French Resistance fighter Germaine Tillion dies at 100

By Cecile Roux

Associated Press

PARIS — Germaine Tillion, a French World War II Resistance fighter and celebrated anthropologist, died Saturday, her association said. She was 100.

Tillion, who wrote about her experiences in a Nazi camp, died at her home in Saint-Mande, located in the Paris region, said the head of the Germaine Tillion Association, Tzvetan Todorov.

Tillion — who was sent in 1943 to the Nazi camp for women and children in Ravensbruck, Germany, for her work with France’s underground Resistance network — was the recipient of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, one of France’s highest distinctions. She was one of only five women to have received such an honor, the government said.


She wrote extensively about her experiences in the camp, revisiting through her work the place where her mother died, according to a biography appearing on her association’s Web site.

In a 1988 book on the camp, Tillion wrote that she had managed to survive "thanks to luck, to anger, to the desire to bring these crimes to light, and, finally, to the bonds of friendship."

After the end of World War II, Tillion devoted herself to documenting the history of France’s Resistance to German occupation. She was also a prominent voice against the French colonial presence in Algeria and spoke out against torture.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office hailed Tillion as "an exceptional woman for whom courage, dedication and humanism were lifelong guides."

He paid "homage to an early Resistance fighter who, imprisoned at Ravensbruck never lost hope, to an ethnologist whose passions lay in North Africa and the Middle East, to a prolific writer and a committed woman in the political fight for the emancipation of women and against all forms of torture," according to a statement from his office.

Tillion was born on May 30, 1907, in the southern town of Allegre. Her father was a judge and her mother, a writer.

She studied anthropology and conducted several years of field work in Algeria during the 1930s. Living in the eastern Aures region, she studied the semi-nomadic Ah-Abderrahmane tribe, according to her association. Tillion’s 700-page ethnography on the tribe disappeared during her internment at Ravensbruck, the site said.

Tillion reconstructed the study from memory decades later, and "Il etait une foi l’ethnographie" (Once Upon an Ethnography) was finally published in 2000.


Funeral arrangements for Tillion were not immediately announced.

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