Missak Manouchian in three documentaries, on France 2 and Arte

A few hours before her death, Missak Manouchian signed a last missive with her French name: Michel

Missak Manouchian in three documentaries, on France 2 and Arte

A few hours before her death, Missak Manouchian signed a last missive with her French name: Michel. Ultimate proof of love towards a country that never wanted him. Twice, the Armenian orphan, snatched up at the age of 18 like so many other foreigners by a country in need of workers, demanded naturalization. In vain. The resistant poet will nevertheless offer his life to France, without regret, any.

Eighty years, to the day, after his execution at Mont-Valérien, on February 21, 1944, with twenty-two of his fellow Francs-tireurs supporters of immigrant labor (FTP-MOI), at the time when the evil winds of xenophobia still float in the atmosphere, the Armenian will make his entry into the Pantheon on February 21, alongside his wife, Mélinée.

The opportunity for France 2 and Arte to look back on the romantic journey of the poet, a former milling turner, a great man with a grateful homeland.

Sacrificial journey

France 2 chose Manouchian and those of l'Affiche rouge (broadcast Tuesday 20 at 9:10 p.m.), a documentary by Hugues Nancy retracing step by step, with extensive archive footage, the life of the child survivor of the Armenian genocide, from his learning French in a Lebanese orphanage to his heroic death alongside his brothers in arms.

The methodical description of the tracking of the resistance fighter and his companions by the French special brigades, before their arrest by the Gestapo, is particularly chilling. Like the sacrificial journey of Missak Manouchian’s companions.

With Twenty and Three Foreigners and Our Brothers Yet, a title borrowed from the poem of Aragon sung by Léo Ferré, Arte chooses a more atypical documentary that resembles an afterword to the film by Mosco Levi Boucault, released in 1985, Des Terrorists à la Rétirement (which can be seen at 10:30 p.m.). This first film which revealed the action of the FTP-MOI had, at the time, sparked controversy by questioning the responsibility of the Communist Party, accused of not having placed under protection the resistance fighters who knew they were being followed. “The last night, Manouchian told me: ‘They want to bring us to certain death,’” accused Mélinée, quoting her husband.

" Gang leader "

“This is happening to me like an accident in my life, I don’t believe it but yet I know that I will never see you again. What can I write to you? Everything is confused in me and very clear at the same time,” Missak wrote to his “beloved orphan” from his cell in Fresnes prison before being shot by the Nazis.

“I joined the Liberation Army as a volunteer soldier and I died on the verge of Victory and the goal,” added this “French by will”, at the head of the FTP-MOI group in the Paris region. Happiness to those who will survive us and taste the sweetness of Freedom and Peace of tomorrow. I am sure that the French people and all the Freedom Fighters will honor our memory with dignity. »

Marcel Rajman, Thomas Elek, Joseph Boczov, Celestino Alfonso, Raymond Kojitsky, Rino Della Negra, Olga Bancic... Their foreign-sounding names, the Germans think, will be enough to anathema these liberators from elsewhere, portrayed as terrorists. The faces of ten of them, all communists, often Jews, were plastered in Paris by Nazi propaganda. The Armenian Manouchian is the “bandleader” of this “army of crime”. But far from dishonoring the martyrs, the Red Poster will contribute to their posthumous glory.

In this group, only one woman, Olga Bancic, a 32-year-old Romanian, will not be shot with her companions. Final regards? Or rather refusal to let the resistance die as a soldier? The mother of a little girl, still a baby, Dolores, was transferred to Germany to be beheaded in Stuttgart in May 1944.


Mosco Levi Boucault, supported by Ruth Zylberman, picks up the thread of his narration. Twenty-three Strangers and Our Brothers, however, begins where the previous film, in 1985, ended, by showing the photo of Charles Mitzflicker, one of the survivors of the FTP-ME, whose heartbreaking testimony closed these Terrorists at the retirement. “I’m still shaking, I haven’t done enough,” the men’s tailor sobbed, holding his head in his hands at his sewing machine. The man died in 1995, bringing with him his small boutique, Milord, a men's tailor, which became a boutique for women.

The story evaporates... Ruth Zylberman and Mosco Levi Boucault fight to keep it alive. Strolling the rue de la Mare, in the Belleville district, in Paris (20th), the Ivry cemetery (Val-de-Marne) or the Saint-Ouen football stadium (Seine-Saint-Denis), the authors retrace the portrait of five of the FTP-MOI resistance fighters, by interviewing their descendants.

What remains of these heroes today? What legacy will Raymond Kojitsky with the cheeky accent, Rino Della Negra, the Italian footballer, Thomas Elek, the fiery young student, Olga Bancic, the tireless fighter, or even Celestino Alfonso, the “Red Spaniard” have left? The fierce desire, no doubt, never to forget.