The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando

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In the tradition of Agent Zigzag comes this breathtaking biography, as fast-paced and emotionally intuitive as the very best spy thrillers, which illuminates an unsung hero of the French Resistance during World War II—Robert de La Rochefoucald, an aristocrat turned anti-Nazi saboteur—and his daring exploits as a résistant trained by Britain’s Special Operations Executive.

A scion of one of the most storied families in France, Robert de La Rochefoucald was raised in magnificent chateaux and educated in Europe's finest schools. When the Nazis invaded and imprisoned his father, La Rochefoucald escaped to England and learned the dark arts of anarchy and combat—cracking safes and planting bombs and killing with his bare hands—from the officers of Special Operations Executive, the collection of British spies, beloved by Winston Churchill, who altered the war in Europe with tactics that earned it notoriety as the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” With his newfound skills, La Rochefoucauld returned to France and organized Resistance cells, blew up fortified compounds and munitions factories, interfered with Germans’ war-time missions, and executed Nazi officers. Caught by the Germans, La Rochefoucald withstood months of torture without cracking, and escaped his own death, not once but twice.

The Saboteur recounts La Rochefoucauld’s enthralling adventures, from jumping from a moving truck on his way to his execution to stealing Nazi limos to dressing up in a nun’s habit—one of his many disguises and impersonations. Whatever the mission, whatever the dire circumstance, La Rochefoucauld acquitted himself nobly, with the straight-back aplomb of a man of aristocratic breeding: James Bond before Ian Fleming conjured him.

More than just a fast-paced, true thriller, The Saboteur is also a deep dive into an endlessly fascinating historical moment, telling the untold story of a network of commandos that battled evil, bravely worked to change the course of history, and inspired the creation of America’s own Central Intelligence Agency.

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About the author

Paul Kix is a deputy editor at ESPN the Magazine. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, GQ, New York, Men’s Journal, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and children.

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Additional Information

Publisher
HarperCollins
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Published on
Dec 5, 2017
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780062322548
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / France
History / Military / World War II
Political Science / Intelligence & Espionage
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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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.
“Enthralling and intelligent, a masterly exploration of
the sinister labyrinth that was wartime France . . .
It is a remarkable book, utterly fascinating.”
—Allan Massie


Not long after 2:00 p.m. on June 21, 1943, eight men met in secret at a doctor’ s house in Lyon. They represented the warring factions of the French Resistance and had been summoned by General de Gaulle’s new envoy, a man most of them knew simply as “Max.”

Minutes after the last man entered the house, the Gestapo broke in, led by Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyon.” The fate awaiting Barbie’s prisoners was torture, deportation, and death. “Max” was tortured sadistically but never broke: he took his many secrets to his grave. In that moment, the legend of Jean Moulin was born.

Who betrayed Jean Moulin? And who was this enigmatic hero, a man as skilled in deception as he was in acts of heroism? After the war, his ashes were transferred to the Panthéon—France’s highest honor—where his memory is revered alongside that of Voltaire and Victor Hugo. But Moulin’s story is full of unanswered questions: the truth of his life is far more complicated than the legend conveniently manufactured by de Gaulle.

Resistance and Betrayal tells for the first time in English the epic story of France’s greatest war hero, a Schindler-like character of ambiguous motivation. A winner of the Marsh Prize for biography, praised by Graham Greene and Julian Barnes, Patrick Marnham is a brilliant storyteller with a keen appreciation for the complex maze of moral compromises navigated in times of war. Told with the drama and suspense of the best espionage fiction, Resistance and Betrayal brings to life the dark and duplicitous world of the French Resistance and offers a startling conclusion to one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Second World War.


NOTE: This edition does not include photographs.
The Resistance, 1940 illuminates the early phase of the French Resistance through first-hand accounts, describing how movements organized themselves in opposition to both German occupation and the collaborationist Vichy government. Translated and annotated by Charles Potter, these writings, composed by French men and women, reveal how the Resistance fighters experienced defeat and resurrection in the pivotal year of 1940.


This primary source reader opens with “First Fight,” by Jean Moulin, which offers a vivid eyewitness recounting of the collapse of France, penned by arguably the greatest hero of the Resistance. This major historical document is supplemented by three additional accounts of subsequent events. “First Resistance,” by Germaine Tillion, who was arrested in 1942 and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp for the duration of the war, depicts the formation of the Groupe du Musée de l’Homme. “National Liberation,” by Henri Frenay, who originally supported the Vichy government but quickly became disillusioned, offers details on the planning of the vast resistance network later known as Combat. Finally, “We Were Terrorists,” by Jean Garcin, excerpts the memoir of a young Socialist in the southern zone who later headed resistance efforts in the city of Marseilles.




Along with these annotated texts, Potter includes an informative introduction and contextualizes each source, positioning the documents within the timeline of events. Taken together, these four seminal accounts from four individual perspectives offer compelling evidence about how and when the French Resistance began.

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