PARIS — On the day of the commemoration of General Charles de Gaulle’s “Appel du 18 juin” [Appeal of June 18] 1940 speech, the start of the French Resistance to the Nazis, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the ashes of the great French-Armenian resistance fighter of the Second World War, Missak Manouchian and his wife Mélina, will be carried into the walls of the prestigious Panthéon institution on February 21, 2024, the anniversary of Manouchian’s execution by German soldiers in 1944.
Since 1791, the most illustrious men and women of the French Republic have been laid to rest at the Panthéon, a sacred site where Voltaire, writer-philosopher, was the first among them. The building’s pediment bears the inscription “Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante” [To great men, a grateful nation].
Missak Manouchian was born on September 1, 1906 in the Ottoman Empire. Self-taught, he worked as a laborer, then became a carpenter. He fled to France in 1925.
In July 1935, he became an executive member of the Communist International, taking over the management of the newspaper Zangou, published by the French section of the Hayastani Ognutean Komite [Committee to Aid Armenia], and then of the Union populaire franco-arménienne [Franco-Armenian People’s Union], an intermediary for the Main-d’œuvre immigrée [Immigrant Labor] organization among Armenian workers.
Manouchian’s career in France was atypical. He was a member of the Spanish Republican Aid Committee and a delegate for the French Communist Party until 1939. The Communist Party was banned on September 26 of the same year.
In 1942, he joined the resistance against the German invaders in France. In August 1943, he was appointed military commissioner for the Paris region. He commanded three detachments comprising a total of some 50 militants, who targeted high-ranking German officers.
Manouchian was arrested by men from the French Intelligence Service on November 16, 1943. His wife, Méliné, was hidden by Charles Aznavour’s family, but escaped arrest.
Tortured with 22 of his comrades, he was handed over to the German secret police (Wehrmacht Gestapo) and executed on February 21, 1944, after a summary trial on February 19.