Obituary: Albert Ouzoulias
Wednesday 06 December 1995
On 2 August 1941, Albert Ouzoulias had a rendezvous in the restaurant La Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse. There he met Daniele Casanova and another official of the Communist Party, who told him that the Jeunesses Communistes, of which he had been a leading member before the Second World War, was creating several fighting groups called Bataillons de la Jeunesse. He was told that he was to be in charge of them.
Later that day, again following instructions, Ouzoulias met Pierre Georges, who was known as "Fredo" and was later to be known as "Colonel Fabien". It was at this meeting at the Metro station Duroc that they discussed how they were going to carry out their instructions to go into action and kill German soldiers.
Ouzoulias was 26 and Fredo only 22. Ouzoulias had fought with the French army in 1940 and had been captured, but he twice escaped from his prisoner-of-war camp, and the second escape caught the attention of the Party. Fredo had fought in Spain, and was reputed to have strangled one of the French guards who arrested him as a Communist in 1939. It was certain that under the leadership of these two experienced fighters there would be direct attacks on the Germans (but it still remains uncertain who gave the order; it seems likely that the decision was taken by Moscow, the German attack on the Soviet Union having started in June 1941).
Ouzoulias later told how difficult it was to persuade Party members that they should learn to use revolvers when, for most of them, the Resistance had hitherto consisted of distributing tracts or attending secret meetings. But a number of German soldiers were killed, and, although this form of resistance was soon stopped as the Germans organised reprisals (the most infamous being the execution of 27 Communists at Chateaubriant, in Brittany), it was successful in so far as the government of Vichy was made to seem more closely allied to the Germans.
It also led to the creation of a Communist fighting group in February 1942, the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, under the direction of Charles Tillon. Ouzoulias became its military director, and was responsible for operations. He worked with Colonel Rol-Tanguy, the head of the Resistance movement in the Ile-de-France, and they planned for a rising in Paris. Their forces were vital to the liberation of Paris in August 1944, together with General Leclerc's armed brigade and the diplomatic interventions of the Swedish ambassador.
Ouzoulias was responsible for integrating Resistance forces into the regular armies as the war continued. After the war he was elected to the Municipal Council in Paris but, with his former leader Charles Tillon, a minister in de Gaulle's government, he was entrusted with various missions, in particular with regard to the French army in Indo-China. As a war hero and Communist he had easy relations with the forces of Ho Chi Minh, which he continued after the French had withdrawn.
In 1970 Ouzoulias became mayor of Palisse in Correze and lived there in semi-retirement. He had started life as a post office worker, joining the Communist Party in 1933. He was a popular figure, known as "Ouzou", although after the war people still called him "Colonel Andre", which was his Resistance name and rank. He was a discreet man, and his critics have said that his loyalty was first to the Party, only then to his country. But he received all the honours of the Republic and was regarded as one of the last heroes of the Resistance.
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