Cécile Rol-Tanguy, French Resistance Fighter, Dies at 101

Cécile Rol-Tanguy, a heroine of the French Resistance who helped lead a popular uprising against the German occupation of Paris, died on May 8 at her home in Monteaux, about 130 miles from Paris. She was 101.

Her family announced the death.

Ms. Rol-Tanguy joined the Resistance at age 21, after the Nazis moved into Paris.

She acted as a clandestine liaison officer for her husband, Henri Rol-Tanguy, a prominent Communist and a colonel of the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur (French Forces of the Interior), who worked alongside Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s London-based Free French Forces.

Not afraid of taking risks, Ms. Rol-Tanguy would sometimes disguise herself by changing her hairstyle and adopting a code name. Using forged documents, she was allowed to pass through German checkpoints and go from one part of Paris to another. She carried machine guns, grenades, ammunition and sensitive documents, sometimes hidden in sacks of potatoes in her child’s baby carriage.

“I never had fear in my stomach,” she said in an interview with the television network France 24 in 2014. “If you do, you can’t do anything.”

In August 1944, hidden in the catacombs of Paris, she helped her husband organize the uprising. On Aug. 19, she put up posters calling for immediate revolt against Hitler’s occupying forces: “France is calling you! To arms, citizens! To arms!”

A week later, Paris was liberated and General de Gaulle drove triumphantly down the Champs-Élysées. Ms. Rol-Tanguy was the only woman he invited to a reunion to thank the Resistance, held on Aug. 26 in Paris’s City Hall.

At the end of the war, General de Gaulle designated 1,038 people Resistance heroes. Only six of them were women. Ms. Rol-Tanguy was not one of them.

Marguerite Marie-Cecile Le Bihan was born on April 10, 1919, in Royan, a resort on the French Atlantic coast. Her parents moved to a Paris suburb when she was a year old and later settled in the 19th Arrondissement of Paris.

Her father, François Le Bihan, was an electrician who had served in the French Navy and helped found the French Communist Party in 1920. As a Communist, he was sent in 1943 to Auschwitz, where he died. Her mother, Germaine Jaganet, was a homemaker who was also a member of the Resistance.

Ms. Rol-Tanguy was brought up in a highly political environment, dedicated to international Communism and the fight against fascism. When she was a teenager her family offered shelter to political exiles from Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

She left school at 16 and joined Jeunes Filles de France, a Communist Party organization that fought for gender equality and worked to end the poor housing conditions in which working-class families used to live.

That same year she started doing secretarial work for the Paris metallurgical workers union. There she met Mr. Rol-Tanguy, a foundry worker and union official.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Mr. Rol-Tanguy fought alongside the Spanish Republicans against Franco’s right-wing rebellion. Ms. Rol-Tanguy worked with the Aid for Spain Committee. He returned wounded in 1938, and they married a year later.

She is survived by their four children, Hélène, Jean, Claire and Francis, and a number of grandchildren. Mr. Rol-Tanguy died in 2002.

Ms. Rol-Tanguy was emblematic of the role women played in the Resistance.

In 2014, she agreed to accept the medal recognizing her as a grand officer of the Legion of Honor, the highest distinction in France, in the name of all women Resistance fighters. “I am sad to see that women have been forgotten,” she said. “Many were arrested, tortured and deported.”

“I have always said that de Gaulle didn’t give women the right to vote. We won it,” she said in an interview, referring to an ordinance de Gaulle issued in April 1944.

“When I visit schools,” she told France 24 in 2014, “I keep telling children that liberty always needs to be defended.”

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