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Le grand résistant Raymond Aubrac dies at 97


Raymond Aubrac, one of the leading figures of the French Resistance against the Nazis, has died at the age of 97.

Mr Aubrac was best known for his arrest by the Gestapo, with other Resistance leaders, in 1943 and his daring and controversial escape from prison in a raid led by his wife, Lucie.

Long a Communist sympathiser, he also played an important role as a go-between in the US-Vietnam peace negotiations in the 1970s. He died late on Tuesday at the Val-de-Grace military hospital near Paris after being overcome by "extreme fatigue".

President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute yesterday to Mr Aubrac, and all members of the Resistance, as "heroes of the shadows who saved France's honour, at a time when it seemed lost".

Born Raymond Samuel on 31 July 1914 to Jewish parents who died in Auschwitz, he took the "nom de guerre" Aubrac when he joined the Communist-led section of the Resistance early in the war.

In one of the most controversial, and still shadowy, incidents of the Resistance story, Mr Aubrac was one of a group of leaders arrested by the Gestapo in a raid on a house at Caluire, near Lyon, on 21 June 1943. Other detainees included Jean Moulin, the man sent by General Charles de Gaulle to bring the Resistance under a single leadership. Mr Moulin died under torture – leading eventually to the belated trial of the local Gestapo chief, Klaus Barbie, in 1987. Mr Aubrac and 13 other Resistance figures were rescued from prison in Lyon in a daring raid organised and led by Mrs Aubrac.

This incident was the centrepiece of a film, Lucie Aubrac, made by Claude Berri in 1997. Mrs Aubrac died in 2007, aged 94.