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.
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.
Though Hue's mission was fraught with difficulty - he missed his landing site, his secret base camp became the site of a pitch battle and a band of Cossacks tried to hunt him down - he knew that thousands of lives depended on his success or failure . . .
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 This major historical document is supplemented by three additional accounts of subsequent events.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.