France’s last surviving WWII Resistance hero dies aged 101

French resistance fighter Hubert Germain has died
French resistance fighter Hubert Germain has died. Photo: Michel Euler/AFP
The last survivor out of over 1,000 people who were awarded the highest bravery order by Charles de Gaulle for their role in French Resistance forces during World War II has died aged 101, France's defence minister announced on Tuesday.

“I want to inform you that Hubert Germain, the last surviving member of the Order of the Liberation, has died,” Florence Parly told French lawmakers.

“It’s an important moment in our history,” she added.

Germain was among 1,038 decorated with the Order of the Liberation for their heroism by Resistance leader and later president de Gaulle.

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He decided to join the resistance as he was shocked by French collaborationist leader Philippe Petain’s call to lay down arms against the Germans.

The son of a general in France’s colonial army, he walked out of an entrance exam at France’s Naval College shortly after France fell to the Germans in the summer of 1940.

“I am going to war,” he told the shocked examiner.

Standing 1.90 metres tall (six foot three inches), he boarded a ship carrying Polish soldiers to England, where he arrived on June 24th, 1940.

His shock at the collaborationist General Philippe Petain’s call to lay down arms prompted him to take a decision many at the time thought rash and foolhardy.

He said he would never forget his first meeting with de Gaulle.

“He stopped for a second, looked at me and said: ‘I am going to need you.’

“When at the age of 18 you get that amid a general disaster, it is something that moves you deeply.”

As a member of the French Free Forces and the Foreign Legion, Germain took part in key battles at Bir-Hakeim in Libya, El Alamein in Egypt, and in Tunisia.

He then participated in the decisive French-led assault on Mediterranean beaches in August 1944, setting foot on home soil for the first time in years.

He fell into the sand and “cried like a baby”, he later recalled. “I had returned to my country.”

He fought for the liberation of the southern city of Toulon, the Rhone Valley and Lyon in central France, moving to the Vosges mountains and Alsace in the east, and ended the war in the southern Alps.

After the war Germain was named aide de camp to General Pierre Koenig, the commander of the French forces occupying Germany, before being demobilised in 1946.

He soon moved into politics and was the Gaullist mayor of Saint-Cheron, a town south of Paris, before becoming an MP in 1962 and serving as post and telecommunications minister from 1972 to 1974.

Hubert Germain pictured in 1972 in Paris during his time as an MP. Photo: AFP

Hubert Germain pictured in 1972 in Paris during his time as an MP. Photo: AFP

Germain will be buried alongside other members of the elite order at Mont Valerien, the military fortress west of Paris where more than 1,000 Resistance fighters and hostages were executed by the Nazis.

Out of the over 1,000 Resistance heroes, a third died in combat and 80 percent of the survivors were wounded in action.

Of the last three survivors, Edgard Tupet-Thome died aged 100 in September 2020 and Daniel Cordier died, also aged 100, in November that year.

In his last public appearance, Germain met President Emmanuel Macron in June this year as they marked de Gaulle’s historic call to defy France’s Nazi occupiers despite the country’s capitulation.

Germain was helped from his wheelchair to accept a red sash from Macron, who kissed his cheeks, and then saluted the president before putting on his military cap.

“Eighty-one years on, General de Gaulle’s call still resonates. The flame of the resistance will not be extinguished,” Macron wrote on Twitter after that ceremony.


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