The Myth of Guy Môquet
A story that has been discussed at several websites over the past 2 weeks is that of Guy Môquet, a 17-year old high school student executed by the Germans on October 22, 1941. When I was in Paris, decades ago, I used to see a Metro stop named Guy Môquet, but I never knew who he was.
One of Nicolas Sarkozy's first decisions after taking office was to mandate that Guy Môquet's final letter to his parents be read to French junior high school students at the start of every school year, as an example of resistance and sacrifice for one's country. The patriots were quick to respond to the fallacy behind Sarkozy's seemingly laudable gesture:
Here is a condensation of the story as reported by Novopress:
According to the communist vulgate:
"He was a 17-year old Parisian high school student. His father was the communist deputy from the 17th arrondissement in Paris. Removed from his post under Vichy, he was deported with 26 other communist deputies to the labor camp of Maison Carrée in Algeria. His son Guy was arrested at age 16 for engaging in resistance: he was sent first to the prisons of Fresnes and la Santé in the Parisian region, then to Clairvaux, and finally to the prison of Chateaubriant in Brittany. Named a hostage by Pucheu, Pétain's minister, he was executed on October 22 at Chateaubriant."
All of which is far from being the truth:
Guy Môquet was the son of the communist deputy from the 17th arrondissement of Paris, Prosper Môquet. Since the Communist Party had been dissolved by Edouard Daladier in September 1939, Prosper Môquet was arrested on October 10, 1939, removed from his position as deputy in February 1940, and later deported to Algeria. Prosper Môquet's brother Henri, was concierge at Communist Party headquarters. (Wikipedia)
1) From September 1, 1939 to June 21, 1941, the date of the preemptive attack on the USSR by Germany, the Communist Party, banned by the government of the Third Republic for collusion with the enemy, supported the actions of the Wehrmacht in the following ways: intelligence was given to the enemy, the armies were demoralized, agitators were active in non-militarized zones, anti-military propaganda was spread, there was fraternization with the enemy, and multiple acts of sabotage of weapons occurred resulting in death sentences for some perpetrators.
During the 22 months of active collaboration with the enemy, out of 68 months of war, the French Communist Party did not engage in any resistance against the Germany. It was as a communist that young Guy Môquet was arrested for propaganda on October 13, 1940. There would be no resistance against the German army from the Communist Party until June 22, 1941.
2) The French Communist Party then began to wage war to defend the fatherland (the USSR) and to liberate the country (France). Among other initiatives they engaged in bloody attacks likely to generate deadly reprisals and thus mobilize the partisans.
Pierre Georges known as "Colonel Fabien" performed what was considered to be the first murder of occupation troops when he killed Midshipman Moser of the Kreigsmarine on August 21, 1941 at Metro stop Barbès-Rochechouart in Paris.
Lieutenant Colonel Karl Holtz, commander of the garrison at Nantes was killed on October 1941.
The Wehrmacht then demanded from the French government a list of 100 hostages to be executed as reprisals. The number was reduced to 50. Pucheu, Minister of the Interior, informed of the political affiliation of the murderers, designated the 27 communists imprisoned in Chateaubriant. The rest were gleaned from the population of Brittany, bringing the total number to 48. They were all executed.
Guy Môquet was among the 27 communists previously incarcerated, and executed as hostages. Arrested on October 13, 1940, he obviously could not have participated as a communist in any type of resistance action.
The massacre of Chateaubriant, as it is called, was knowingly and deliberately provoked by the Communist Party, that bears full responsibility for the tragedy. (...)
No one ever thinks of Brittany that mourned the loss of 21 of its own, sent to die for the French Communist Party.
Almost a thousand "Bretons" were subsequently sacrificed in similar situations or simply killed for no military reason by partisans of the Party.
The letter written by the young man to his parents is very moving - the websites all concur on that point. But here are some considerations from Historia Nostra:
The stated goal of (Mr. Sarkozy's) initiative is to make young French students aware of what it means to love France; a love that can and often does lead to sacrifice. The intent is laudable... Except that the famous text is nothing more than a farewell letter from a son to his parents; except that not once does the young man even mention France; except that there is no call to resist. And for good reason! Guy Môquet, arrested in October 1940, was not arrested for his actions against Germany, or for any act of resistance - unless one considers being executed as as act of resistance! It was for having posted communist posters that the young militant was arrested, and it was because a German officer had been killed that he was later executed. (...)
There is a summary in English at Wikipedia.
Here is my attempt to translate the celebrated letter:
My beloved Mother
My adored little brother
My dear Father,
I'm going to die! What I ask of you - of you, Mother, in particular - is that you all be brave. I am, and I want to be as much as those who went before me were.
Of course I would have preferred to live. But what I wish for with all my heart, is that my death serve some purpose. I did not have time to embrace Jean. I did embrace my two brothers Roger and Rino (1). As for my real brother I cannot, alas!
I hope that all my belongings will be sent to you. They will be useful to Serge, and I'm counting on him to wear them proudly one day. Father, if I caused you and my dear Mother grief, I salute you one last time. Know that I did the best I could to follow the path you prepared for me. One last farewell to all my friends and to my brother whom I love so much. May he study hard to become a man one day.
Seventeen and a half years! My life was short!
I have no regrets except that I must leave all of you.
I shall die with Tintin and Michels. (2)
Mother, what I ask of you, what I want you to promise, is that you be brave and rise above your grief. I can say no more. I leave you all, Mother, Serge, Father, I embrace all of you with all my heart.
Your son Guy who loves you
Last thoughts: "You who remain, be worthy of the 27 of us who are going to die!"
(1) Roger and Rino were fellow militants, not blood brothers
(2) Tintin was Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Michels was Charles Michels. Both were executed with him.
We learn from Wikipedia that Serge was so traumatized by his brother's execution that he died shortly thereafter.
My opinion: the letter should be read in schools as an historical document, and as an example of sensitivity and grace and love of family, not as an example of resistance. But this is a good example of Nicolas Sarkozy's point of view: he uses a communist hero as an example of love for one's country. He wins the approval of the Left, and the patriots cannot be too critical lest they be accused of being heartless.