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Agnès Humbert (1894–1963)

Author of Resistance: A Frenchwoman's Journal of the War

11+ Works 470 Members 42 Reviews

About the Author

Works by Agnès Humbert

Associated Works

Henri Matisse (1950) 17 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Humbert, Agnès
Legal name
Humbert, Agnès
Date of death
Burial location
Valmondois, Val-d'Oise, Île-de-France, France
Country (for map)
Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, Normandy, France
Place of death
Valmondois, France
Places of residence
Paris, Île-de-France, France
Valmondois, Val-d'Oise, Île-de-France, France
The Sorbonne
art historian
resistance fighter
Cassou, Jean (colleague)
Tillion, Germaine (resistance colleague)
Oddon, Yvonne (resistance colleague)
Musée de l'Homme
Awards and honors
Croix de Guerre
Short biography
Agnès Humbert was the daughter of a French-English couple: her father was a French senator and her mother an English writer. In 1916, she married Georges Hanna Sabbagh, an Egyptian artist, with whom she had two sons; the couple divorced in 1934. Agnès studied art history at the Sorbonne and at the Louvre school. Her first book, on the painter Jacques-Louis David, was published in 1936. She worked as an at historian at the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires and did radio commentary on art. After the Germans captured Paris in 1940, Agnès Humbert was stirred to action by an appeal by General de Gaulle on the BBC's Radio France encouraging the French people to resist their occupiers. With colleagues and friends such as Boris Vildé, Jean Cassou, and Yvonne Oddon, she formed the Groupe du Musée de l'Homme. In a few months the group had built a highly effective underground network. They created the clandestine newspaper Résistance and obtained information for the Allies. In 1941, Humbert and other members of the museum group were betrayed to the Gestapo and sentenced to death. However, she and other women were instead sent to perform slave labor in camps and factories around Germany. She survived four years under horrifying conditions and was liberated by the U.S. Army in June 1945. Agnès Humbert set up soup kitchens for refugees and helped to start the de-Nazification process. After the war, she wrote more books on art history. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre with silver gilt palm for heroism in 1946. She published her wartime diary under the title Notre Guerre in 1946; it was reissued and translated into English under the title Résistance (2008).



"Paris, 1940: Agnes Humbert, a respected art historian, took a leap of blind faith and reckless courage. With the help of a few colleagues, she formed a keystone group within the French Resistance to the German Occupation, very likely the first of its kind.Indeed, the group's newsletter, Resistance, gave the movement its name.The next year, the group was betrayed to the Gestdapo. Seven of the men were executed by firing squad. The women were deported to Germany as slave workers.

Agnes Humbert's secret journal, translated for the first time into English,describes these events with immediacy, intelligence, and humor."… (more)
iwb | 41 other reviews | May 18, 2023 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!

Wow. What a story. I have read many different books about WWII, fiction and non, including one autobiography by a specific young Frenchwoman who helped many Jewish children in France. This memoir - part journal, part memoir, expands on that theme. It is the story of Agnes Humbert, who helped form and worked in the French Resistance, risking her life many times and landing in prison because of her efforts. In prison she was surrounded by others also in the resistance and there are startling movie-like incidents that take place there. Why isn't this a major motion picture?

It was first published in France in 1946. It contained a copy of her diary up to a certain date, and after that her memories of what happened, written after the war. There are many questions about her original diary, which it is certain she did maintain, and about what may have been left out of it in the publication. The facts in the book have been verified as much as is possible and there are details about the persons listed in the book at the end.

It was a sensation in 1946 but for some reason did not get published in the US until 2008, long after her death. I for one would love to see a film made of it. It reveals just how the resistance tended to work in a day-to-day fashion, something many of us want to know.
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slojudy | 41 other reviews | Sep 8, 2020 |
Humbert kept a journal relating events as they happened when Paris fell to the Germans in June 1940. With few men left in the civilian population, what became known as the French Resistance was organized by women. The early entries describe the shock and dismay at what is happening to her beloved city and country, when she was inspired to do something, if only to spread information. She met others with the same goal, and together they printed a newsletter titled Résistance, the first use of the word that eventually gave the name to the movement. When Humbert's activities were discovered by the Gestapo in April 1941, although they had little to go on, she was arrested and immediately imprisoned.

At her trial she was given 5 years in prison and sent to a forced labour camp. From this point the book gives an account of the extraordinarily horrific experiences as a slave labourer, but written soon after her liberation in April 1945. Because this section continues in journal format, it serves to show the prolonged time of extreme, agonizing ill-treatment. During this time she maintained her resistance, sabotaging every product she worked on.

After her liberation, she again kept a journal, reprinted as the final section in the book, making only the middle section written from memory. There are many outstanding features in her account, the most noted being that she retained her positive attitude, sense of humour and consideration for other prisoners. When she was liberated, the German town of Wanfried was in chaos and Humbert took a leading part in the organization of facilities, food supply, medical treatment to the townspeople, prisoners, and huge population of army personnel, many of whom behaved like hooligans. Conditions were quite different to the idea many of us might have about liberation where everyone is suddenly free, and ready to go home. She appreciated the difference between Nazis and those who were forced into the party and used the information to form a method of identifying Nazis which led to many arrests. Humbert's contribution to the war effort, resistance, and recovery was extensive and nothing short of heroic.

Her book, one of the first about the war years in France and slave labour camps was published in January 1946 although not translated until 2008. The Afterword by Julien Blanc is of particular interest by filling in the details of Humbert's life, her process of writing the book and the Resistance movement. There is also an extensive appendix detailing documents on the Resistance, translator's notes, bibliography and index. A highly recommended five-star read.
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3 vote
VivienneR | 41 other reviews | Sep 1, 2016 |
Resistance is the journal of Agnes Humbert, a resident of Paris who writes of the German occupation of Paris. She was forty-three at the time and her first instinct was flight. She left Paris but returned a few weeks later. She and a friend formed one of the first resistance cells in Paris, which was unfortunately betrayed in 1941. Her colleagues were executed and she was deported to Germany and spent years as a slave labourer.

This felt like I was peeking over her shoulder and reading her diary. I received a first hand look at what a French woman felt and did when she saw her country fall. She personally did not surrender, she both fought and suffered to help free her country. Her years in Germany as a forced labourer were truly horrifying and stand as a testament to the degree of human suffering the Nazis inflicted on others.

Translated by Barbara Mellor this book is the story of one woman’s war. Some of the small details caused joy such as her seeing a Stefan Zweig book in the bookseller’s window one day but when she went back later, it had been removed and included on the list of banned books yet the bookseller slipped her a copy anyway. Of course other details of her years of suffering were difficult to read about but Agnes Humbert was a remarkable woman with a zest for living and courage to spare.
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DeltaQueen50 | 41 other reviews | Feb 19, 2016 |


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