Hôtel de Ville and on top of the Eiffel Tower. Amid this turmoil, a prominent French writer by the name of Jean Cassou, penned the words, refus absurde "absurd refusal". Little did he know, these words would inspire the proud citizens of France to rise up against the Nazi intruders in any way possible. Thus the Resistance was born. The Resistance was for the most part organised into small groups of men and women who engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis. Additionally, they published underground newspapers, established effective intelligence networks, and maintained escape routes for Allied soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. For more detailed information on the Resistance, click HERE.

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Simone Michel-Lévy, born 19 January 1906, worked for the French Resistance as a communications expert. Her role as regional director of telephone communications in Paris allowed her to set up an intelligence network pivotal to the war effort. In the course of her duties she established an important radio intelligence network between Paris and Normandy, which was used in the preparations for the D-Day invasion. She was also responsible for the creation of a covert courier system to get vital messages to England where the Free France movement was based, led by General Charles de Gaulle. Like most influential Resistance fighters, Simone Michel-Lévy came to the attention of the Gestapo. On 5 November 1943 she was arrested and tortured. But she didn't crack, and gave the Gestapo nothing. Realising they'd get nothing from this formidable woman, the Gestapo had her deported to Ravensbrück, then Flossenbürg. While in prison, she managed to organise an uprising against the camp guards. Unfortunately, she was caught and hanged on 13 April 1945, just ten days before the camp was liberated by the Allies. A sad end for a tremendously courageous woman.

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On 21 April 1958, France issued the second set of stamps in a series titled Heroes of the Resistance. This set comprised four stamps. All stamps were designed by Albert Decaris, but he only engraved two. To look at the first two parts in this set, click on the links Part 1, Part 2. In this blog we shall study the third stamp in the set depicting Simone Michel-Lévy. This stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.



This very poignant portrait is based on Simone Michel-Lévy's prison mugshot. Decaris has really managed to capture her mask of immense strength, determination, and willpower that saw her confront Gestapo torturers without yielding a shard of information. Note also the striped prison shirt she is wearing. A respectful tribute to an incredibly brave woman.

Until next time...

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