Jean Moulin (1899-1943)

Jean Moulin

Born in Béziers to a Provençal family that he remained very much attached to, Jean Moulin worked in the prefectorial administration and in ministerial offices while continuing to practice drawing. As a close friend of Pierre Cot, Minister of the Air for the Front Populaire, he was entrusted with secretly supplying assistance to the Spanish Republic in 1936. A firm patriot, he had been mobilized for only a week when war was declared on Germany on September 3, 1939. In office in Eure-et-Loire at the time, Jean Moulin was at the center of the collapse of France. He saw the mass of refugees on the roads of exodus and tried to help them. On June 17, 1940, he met the conquering Germans in Chartres. Tortured by the occupier to extort his signature, Moulin preferred suicide to dishonor. He recovered but carried a scar throughout his life. 

Jean Moulin’s project gradually took shape. He was dismissed from his position as Prefect by Vichy on November 2, 1940. He made contact with Resistance members in the southern zone and, less easily, with those in the occupied zone. Next, he left for Marseille, traveled through Portugal and arrived in the United Kingdom. He presented himself to General de Gaulle on October 25, 1941, as the emissary of internal Resistance. The head of the Free French designated Moulin as his personal representative and entrusted him with the mission to organize the Resistance in the southern zone by creating ties to the Free French. Thus began the dangerous and grueling work of contacting and coordinating, which was carried out with a very small team. The idea was to urge the heads of internal Resistance, who carefully guarded their independence, to create ties with London. Officially, Jean Moulin was a landowner looking for a place in Nice to install an art gallery that opened on February 9, 1943.

During a second trip to London in February-March 1943, Moulin was made a Companion of the Liberation by Charles de Gaulle, who was head of the Free French. Moulin would go further in coordination and set up a Council of the Resistance that brought together Resistance movements and the former political parties and trade unions. This was by no means an easy task, but on May 27, 1943, Jean Moulin was able to call together in the middle of occupied Paris the first Council of the Resistance, soon to be known as the National Council of the Resistance.

The noose around his neck was tightening. On June 21, 1943, Moulin and Resistance members who were participating in a meeting at Caluire-sur-Cuire were arrested. Tortured by the Gestapo in Lyon and then by the Gestapo in Paris, Jean Moulin died on the train that was taking him to Germany, probably on July 8, 1943. His ashes were transferred to the Pantheon on December 19, 1964.