OBITUARY: Annie Kriegel

Anyone who knew the Paris Latin Quarter in the late 1940s and early 1950s must have been aware of Annie Becker (or Annie Besse as she was known after her marriage to Guy Besse in 1947). As student, history teacher and journalist she was the leading militant of the Communist Party. There was scarcely a demonstration which did not seem to be led by her small, aggressive figure, deliberately provocative towards the police and violent in her denunciation of the enemy of the moment. She was important in the party apparatus, being responsible for cultural and intellectual affairs in the powerful federation of the Seine.

In 1953 some difference began to appear between the party direction and herself. Perhaps she seemed too committed to a particular line of policy. Then, since she had firmly linked the French party to Stalinism, the death of Stalin, the Khrushchev Report, and the reaction of the French leadership to these happenings, caused her to leave the party in 1957. She turned to research in history and became a supporter of the right wing, particularly after the return of de Gaulle to power. But unlike other former Communists, she continued to study communist theory and practice.

She began writing articles on a wide variety of subject for Le Figaro in the 1970s and she found no difficulty in writing for a paper that was owned and run by the wealthy, right-wing Robert Hersant. When Raymond Aron decided reluctantly that Le Figaro had become a publication with which he no longer wished to be associated, Kriegel was one of the few of his friends who urged him to stay on. It was during these years that she became the most fervent admirer and supporter of the state of Israel.

The explanation of this remarkable career is to be found in her wartime experience. Coming from a Jewish-Alsatian family and having passed idyllic school days in the Marais district of Paris, she encountered the anti- Semitic legislation of the occupation and then the infamous round-up of Jews on 16 July 1942. She frequently recalled how on that day she was at the crossing of the Rue de Turenne and the Rue de Bretagne. She had witnessed the unusual sight of a French policeman with tears running down his face, she saw flocks of children and old people carrying bundles, and then came the screams.

As the men were forcibly separated from the women and children she heard screams which she said contained all the pain that life and death provide. She did not know what to do. She sat on a bench and wept. "It was on that bench that I left my childhood," she afterwards said.

She escaped from Paris and joined the Resistance movement at Grenoble, at the age of 16, and was brought into the Communist-controlled group of immigrant workers, where Jews were prominent. With the Liberation she became a student at the Ecole Normale Superieure de Sevres, where she announced herself as the absolute communist. She shared a room with my wife (then Madeleine Rebillard) who tells me that she decorated it with a machine-gun and a lavish display of communist resistance pamphlets. She asserted her beliefs vigorously. For example, when a fellow student spoke of eventually bringing up a family, she was denounced as bourgeoise. The place for children was in a state-run creche. Her discourse of power was that victory had been that of the Soviet Union and the communist resistance. They would go on to change the world.

After she had left the party, her historical work was learned but controversial. She described the creation of the French party in 1920 as a banal accident that only acquired significance because of the intervention of the Russian Bolsheviks. A communist party in a society which it did not dominate was forced to establish a counter-society, with unfortunate results.

She married a doctor and became Annie Kriegel; she brought up four children (without sending them to creches); the University of Paris-Nanterre made her a professor; increasing deafness emphasised her isolation, although she was respected as an individual force amongst French intellectuals.

But she longed for another ideal to which she could become passionately attached. She found it in the state of Israel. Her background and her experience came together in a concept of Jewishness over which the endangered state of Israel presided. She preached its cause; she refused to believe that it would ever be defeated. The words of Charles Peguy were relevant: "the soldier who never admits that he has been defeated is always right".

As for herself she concluded her autobiography, Ce que j'ai cru comprendre, with the words "J'ai continue".

Douglas Johnson

Annie Becker, teacher, historian, journalist: born Paris 9 September 1926; married 1947 Guy Besse (marriage dissolved), secondly Arthur Kriegel; died Paris 26 August 1995.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape