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Two women to enter France’s Panthéon

Resistance fighters Germaine Tillion and Genevieve de Gaulle to receive honour granted only to French ‘national heroes'

TWO women have been named among three Second World War Resistance fighters to be interred in the Panthéon.

Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle have been accorded the honour, which can be granted only by a parliamentary act for "national heroes”.

They will become only the third and fourth women to be honoured at the Panthéon in Paris. The others are Marie Curie and Sophie Berthelot, who was buried alongside her husband, chemist and politician Marcellin Berthelot.

The remains of more than 70 men are interred there.

The two women will be joined by fellow resistance fighter Pierre Brossolette, whose inclusion has sparked some controversy, and former Minister for Education, Jean Zay.

President François Hollande will announce in a speech at Mont Valerian, in Hauts-de-Seine, on Friday, that the remains of the four will be interred at the secular mausoleum which is reserved for people who have provided a great service to the country.

Germaine Tillion, who died in April 2008 at the age of 100, joined the Resistance in 1940, eventually becoming one of the leading members of the Groupe du musée de l'Homme (Museum of Man network), a group of anti-Nazi intellectuals and academics.

After being betrayed by a priest in 1942, she was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, but escaped in early 1945.

In 1973, Tillion published her book Ravensbrück: An Eyewitness Account of a Women's Concentration Camp.

Geneviève de Gaulle, the niece of Charles de Gaulle, died in 2002, and was also part of the Museum of Man network. She was sent to Ravensbrück in 1944, and after the war went on to become president of Aide à toute détresse, which became known internationally as ATD-Quart monde.

She was the first woman to receive the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.

Pierre Brossolette was a journalist during the 1930s, and a member of the Museum of Man. In March 1944 he was captured by the Gestapo and, after being tortured for two days, took advantage of a momentary lapse in concentration from his guard and jumped out of a window to escape.

The inclusion of Brossolette, who challenged the unification of the Resistance, has not been without controversy, with some calling his interment “an affront to the memory of (French resistance hero) Jean Moulin”.

Minister of Education under the Popular Front for the Third Republic, Jean Zay was one of the founders of the French public school system. In June 1940, he tried to flee France with 26 other parliamentarians on board the infamous ship the Massilia.

He was arrested in Casablanca, Morocco, tried and imprisoned for desertion in Riom, before being assassinated in June, 1944.

The remains of the four will rest alongside the likes of Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, Louis Braille and Jean Jaurès.

Photo: Filip Maljković

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