The last Companion of the Liberation Hubert Germain, who will commemorate the Appeal of June 18 with Emmanuel Macron on Friday, experienced the debacle of the summer of 1940 in Bordeaux, where he took the entrance examination to the Naval Academy.
“After five minutes I was like ‘What are you doing here?’ “He told AFP in 2017.” I stood up and said to the examiner, ‘I’m going to war’ “.
In the port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the young man finds the Arrandora Star, who is about to ferry Polish soldiers to England. He boarded with three comrades and arrived in London on June 24, 1940.
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Born August 6, 1920 in Paris, the son of a general of the colonial troops, the former colossus of 1m90 is almost 101 years old. He is in a wheelchair and no longer leaves his medical room at Les Invalides. Today he is entirely focused on this Mont-Valérien ceremony. “The 19th, farewell! “He slips to his visitors, according to Le Parisien.
81 years ago, the June 18 Appeal did not decide. “We’re not going to do this movie again, nobody heard it, the call! (…) We have all heard this frightening speech from Marshal Pétain, saying that we had to end the war and lay down our arms. It was a shock ”.
The memory of his first meeting with de Gaulle that summer is intact: “He stops for a moment, looks at me and says: ‘I’m going to need you’. When, at 18-19 years old, you pick it up in the face, in the general disaster that is there, there is something that moves you deeply ”.
Enlisted in the first in the Free French Forces (FFL), Hubert Germain was posted to a battleship, where he attended naval cadet courses. During the day, he studies between alerts, at night he participates in anti-aircraft defense against German raids.
In the spring of 1941, he joined the 1st Free French Division in Palestine to fight in the Levant. He then joined the Foreign Legion and fought in Libya.
“As a child, I told myself that this is what I should always look for in my life: the most difficult”, he confided in “Hope for France”, a book of interviews with Marc Leroy published in 2020. Head of anti-tank section, it distinguished itself during the battle of Bir-Hakeim in June 1942 and was named to the order of the army.
He then fought in Egypt (El Alamein), in Tunisia and landed in Italy. Wounded in Pontecorvo, he was evacuated to Naples, where he was decorated with the Cross of the Liberation by General de Gaulle at the end of June 1944.
He took part in the Provence landings in August 1944. Arrived on the beach, he fell into the sand and “cried like a child”: “I had found my country”.
Then he fought for the liberation of Toulon, the Rhône valley and Lyon, took part in the campaigns of the Vosges, Alsace and ended the war in the south of the Alps.
Appointed aide-de-camp to General Koenig, commander of the French occupation forces in Germany, Lieutenant Germain was demobilized in 1946.
Here he was, an executive assistant in a chemicals company, before being elected mayor of Saint-Chéron (Essonne) in 1953, a mandate he held until 1965.
He became a member of Parliament for Paris in 1962, he was Minister of PTT from 1972 to 1974 and briefly Minister responsible for relations with Parliament in 1974. He then headed the Société française de télédistribution.
“We were the burning embers and the Order of the Liberation made it their mission to keep these burning embers as a testimony of that time,” he said of this order, founded by General de Gaulle.
“This is my role for the short time I still have to live: to all the young people who aspire to work for a beautiful, strong, healthy France, I am able to give them a message.”
Only 1,038 people received the title of Companion of the Liberation. Hubert Germain, the last survivor, will be buried at Mont-Valérien, place of martyrdom of the Resistance.
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