‘Restore freedom of expression to the French people; to re-establish republican freedoms in a state which incorporates social justice and which possesses a sense of greatness’Jean Moulin
Early Life and Career
Born on June 20, 1899 in Béizers, France under the sign of Gemini, Jean Moulin was a French Civil Servant during World War II. In his early life, Moulin grew up around his father who was a professor in history and geography. He grew up with two siblings, one brother and one sister. In his early adult life, Moulin studied Law at the University of Montpellier, but he was enlisted in the Army which caused him to take a break on his degree. He worked as an engineer in the Second Engineer Regiment. Although Moulin was in the army, he never saw any action before the end of World War I. In 1922, Moulin was able to obtain his liscense to practice law. Around the year 1926 Moulin married a professional singer, Marguerite Cerruti. The marriage between Moulin and Cerruti did not last too long as they got divorced two years later. It is suspected that Moulin married Cerruti due to a anticipated inheritance. Eventually in 1930 he became the youngest subprefect. Subprefects are French Administrative officials in charge of arrondisiments. One side job that Moulin did is writing political satire in a comedy newspaper called ‘Le Rire.’ Later on in 1937, Moulin then became the youngest prefect of the Eure-et-Loir département. Compared to a subprefect who oversees various divisions of a department, a prefect is the State’s representative in a department or region meaning that it is more of a supervisor role. One amazing this that he did during his early political career was starting the nationalization of airlines and assisted with the establishment of Air France.
Dedication to the Resistance
A couple years later on September 3, 1939, war was declared on Germany thus having Moulin see the collapse of France. During this time Moulin attempted to enlist in the Army again but was unable to due to the administrative duties of his prefect position. In June 1940 when German soldiers occupied the département of Eure-et-Loire Moulin was captured and tortured in order to sign a paper stating that all the atrocities were caused by the Senagalise French Army Troops. The reason that the Germans wanted Moulin to sign this document is because they were infuriated that black troops were slowing the German Army down. This caused for the Germans to massacre 180 Senagalise French Troops. The document in which the Germans tried to get Moulin to sign stated that the Sengalise people were going on a rampage and terrorizing women and children. This document would have made the German troops appear as heroes as it stated that the Sengalise troops were only massacred to stop the terrorizing. Moulin was not fond of this as he stated that the French Republic upholds the values of liberty, equality, and brotherhood for all. He preferred death over saying a statement that was not true, so Moulin tried to slit his own throat with a broken piece of glass. Fortunately, he survived his suicide attempt as a guard found him and Moulin received immediate medical attention. After recovering, he was left with a scar that would remind him of his heroic actions for the rest of his life. In his note, Moulin stated, ‘For seven hours I have been subjected to physical and moral torture. I know that today I reached the limits of resistance. I know that if it starts again tomorrow, I will sign in the end. The dilemma remains: to sign or to disappear. It is impossible to flee. Whatever happens, I cannot sign.’ This statement shows that he knew that if he stayed alive and endured the torture then eventually the document would be signed so in a sense suicide was the only option that Moulin faced in order to continue to fight what he believes in.
When looking at the statements of Moulin overall and the reasoning behind attempting suicide, one connection that can be made is to the French Revolution. During the French Revolution, the Declaration of Rights of the Man and the Citizen was created. Although the document did not specifically include statements regarding the treatment of people of color, as times changed many French citizens, including Moulin, could have interpreted this document including people of color and inspiring the French culture to hold the values of liberty, equality, and brotherhood for all.
He stayed in his prefect position until November of 1940 before being let go and joining resistance efforts in England where he would be working with General Charles de Gaulle. During his time in the resistance, Moulin played a role in leading the French Guerillas as well as continuing the development of the National Council of the Resistance. Eventually, under a pseudonym, he returned to France by means of parachute in order to continue efforts of unifying the resistance. During his time in France, Moulin was to spread resistance propaganda and build a stronger military in order to fight back agains thte Germans. In 1942, Moulin organized three notable resistance movements across Southern France. Later in 1943, Moulin eventually became the first chairman of the National Council of the Resistance. This council brought together several resistance groups throughout France as well as two unions and around six political parties. The council was a major step in getting many people to work together in a collaborative effort to take down German forces. Unfortunately this growth in power in multiple resistance movements led to many criticisms against Jean Moulin. Many critics called Moulin’s leadership autocratic and a challenge to Charles de Gaulle’s power as he was a main delegate of the National Liberation Committee in London as well as working with the National Council of the Resistance. This criticism in his leadership caused for tension between other leaders of various resistance movements across France.
In 1943, various resistance leaders set up a summit to meet together in Caluire. However, it was a set-up caused by the Gestapo (German Secret Police). This eventually led to the arrest of several resistance leaders including Moulin. After his capture, Moulin was tortured for about two weeks until he passed away on the way to Germany. One theory that historians have about how the summit in which resistance leaders met at, is that there was a mole within the operations of the resistance that ultimately led to the arrests and deaths of several leaders, including Moulin. René Hardy was one central figure that was suspected to inform the Gestapo of the operations of the resistance. The reasons for which historians suspect Hardy for being a traitor is that he had been arrested by the Gestapo twice and escaped both times as well as when put on trial he was acquitted.
Why is His Story Important?
It is very important to look back on Moulin’s story as it can inspire many to keep fighting for what they believe in. His determination and actions are very admirable as well as his military tactics against the Germans can be taken into consideration for those who are fighting against atrocities of their countries in today’s world. Another reason Jean Moulin’s story is important is when looking back on history and more specifically World War II, the main topics that are discussed are the actions of the allies and world leaders. It is essential that we look at stories of lesser known individuals to see the struggle and determination they carried throughout their lives to stop atrocities from occuring. Another reason Moulin’s story is so important, more particulurly his early life, is that it shows a more humane side of him. Although a great deal of his story is filled with war and heroic actions, it is essential that we look at what their life was like before so that their image is not filled strictly with war and violence. The more daily and regular actions of an individual allow for each person to relate more to the person as well as understand their life and what could have led to that person doing certain actions.
Before researching Moulin, I did not know much about him and the accomplishments that he achieved during his life. After looking into him I learned a lot about his character and I really felt moved and inspired by everything that he did in order to fight against the Germans. I really relate to Jean Moulin in various aspects. One aspect that I really identify with is Moulin willingness to stand by his values and even risk his life for them. Throughout my life I have really held the value of honesty close to my heart as I believe that more harm is caused by not telling the truth. This is why I can identify myself with Moulin’s actions because as he slit his own throat to not spread a lie that would bring harm upon innocent people, I believe that in that situation there is a strong possibility that I would do the same because I would not know how to live with myself after if I were to give into the torture and signing a false statement. Another way in which I relate to Jean Moulin is his will to continue speaking out against that of which goes against his values. I really believe that it is extremely important to always stand up for what you believe in and that you are not living to your truest self if you do not hold yourself to your values and beliefs. Jean Moulin’s ashes were located in the Père Lachaise cemetery and eventually transferred to the Panthéon in Paris on December 19, 1964. I hope to visit his grave while we are in the city and pay respects to him as his story has really spoken to me.
Bienvenue sur le site du Musée de la Libération de Paris – Musée du Général Leclerc – Musée Jean Moulin. Musée Libération Leclerc Moulin. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.museeliberation-leclerc-moulin.paris.fr/
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Jean Moulin. Jean Moulin – Academic Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Jean_Moulin Peoplepill.com. (n.d.). About Jean Moulin: French politician (1924 – N/a): Biography, facts, career, life. peoplepill.com. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://peoplepill.com/people/jean-moulin-3