President Emmanuel Macron will bring into the Pantheon the figure of the resistance of Armenian origin Missak Manouchian, as well as his wife Mélinée. “Missak Manouchian carries a part of our greatness”, he “embodies the universal values” of freedom, equality, fraternity in the name of which he “defended the Republic”, declared the presidency in a press release.
An announcement which coincides with the anniversary of the appeal of June 18, which the president celebrates in the morning at Mont-Valérien, near Paris, where many resistance fighters and hostages, including Missak Manouchianwere executed by the German army during the Occupation.
Born in 1906 in Hısn-ı Mansur, in the Ottoman Empire and southern Turkey today, Missak Manouchian is a survivor of the Armenian genocide, stateless and a refugee in France in 1925 after losing his parents. He emigrated to Marseille in 1925 and worked in the shipyards of La Seyne-sur-Mer (Var), before being hired as a turner at Citroën in Paris.
Member of the infamous Red Poster
During the Second World War, this gymnastics and writing enthusiast joined the communist resistance in the FTP group MOI (Francs tireurs partisans – Immigrant workforce) and became its military leader before being arrested by the French police in following a long shadowing, then tortured and shot by the Germans on February 21, 1944, at Mont-Valérien, with 22 other comrades.
He is part of the “army of crime”, according to Nazi propaganda, alongside other immigrant resistance fighters, immortalized on the “red poster”, mively posted throughout France during the Occupation. The plastering of the 15,000 red posters by the Germans produced the opposite effect to that expected, since it became the emblem of martyrdom and transformed these men, including Missak Manouchian, into heroes.
A carpenter by training, he will not enter the Pantheon alone, since he will be accompanied by Mélinée, his wife of Armenian origin. Also resistant, she joined France in 1925 and has been resting by her side in the cemetery of Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne) since 1989.
Unlike Missak, she escapes the police by being hidden by the Aznavourians. (the family of singer Charles Aznavour) while her husband had been followed for several months. Also a member of the French Communist Party, she met Missak Manouchian in 1934 during the annual celebration of the French Section of the Relief Committee for Armenia (HOC) then took over the administrative secretariat of the HOC, including the magazine Zangou, directed by Missak Manouchian.
A very committed woman
The couple married on February 22, 1936, with the “custom certificate for marriage” required of stateless persons. Together they founded the Franco-Armenian Popular Union and also undertake to raise funds for the Spanish Republicans.
Missak Manouchian, resistant and survivor of the Armenian genocide will enter the Pantheon on February 21, 2024 with his wife Melinee Manouchian.
Extract from his letter to Melinée “Happiness to those who will follow us and taste the sweetness of freedom and peace of tomorrow.” pic.twitter.com/ZH6EZBduTC
— Mane Alexanian (@manealx) June 17, 2023
During the Second World War, when her husband was imprisoned for his closeness to the Soviet Union, she was very committed and had the role of typing leaflets and carrying secret messages. She was then igned to spotting and spying on the targets of attacks and wrote reports for the commandos.
In 1943, she only learned several weeks later of her husband’s execution by the Germans and quickly resumed her actions within the Resistance, until the end of the war.
After the conflict, she settled in Yerevan for fourteen years, and wrote a biography of her husband in 1954, of which she published a collection of poems two years later. In 1983, she participated in the production of the documentary “Retired terrorists”, which denounced the responsibility of the leadership of the French Communist Party in what led to the arrest of the men of the Red Poster by the police as well as lack of support for members of the Manouchian group before their arrest.
On December 31, 1986, François Mitterrand named her a Knight of the Legion of Honor, three years before her death on December 6, 1989. She was buried in the Parisian cemetery of Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne), before d being reunited with her husband in 1994.
Thirty years later, on February 21, 2024, these two resistance heroes will enter the Pantheon together and will become the first foreign and communist resistance fighters to join the temple of the great figures of the Republic.