RÉSISTANCE by Agnés Humbert


A Woman’s Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France
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A member of the French Resistance recalls her work against the Nazis, capture and imprisonment during World War II.

Originally published in 1946, the book has taken a surprisingly long time to be translated into English, especially since scholars frequently cite it as an important source of information about the Resistance, notable for its accuracy and immediacy. Humbert (1894–1963), an art historian, wrote the bulk of the text in the nine months immediately after her liberation from a German labor camp; three chapters are directly transcribed from diaries kept at the time. The first diary entry, on June 7, 1940, describes German troops descending on Paris. What follows is a startling firsthand account of the war, as told through the eyes of someone who experienced rebellion against the Nazi threat, imprisonment at the hands of merciless German troops and freedom as the war came to an end. Humbert’s meticulous eye for detail (even in chapters written after the fact) makes the book a compelling read. She chronicles the early days of the German occupation, when she and a group of friends hastily formed the publication Résistance, which ultimately led to her imprisonment by the Nazis. She chronicles the charges that were brought against her, the court case and her initial imprisonment in a forced-labor camp in Anrath, Germany. It was here that Humbert encountered genuine criminals (one woman had killed her son and two nephews by cutting off their hands) and experienced the barbaric conditions that would mark the rest of her time as a slave laborer in Germany. She made friends with some of the inmates, and occasionally a letter from a family member was passed on to her. Freed by U.S. forces in April 1945, she helped them expose some key members of the Nazi party during the month before VE Day, vividly described in a final chapter composed of contemporary diary entries.

A vital historical document.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59691-559-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2008