Missak Manouchian

Missak Manouchian
Manouchian portrait crop.jpg
Born(1906-09-01)1 September 1906
Died21 February 1944(1944-02-21) (aged 37)
Cause of deathExecution by firing squad
Resting placeCimetière parisien d'Ivry, Ivry-sur-Seine[1]
Other namesMichel Manouchian (francized)[2][3]
OccupationTrade unionist, poet,[4] translator, political activist
Political partyFrench Communist Party (from 1934)[5]
MovementLabour movement, Anti-fascism, French Resistance
Spouse(s)Mélinée (née Assadourian)
For the Manouchian Group, see FTP-MOI
The "Affiche Rouge" showing the group members and their "crimes", published by the Nazi and French police

Missak Manouchian (Western Armenian: Միսաք Մանուշեան; pronounced [misɑkʰ manuʃjɑn], 1 September 1906 – 21 February 1944) was a French-Armenian poet and communist activist. An Armenian Genocide survivor, he moved to France from an orphanage in Lebanon in 1925.[6] He was active in communist Armenian literary circles.[7] During World War II, he became the military commissioner of FTP-MOI, a group consisting of European immigrants, including many Jews,[8][9] in the Paris region which carried out assassinations and bombings of Nazi targets.[8] According to one author, the Manouchian group was the most active French Resistance group.[10] Manouchian and many of his comrades were arrested in November 1943 and executed by the Nazis in Fort Mont-Valérien on 21 February 1944. He is considered a hero of the French Resistance.[11][12]

Early life[edit]

Manouchian was born on 1 September 1906 in Adıyaman, in Mamuret-ul-Aziz Vilayet, Ottoman Empire into an Armenian peasant family.[13][14] His parents were killed during the Armenian Genocide of 1915, but he and his brother managed to survive.[4][13][15][16] In the early 1920s he settled in an Armenian General Benevolent Union-run orphanage in Jounieh, Lebanon, then a French protectorate.[14] He acquired education there and in 1925 moved to France.[14][6][13]

Eventually, Manouchian settled in Paris, where he took a job as a lathe operator at a Citroën plant.[14] During this period he was self-educated and often visited libraries[14] in the Latin Quarter.[6] He joined the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération Générale du Travail, CGT), a national association of trade unions which was the first of the five major French confederations. In the early 1930s, when the world-wide economic crisis of the Great Depression set in, Missak Manouchian lost his job. Disaffected with capitalism, he began earning a meager living by posing as a model for sculptors.[citation needed]

Political and literary career[edit]

In 1934, Manouchian joined the French Communist Party.[5] From 1935 to 1937 he edited the Armenian-language left-wing weekly newspaper Zangou, named after a river in Armenia.[6] The newspaper was anti-fascist, anti-Dashnak, anti-imperialist and pro-Soviet.[5][17]

Manouchian wrote poetry and, with an Armenian friend who used the pseudonym of Séma (Kégham Atmadjian), founded two communist-leaning[13] literary magazines, Tchank ("Effort") and Mechagouyt ("Culture").[17][18] They published articles on French literature and Armenian culture. The two young men translated the poetry of Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud into Armenian, making many of these works available in Armenian for the first time. Both Manouchian and Séma enrolled at the Sorbonne to audit courses in literature, philosophy, economics, and history.[citation needed]

The following year, he was elected secretary of the Relief Committee for Armenia (HOC), an organization associated with the MOI (Immigrant Workforce Movement). At a meeting of the HOC in 1935, he met Mélinée Assadourian, who became his companion and, later, his wife.[citation needed]

World War II[edit]

Portrait kept in the German Federal Archives and reproduced on the Affiche Rouge.

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939 Manouchian, as a foreigner, was evacuated from Paris. He found work in the Rouen area, again as a lathe-operator. After the defeat of June 1940, he returned to Paris to find that his militant activities had become illegal. (French authorities had banned the Communist Party as early as September 1939.) On 22 June 1941, when the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazis began, Manouchian was arrested by the occupying Germans in an anti-communist round-up in Paris. Interned in a prison camp at Compiègne, by the efforts of his wife Mélinée Assadourian, he was released after a few weeks without being charged.[19]

Manouchian became the political chief of the Armenian section of the underground MOI, but little is known about his activities until 1943. In February of that year, Manouchian transferred to the FTP-MOI, a group of gunmen and saboteurs attached to the MOI in Paris.

Manouchian became the leader of the FTP-MOI in June/August[20] 1943, replacing Boris Holban (ro).[21] Manouchian assumed command of three detachments, totaling about 50 fighters. The Manouchian group is credited with the assassination on 28 September 1943, of General Julius Ritter, the assistant in France to Fritz Sauckel, responsible for the mobilization and deportation of labor under the German STO (Obligatory Work Service) in Nazi-occupied Europe. (The attack was made by the partisans Marcel Rayman, Léo Kneller, and Celestino Alfonso.) The Manouchian groups carried out almost thirty successful attacks on German interests from August to November 1943.[22] Charles Aznavour and his family were members of the Manouchian resistance group, and were recognized after the war for rescuing Jews and Armenians from Nazi persecution. [23]

Arrest and execution[edit]

On 16 November 1943[24] the collaborationist French police forces arrested the Manouchian group[20] at Évry-Petit Bourg. His companion, Mélinée, managed to escape the police.[25]

Manouchian and the others were tortured to gain information, and eventually handed over to the Germans' Geheime Feldpolizei (GFP). The 23 were given a 1944 show trial for propaganda purposes before execution. Manouchian and 21 of his comrades were shot at Fort Mont-Valérien near Paris on 21 February 1944.[7][26][27]

In his last letter to his widow, Mélinée, Manouchian said that he forgave everyone except the one who betrayed us to save his skin and those who sold us.[8] "There was consensus that they were betrayed by one of their number, Joseph Davidovitch (fr), who was arrested and tortured by the Nazis (before being released and shot by the Resistance). But some survivors also felt the French Communist Party had sacrificed the unit by refusing to smuggle vital Jewish combatants out of Paris after the French police began to tail them."[8]

In December 2009, photographs of French Resistance agents facing the firing squad of Nazi officers were discovered. Serge Klarsfeld identified those killed as Manouchian and his group members.[28] The photographs began being permanently exhibited at Fort Mont-Valérien in June 2010.[29][30]


Following World War II, Armenians were perceived in France positively "solely in the reflective light of Missak Manouchian, who played an important role in the French anti-Nazi resistance."[31] Manouchian is a prominent figure in the bilateral relations between Armenia and France.[32] In 2007, an exhibition dedicated to Manouchian was held at the Musée Jean Moulin in Paris in the scope of the Year of Armenia in France.[33][34] On 21 February 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the execution of Manouchian and his group, a commemoration ceremony was held at Fort Mont-Valérien. Notable attendees included French President François Hollande, Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan and prominent French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour.[35][36] On 13 March 2014, the Missak Manouchian Park was opened in central Yerevan, the Armenian capital, in attendance of Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Hollande.[37][38]

On 5 March 1955, a street named for the Manouchian Group (fr) was dedicated in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.[39]

In 1978, a statue of Manouchian sculpted by Ara Harutyunyan was opened in the military cemetery of Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris.

A commemorative plaque was installed on 22 February 2009 at 11 rue de Plaisance, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. The old hotel at this address was the last home shared by Manouchian and his wife, Mélinée.[40][41]

In February 2010, busts of Manouchian were inaugurated in a Marseille, in a square named after him,[42][a] and in Issy-les-Moulineaux.[45]

Due to his communist ideology, Manouchian was immediately recognized as a hero in the Soviet Union. Soviet Armenian author Marietta Shaginyan described him as an "example of an Armenian who preserved his nationality, and at the same time became a class-conscious worker and a militant communist in his adopted country."[46] Russian poet Sergei Shervinsky hailed him in a 1956 Ogoniok article as a "Fighter, Worker, Poet".[47] A school in Yerevan, Armenia—founded in 1947—was named for Manouchian in 1963.[48]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The 1985 film Terrorists in Retirement (Des terroristes à la retraite) offers speculations on why "beginning in 1943, the [French] Communist Party began deliberately dispatching the partisans [including the Manouchian group] on missions that their Communist leaders knew would lead to their arrest and probable execution."[51]
  • The 2009 film The Army of Crime (L'Armée du crime), directed by Robert Guédiguian, is dedicated to Manouchian and his group.[9][52][53]
  • Missak Manouchian, une esquisse de portrait (2012) is a documentary directed by Michel Ionascu.[54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In June 2014 it was defaced with a swastika.[43] Two far-right activists, who admitted their participation, were sentenced to 100 hours of community service in January 2015.[44]
  1. ^ "Tombe Missak et Mélinée Manouchian". acam-france.org (in French). Association Culturelle Arménienne de Marne-la-Vallée.
  2. ^ Walter, Gérard (1960). Paris Under the Occupation. Orion Press. p. 209.
  3. ^ Maury, Pierre (2006). La résistance communiste en France, 1940-1945: mémorial aux martyrs communistes (in French). Temps des cerises. p. 240.
  4. ^ a b Graham, Helen (2012). The War and Its Shadow: Spain's Civil War in Europe's Long Twentieth Century. Apollo Books. p. 84.
  5. ^ a b c Khaleyan 1946, p. 72.
  6. ^ a b c d Mouradian, Claire (2010). Les Arméniens en France: du chaos à la reconnaissance (in French). Editions De L'attribut. p. 48. ISBN 2916002189.
  7. ^ a b Ter Minassian, Anahide; Vidal-Naquet, Pierre (1997). Histoires croisées: diaspora, Arménie, Transcaucasie, 1880-1990 (in French). Editions Parenthèses. p. 40. ISBN 9782863640760.
  8. ^ a b c d Riding, Alan (9 January 2001). "French Film Bears Witness To Wartime Complicity". The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b Rancière, Jacques (2012). The Intellectual and His People: Staging the People, Volume 2. Verso Books. p. 43.
  10. ^ Argyle, Ray (2014). The Paris Game: Charles de Gaulle, the Liberation of Paris, and the Gamble that Won France. Dundurn. p. 434. ISBN 9781459722873.
  11. ^ "Hommage au résistant Missak Manouchian". Le Parisien (in French). 15 November 2014. ...au héros de la résistance et militant communiste Missak Manouchian...
  12. ^ de Chabalier, Blaise (16 September 2009). "Stéphane Courtois : "Manouchian fut une erreur de casting"". Le Figaro (in French). Morts en héros, Missak Manouchian...
  13. ^ a b c d Atamian, Astrig (2007). "Les Arméniens communistes en France, une histoire oubliée". Amnis. Revue de civilisation contemporaine Europes/Amériques (in French). University of Western Brittany (7). doi:10.4000/amnis.853. ISSN 1764-7193.
  14. ^ a b c d e Khaleyan 1946, p. 71.
  15. ^ Houssin, Monique (2004). Résistantes et résistants en Seine-Saint-Denis: un nom, une rue, une histoire (in French). Editions de l'Atelier. p. 252. ISBN 9782708237308.
  16. ^ "Missak Manouchian (le Chef)". L'affiche Rouge.
  17. ^ a b Taturyan, Sh. (1981). "Մանուշյան Միսաք [Manushyan Misak]". Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia Volume 7. pp. 255–6.
  18. ^ Atamian, Christopher (29 August 2011). "What's Happened to Our Culture in the Diaspora?". Ararat Magazine. Armenian General Benevolent Union.
  19. ^ Missak Manouchian - Ein armenischer Partisan Archived 2005-08-27 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ a b Poznanski, Renée (2001). Jews in France During World War II. University Press of New England. p. 352. ISBN 0-87451-896-2.
  21. ^ Cobb, Matthew (2009). The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis. Simon & Schuster. p. 187. ISBN 978-1847391568.
  22. ^ San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘Army of Crime’
  23. ^ "Charles Aznavour and his sister Aida received the Raoul Wallenberg Medal". The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  24. ^ "Il y a 69 ans, Missak Manouchian était arrêté". Nor Haratch (in French). 16 November 2014. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015.
  25. ^ (in Russian) Армянский боец французского Сопротивления
  26. ^ Courtois, Stéphane (2 July 2004). "Portrait de Boris Holban" (PDF). Le Monde (in French). la BS2 arrête Manouchian et plus de soixante de ses camarades, dont les 23 figurant sur la fameuse "Affiche rouge", qui seront fusillés au mont Valérien, le 21 février 1943.
  27. ^ Dutent, Nicolas (20 February 2015). "Missak Manouchian : Cet idéal qui le faisait combattre". L'Humanité (in French).
  28. ^ Hugues, Bastien (11 December 2009). "Les derniers instants du groupe Manouchian". Le Figaro (in French).
  29. ^ Samuel, Henry (20 June 2010). "First pictures of French Resistance killed by Nazi firing squad". The Daily Telegraph.
  30. ^ Shaw, Anny (21 June 2010). "Only known photographs of French Resistance fighters facing Nazi firing squad are shown for first time". Daily Mail.
  31. ^ Al-Rustom, Hakem (2013). "Diaspora Activism and the Politics of Locality: The Armenians in France". In Quayson, Ato; Daswani, Girish (eds.). A Companion to Diaspora and Transnationalism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 476. ISBN 9781405188265.
  32. ^ Tardivier, Nelly (July–August 2007). "Arménie, mon amie est dédiée à une culture forte" (PDF). culture.gouv.fr (in French). French Ministry of Culture. p. 5. Les 500 000 Français d'origine arménienne représentent un ciment extraordinaire entre les deux pays, avec de hautes figures commecelles de Missak Manouchian.
  33. ^ "Autour de "Missak Manouchian, les Arméniens dans la Résistance en France"". Nouvelles d'Arménie Magazine (in French). 26 February 2007.
  34. ^ "Missak Manouchian, les Arméniens dans la Résistance en France" (in French). Fondation de la Résistance.
  35. ^ "President Hollande Attends Missak Manouchian Commemoration". Asbarez. 21 February 2014.
  36. ^ "Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian participated in the commemoration ceremony dedicated to the French Resistance and the group of Missak Manouchian". mfa.am. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia. 21 February 2014.
  37. ^ Gevorgyan, Alisa (13 May 2014). "Missak Manouchian Park opens in Yerevan". Public Radio of Armenia.
  38. ^ "Hollande, Sargsyan Attend Manouchian Park Opening". Hetq Online. 13 May 2014.
  39. ^ "Rue du Groupe Manouchian 75020 Paris". acam-france.org (in French). Association Culturelle Arménienne de Marne-la-Vallée.
  40. ^ "Dévoilement de la plaque Missak Manouchian". mairie14.paris.fr (in French). Mairie du 14e. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21.
  41. ^ "Memorial plaque unveiled in Paris in honor of French Resistance hero Misak Manushyan". PanARMENIAN.Net. 23 February 2009.
  42. ^ "Buste Missak Manouchian Jardin Missak Manouchian, Boulevard Charles Livon - 13000 Marseille". acam-france.org (in French). Association Culturelle Arménienne de Marne-la-Vallée.
  43. ^ "Statue of Missak Manouchian in Marseille desecreted". Public Radio of Armenia. 27 June 2014.
  44. ^ Leroux, Par Luc (9 January 2015). "Profanation de la stèle Manouchian : deux militants d'extrême droite condamnés". Le Monde (in French).
  45. ^ "Buste Missak Manouchian Place Groupe Manouchian - 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux". acam-france.org (in French). Association Culturelle Arménienne de Marne-la-Vallée.
  46. ^ Shaginyan, Marietta (1954). Journey Through Soviet Armenia [По Советской Армении]. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. p. 45.
  47. ^ Shervinsky, Sergei (3 June 1956). "Борец, Рабочий, Поэт... [Fighter, Worker, Poet...]". Ogoniok (in Russian). Moscow: 16.
  48. ^ "The schools subordinated to the municipality of Yerevan". yerevan.am. Yerevan Municipality.
  49. ^ "New postage stamp dedicated to Missak Manouchian". HayPost. 26 May 2015.
  50. ^ The Red Poster, by Louis Aragon
  51. ^ Holden, Stephen (10 January 2001). "FILM REVIEW; Sorrow and Perfidy: Unsung Resistance Fighters". The New York Times.
  52. ^ Holden, Stephen (19 August 2010). "The Army of Crime (2009)". The New York Times.
  53. ^ Kempner, Aviva (18 August 2010). "Vive La Resistance, Encore!". The Jewish Daily Forward.
  54. ^ Mihai. "MISSAK MANOUCHIAN, une esquisse de portrait". arte.tv (in French). Archived from the original on 2015-02-22.


Further reading