From left, Nikol Pashinyan, Emmanuel Macron, and once again, Macron

France Honors French-Armenian Hero Missak Manouchian


PARIS — Through the voice of French President Emmanuel Macron, France honors Missak Manouchian, a great figure of the French Resistance, hero of a singular story of a stateless Armenian poet who fought against the German occupiers on French soil. It would take several columns to write the story of this committed man who, with his comrades, carried out over 90 attacks and acts of sabotage, killing 150 Germans and wounding 600 more. The Nazis called it the Army of Crime.

Missak and Mélinée Manouchian

On February 21, the 80th anniversary of Manouchian’s execution by the Nazis in 1944, France admitted the glorious resistance fighter to the prestigious Panthéon mausoleum, home to the greatest figures in the land of human rights.

Manouchian was born on September 1, 1906 in Adiyaman in the Ottoman Empire. Self-taught, he worked as a laborer, then became a carpenter. He fled to France in 1925.

He was a member of the Spanish Republican Aid Committee and a delegate for the French Communist Party until 1939, when he applied for French nationality. He was twice refused.  It was as a foreigner that he was welcomed at the Panthéon.

Through him, we also pay tribute to his 21 other comrades, “Francs-tireurs [free shooters] and partisans,” who were shot alongside him. They were “Jews, Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Spaniards, Romanians or French.”


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Outside the sacred precinct, hundreds of people waited in the light rain to see Melinée and Missak’s coffins, draped in French colors, make their way to their final resting place. Inside, the emotion was palpable, as could be seen on Nikol Pashinyan’s face.

Scenes from the Pantheon ceremonies

In his tribute speech, lasting 30 minutes, the French president said, in essence: “You enter here as a soldier with your brothers in arms.” In his speech, he recalled the singular career of this hero of the shadows, repeatedly quoting words from the works of Charles Aznavour and the singer Léo Ferré (L’affiche rouge).

The Red Poster (Affiche rouge)

Missak was arrested on November 16, 1943 by collaborators of the French Intelligence Service and executed on February 21 the following year, after being tortured by the Gestapo. On February 22, 1944, the German propaganda services in France distributed 15,000 copies of a red poster featuring 10 Resistance fighters, including their leader Missak Manouchian. The poster read: “Liberators? Liberation! By the army of crime.” Mélinée had escaped arrest. She died, a French citizen, on December 6, 1989 at the age of 76.

Missak Manouchian and the Red Poster

Armenian Community

Because of his former role in the French section of the Comité de secours à l’Arménie, before the war, Manouchian retained an important influence within the Armenian community in France. It should also be remembered that he was sheltered and taken in by the family of Charles Aznavour, whom he taught to play chess.

On February 21, 1944, the day before his execution, Missak wrote his last letter from prison to his wife Mélinée before being shot at Mont Valérien Fort.

“My dear Mélinée, my beloved little orphan,

In a few hours, I’ll be gone from this world. We’re going to be shot this afternoon at 3 p.m. I don’t believe it, but I know I’ll never see you again.

“What can I write to you? I’m so confused and so clear at the same time.

“I joined the Liberation Army as a volunteer soldier, and I died just short of victory and the goal. Happiness to those who will survive us and taste the sweetness of tomorrow’s freedom and peace. I am sure that the French people and all freedom fighters will honor our memory with dignity. At the moment of my death, I proclaim that I have no hatred against the German people or anyone else, and that everyone will get what they deserve in punishment and reward.

“The German people and all other peoples will live in peace and brotherhood after the war, which will not last much longer. Happiness to all…

“I deeply regret not having made you happy. I would have liked to have had a child with you, as you always wanted. I therefore beg you to marry after the war, without fail, and have a child for my happiness, and to fulfill my last wish, marry someone who can make you happy. I bequeath all my possessions to you, your sister and my nephews. After the war, you will be able to claim your war pension as my wife, as I die a regular soldier in the French Liberation Army.

“With the help of friends who will honor me, you will have my poems and writings published and read. You will bring my memories, if possible, to my parents in Armenia. I will die with my 23 comrades shortly with the courage and serenity of a man with a clear conscience, because personally, I have done no harm to anyone, and if I have, I have done it without hatred. Today, it’s sunny. It is by looking at the sun and the beautiful nature that I have loved so much that I will say farewell to life and to all of you, my dear wife and my dear friends. I forgive all those who have hurt me or wanted to hurt me, except the one who betrayed us to buy back his skin and those who sold us out. I give you a big hug, as well as your sister and all the friends who know me from far or near, I hold you all close to my heart. Adieu.

“Your friend, your comrade, your husband. Manouchian Michel.

P.S. I have fifteen thousand francs in the suitcase on Rue de Plaisance. If you can take them, repay my debts and give the rest to Armène. M. M.”

Missak Manouchian and Mélinée are buried at the Panthéon in vault number XIII.

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