Pierre Sudreau: Politician and hero of the Resistance

Pierre Sudreau was the youngest leader of a French Resistance network during the Second World War and later had ministerial roles in the governments of Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou.

However, a potentially glittering career was halted when he resigned over a proposed amendment to the constitution stipulating that future French presidents would be elected by popular vote. He was also the apparent inspiration for France's best-loved book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince (1943).

As Minister for Building Works, Sudreau played a key role in the post-war building programme of the governments of de Gaulle and Michel Debré, supporting the RER suburban rail project, the construction of the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road around Paris seen as the boundary between Paris and its suburbs, the development of La Défense and the airport Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle. He was the last surviving minister from de Gaulle's 1958 government, which brought back the veteran General as head of the Fifth Republic.

Born in a well-to-do suburb of Paris in 1919, Sudreau lost his father aged four and was later sent to boarding school, where he endured years of unhappiness. He took solace in adventure stories. Having read Vol de Nuit (1930), based on Saint-Exupéry's experiences as an airmail pilot in South America, Sudreau corresponded with the author. Saint-Exupéry's biography later revealed that elements of the author's curious young correspondent found their way into the character of what was to become one of France's most celebrated fictional characters.

At 21 Sudreau had finished university and was learning to fly with the French Air Force at the École de l'Air in southern France. This was cut short by the fall of France in June 1940. Many of his comrades fled to England to join de Gaulle's Free French Forces but Sudreau, married and with a son, stayed.

In 1941 he met the resistance leader André Boyer and was soon involved in the underground network "Lucas"; renamed "Brutus", it became one of the most celebrated resistance networks. Boyer was keen to extend Brutus from Vichy France to the northern occupied sector. Sudreau was given responsibility for the north and told to expand the intelligence network, as well as carrying out acts of sabotage and passing on intelligence to London about German fortifications. But following a series of arrests in April 1943 it was clear that Brutus had been compromised and there was a double-agent in their midst. Sudreau initially evaded capture but was seized in November.

Followings days of torture by the Gestapo he spent months in solitary confinement in the notorious Fresnes prison near Paris, before being deported to Buchenwald concentration camp alongside Boyer and another resistance fighter Stéphane Hessel, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. They were liberated in May 1945 but Boyer did not survive.

After the war, Sudreau pursued apolitical career and, with his war record and his ability to connect and empathise with people, quickly won promotion within the Civil Service. In 1951 hebecame the préfet of Blois, the youngest in France, and in 1955 was madeCommissioner for Construction & Planning in Paris.

With de Gaulle as president and George Pompidou head of the government, Sudreau was appointed Minister of Education in 1962 but, withhis position untenable, resigned shortly afterwards following his opposition to the proposed constitutional change. Although asked to return to thepolitical spotlight on many occasions, he declined.

The principled and acerbic Sudreau returned to Blois and continued as a centrist MP for Loir-et-Cher until 1981, while also serving as Mayor of Blois from 1971 until 1989, when he was defeated by the Socialist Jack Lang. During his tenure, Sudreau supported many causes, including, as President of the Federation of Railway Industries, linking northern and southern France with the TGV link, which opened in 1981.

Sudreau wrote numerous booksincluding The Strategy of the Absurd (1980) and Beyond all Frontiers (1991). He was one of the founders andPresident (from 2006 to 2009) of the Fondation de la Résistance, which was established to ensure that the younger generation did not forgot the sacrifices of their forefathers.

Pierre Sudreau, French Resistance fighter and politician: born Paris 13 May 1919; Grand Croix de la Légion d'honneur 1992; married Francette (deceased; one son, one daughter, and one son deceased); died Paris 22 January 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower