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Code Name Christiane Clouet: A Woman in the French Resistance

by Claire Chevrillon

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2211,034,615 (3.5)2
In 1943 Claire Chevrillon (code named Christiane Clouet) became head of the Code Service in Paris for General de Gaulle's Delegation and served as the main link in the lines of communication flowing between the Free French Government in London and the Delegation (Provisional Government) in France. It was Chevrillon and her team who coded many of the telegrams in Is Paris Burning? Until now, little has been published about this unglamorous but vital aspect of the French Resistance. Chevrillon's memoir gives abundant detail about what daily life was like for the French elite during the German occupation. Her father, a scholar and literary critic who had been raised by his celebrated uncle, philosopher-historian Hippolyte Taine, put her in contact with the upper circles of French culture. Her mother, who was from a large, assimilated Jewish family, gave her first-hand knowledge of the persecution of French Jews. Her story vividly portrays the wartime experience of private lives and public events, including the tedious backroom work of the Resistance and four months she spent captive in Paris's dreaded Fresnes prison. The way Chevrillon tells her story is almost as remarkable as the story itself. Evenhandedly and without embellishment, she relives the days of the occupation, the arrest and deportation of her prominent Jewish relatives, her own role in the underground network, and the eventual liberation of France. The straightforward, even brisk, style with which Chevrillon writes, together with the breadth of her experience and her extensive contacts in French society, give a perspective not often encountered in stories of the World War II underground. Perhaps most important, Chevrillon demonstrates that heroism can take quiet, hidden forms.… (more)
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This was the first memoir I've read in a long, long time. Memoirs are kind of a strange animal. They don't always highlight the life of a famous person (or even someone who saw great events) like a biography or an autobiography; they don't focus on the important events taking place as a history would. Claire's story was one of a ordinary woman who did an important, but behind-the-scenes act with the French Resistance. She didn't see battles and much of the time, she didn't know what she was decoding. But it was a very interesting read - from the perspective of a person living in Vichy during the occupation.

I was surprised at how mobile Claire was. She travelled back and forth to the coast, Paris and places in Vichy during the occupation. She spoke of the security measures in place to keep Vichy under the rule of Germany - but as a citizen (and a woman - a mild-mannered, middle-aged one at that), she didn't experience much harrassment. She writes of food shortages, the rare visitors that could provide information on the war, and how she got involved in the Resistance as a decoder. She was betrayed and spent four terrible months in jail, all of which she describes in her unfalteringly matter-of-fact voice.

This definitely isn't an exciting book. There's no forbidden love story or tales of great valor in battle or anything like that. There is a lot of good background information on the groups involved in the Resistance. I would suggest this book to someone who was interested in the role of women in the Resistance - someone who can handle a memoir, with its limited scope, viewpoint, and information. ( )
  anterastilis | Feb 24, 2009 |
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In August, 1939, I was in the mountains of the Drome, at Valcroissant, helping my old friend Eliane Frey direct a Cub Scout camp.
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In 1943 Claire Chevrillon (code named Christiane Clouet) became head of the Code Service in Paris for General de Gaulle's Delegation and served as the main link in the lines of communication flowing between the Free French Government in London and the Delegation (Provisional Government) in France. It was Chevrillon and her team who coded many of the telegrams in Is Paris Burning? Until now, little has been published about this unglamorous but vital aspect of the French Resistance. Chevrillon's memoir gives abundant detail about what daily life was like for the French elite during the German occupation. Her father, a scholar and literary critic who had been raised by his celebrated uncle, philosopher-historian Hippolyte Taine, put her in contact with the upper circles of French culture. Her mother, who was from a large, assimilated Jewish family, gave her first-hand knowledge of the persecution of French Jews. Her story vividly portrays the wartime experience of private lives and public events, including the tedious backroom work of the Resistance and four months she spent captive in Paris's dreaded Fresnes prison. The way Chevrillon tells her story is almost as remarkable as the story itself. Evenhandedly and without embellishment, she relives the days of the occupation, the arrest and deportation of her prominent Jewish relatives, her own role in the underground network, and the eventual liberation of France. The straightforward, even brisk, style with which Chevrillon writes, together with the breadth of her experience and her extensive contacts in French society, give a perspective not often encountered in stories of the World War II underground. Perhaps most important, Chevrillon demonstrates that heroism can take quiet, hidden forms.

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A memoir by Claire Chevrillon, a young teacher in France during WWII who, under the code name of Christiane Clouet, worked for the Resistance.
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