February 27, 2013

Stéphane Hessel

Stéphane Hessel, a former BCRA officer and the last survivor of a group of thirty-seven agents deported to Buchenwald in August 1944, died today, aged 95. I felt very privileged to interview him at his home in Paris a few years ago. I had half-expected a rather stuffy French diplomat, but I could not have been more wrong. He answered every one of my questions with complete candour, and was even willing to talk about his darkest moments during interrogation at Avenue Foch (he described himself as 'not one for nightmares', though once or twice we touched on incidents which were clearly more difficult for him to revisit).

As with so many genuine resisters he was disarmingly modest about his achievements, not least his extraordinary escape with Forest Yeo-Thomas and Harry Peulevé from Buchenwald's human guinea pig block. He returned to the camp several times, most recently to unveil a memorial to his executed comrades, in 2010.    

Links:

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21599477

Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/27/writer-activist-stephane-hessel-dies-aged-95

Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/disparitions/article/2013/02/27/mort-de-stephane-hessel-a-l-age-de-95-ans_1839458_3382.html