a powerful documentary about the tragic fate of these communist and foreign resistance fighters

On the eve of the entrance ceremony into the Pantheon of Missak Manouchian, the emblematic face of this very active network, and his wife Mélinée, France 2 broadcasts on Tuesday night a film by Hugues Nancy and Denis Peschanski, narrated by the singer Arthur Teboul (Fire! Chatterton) . Little-known archives and moving facts shed new light on this dramatic page of history.

France Télévisions – Editorial Culture

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Reading time: 5 min

Missak Manouchian (center), and around her, the comrades chosen to appear in the Red Poster and other foreign resistance fighters tried and convicted in 1943. Image taken from the documentary "Manouchian and those of the Red Poster".  (ARCHIVES OF THE PARIS POLICE PREFECTURE / MEMORIAL OF THE SHOAH / NATIONAL ARCHIVES / NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE RESISTANCE)

Missak Manouchian, who was an executive and then leader of the FTP-MOI (the committed immigrant workforce within the Francs-tireurs et partisans), the communist and foreign branch of the Resistance during World War II, made his entry into the Pantheon. on Wednesday, February 21, 2024. The official ceremony takes place 80 years to the day of his execution, along with twenty-one brothers in arms, by the Nazi occupying forces. He will be accompanied by his wife Mélinée, a resistance fighter and survivor of the 1915 Armenian genocide, like him.

If she is the figure, the face and the symbol of the Foreign Resistance in France, Missak Manouchian fought against Nazism alongside other equally striking and endearing personalities, Polish Jews, Hungarian Jews, Spaniards, Italians, a Frenchman, a Romanian – among others –, united by their political commitment and their rejection of fascism. Ten of them appear in the infamous Red Poster created by the Nazis in the service of their propaganda, propaganda that will have the opposite effect than expected.

"Manouchian and those of the Red Poster".  -

France 2 documentary trailer

“Manouchian and those of the Red Cartel.” – (FRANCE TELEVISIONERS)

The documentary Manouchian and those of the Red Cartel, written by the director and screenwriter Hugues Nancy and the historian Denis Peschanski, and directed by Hugues Nancy, makes us more aware of these destinies cut by barbarism. This page in the history of the Resistance is told to us with great clarity, in the voice of the author and singer Arthur Teboul. His group Feu! Chatterton was distinguished by his vibrant recovery From the poem written by Louis Aragon in 1955 and set to music by Léo Ferré in 1961 to pay tribute to these martyrs of the Resistance. With the help of a fabulous amount of sometimes little-known archives, we (re)discover particularly moving aspects of Manouchian’s journey and his companions in misfortune.

Two (vain) applications for naturalization

It is hard to believe the amount of evidence of attachment to France expressed by Missak Manouchian until the last moments of her life. We will mention the two formal attempts to obtain French nationality by the stateless Armenian, a survivor of the genocide that occurred in 1915 in the last hours of the Ottoman Empire. The first time was in 1933, the police headquarters followed the trail. Manouchian, then 27 years old, wanted to be able to do military service. The police chief issues a favorable opinion. But the administration rejects this unemployed foreigner’s request: Manouchian lost his job as a worker in the Citroën factories in Paris after the economic crisis that followed the Great Depression. In this context, times are no longer favorable for immigrants…

In early 1940, Missak Manouchian submitted a second application for naturalization. At that time he joined the French army as a volunteer. The officers of his regiment supported his candidacy. Once again, his request will not be successful. According to Nancy and Peschanski’s film, the administration will not have time to study his file due to the German offensive on Belgium and France in May 1940.

Victims of zealous persecution by the French police

Exasperated by the spectacular actions of the FTP-MOI in Paris and pressured by the furious German authorities, police chief René Bousquet orders his services to regain control of the capital. Created by the Prefecture of Police and General Intelligence, two “Special Brigades”, each composed of dozens of inspectors, take advantage of French know-how in matters of monitoring… This is followed by long-term, relentless and chilling work , illustrated in the documentary with exciting police files. If members of the foreign and communist resistance were tortured, tried, convicted and executed by the German occupation forces, the massive dismantling of the network constitutes a “success” for the French collaborationist police.

Pressure from the PCF with disastrous consequences

The documentary gives the painful sensation that the fate of the FTP-MOI is sealed in advance by the combination of two elements that will leave no escape for the resistance. On one side is the gigantic network that the French police are weaving. On the other hand, there are the increasing demands of the hierarchy of the French Communist Party (PCF) regarding its armed wing within the Resistance. It was following the PCF’s criticism of the results of its actions that the FTP-MOI reorganized itself, placing Missak Manouchian in the network’s military leadership. Quickly, the Armenian fighter and other members of the secret army, such as his direct superior Joseph Epstein, felt that they were under surveillance. But for the Party, the world conflict began a turning point during the year 1943. Therefore, it is not about becoming ecological, on the contrary, we must intensify actions. The film presents unequivocal files and letters about the resistance’s room for maneuver.

Young, rebellious and loving resistance fighters.

Finally, among the many reasons not to miss this film, is the personal story of Missak and Mélinée Manouchian, a story at the source of their convictions and their commitment. And, of course, there is a moving tribute to Manouchian’s companions in misfortune, young figures, sometimes orphans like him, journeys that have been forever left in limbo. Marcel Rajman the Polish Jew with the face of an angel, Thomas Elek the brilliant Hungarian high school student, Rino Della Negra the football hope of Italian origin, Wolf Wajsbrot the Polish Jew with tragic loves, Celestino Alfonso the Spaniard who fought against Franco, without forgetting of the Romanian Jew Olga Bancic, the only woman in the group, mother of a girl… They all risked their lives and a future full of promises to defend France against Nazism and fascism. It was 80 years ago. That was yesterday.

“Manouchian and those of the red poster” by Hugues Nancy and Denis Peschanski, Tuesday, February 20, 2024 at 9:10 p.m. on France 2
Available on the platform france.tv from February 20 at 6 a.m., and for five months.
> To watch or rewatch: “Manouchian” by Daniel Rihl and Clément Magnin, co-written by Florence Kieffer. Docu-fiction series in 4 episodes of the magazine “13:15 on Sunday” of France 2, available on the Franceinfo website and on france.tv (until February 14, 2025).
> The ceremony at the Pantheon will be broadcast live on Wednesday, February 21, starting at 5:10 p.m. on France 2.

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