The last Companion of Liberation, Hubert Germain, passed away at the age of 101. This member of the Free French Forces will be buried in the crypt of the Combatant France Memorial in Mont-Valérien, near Paris, on November 11, during a national ceremony presided over by Emmanuel Macron.
There are no more Companions of Liberation. The last member of this order created by General de Gaulle in 1940, Hubert Germain, passed away on Tuesday, October 12, at the age of 101.
“First, I would like to inform you of the death of Hubert Germain, our last Living Companion of the Liberation (…) It is an important moment in our history”, announced the Minister of Defense, Florence Parly, during a hearing before the Commission of Defense of the Senate.
“The flame that had been lit in the summer of 1940, when he joined the ranks of Free France, was still alive in his eyes, filled with admiration when evoking General de Gaulle, and blurred with tears when recounting his reunion with France in August 1944, “the Elysee reacted in a statement. “The last Companion of Liberation, Hubert Germain, passed away today, after having lived and incarnated a century of freedom.”
With his death, a page of history is turned. “When the last of us dies, the flame will be extinguished. But there will always be embers,” wrote this former Resistance fighter in his memoirs entitled “Espérer pour la France” (editorial Belles Lettres).
“We will win the war”
The son of a general officer of the colonial troops, Hubert Germain was born on August 6, 1920 in Paris. After finishing high school, he was preparing for the entrance exam to the Naval School at the Michel Montaigne Lyceum in Bordeaux, when war was declared in September 1939. A few months later, after the debacle of May 1940, he decided to continue fighting .
Then, in Saint Jean de Luz he boarded a ship carrying Polish soldiers to England and arrived in London on June 24, 1940, where he met General de Gaulle. “After learning about my career, he explained to me where he was going to send me to continue my training and said: ‘I’m going to need it.’ When, at the age of 19, the man who took the reins of the nation told you that, Your chest fills with pride! I immediately understood that with Churchill, de Gaulle and I we were going to win the war! “, He describes mischievously in his biography.
From the beginning he enlisted in the Free French Forces and was assigned to the battleship Courbet, where he took courses as a naval officer. In the spring of 1941, he was assigned to the General Staff of General Legentilhomme, who commanded the 1st Light Division of Free France destined to intervene in the Levant. Germain fought in Syria and Libya, where he participated in the Bir Hakeim fighting, and even in Egypt. These battles affected this young soldier: “At first, you go with will and courage. Then you get tired of seeing the burned and demolished houses, the disfigured forests where they explored howitzers, the corpses in the open air … That also makes you numb. ”.
In Italy, on May 24, 1944, in Pontecorvo, while in command of an anti-tank section, Lieutenant Germain was wounded in the flank while directing the fire of the heavy machine guns of his section, to continue supporting the battalion that was attacking along the along the river Liri. Evacuated to Naples, General de Gaulle decorated him with the Cross of Liberation in Italy at the end of June 1944. “The sky is falling on you. Never I think about this. He had fought well, but he hadn’t worked for it. I was not interested, “said this man modestly, who also carried some fragments of this battle in his body.
“You went back to France!”
A few weeks later, in August 1944, he participated in the Landing of Provence. Four years after his departure for England, he finally returned to his country. “You land, you land, you take a few steps and you fall, the earth absorbs you, the beach. And at that moment, you fall to your knees and cry. Not for long, because you shouldn’t waste time, but you run out of breath. “he recalled during an interview for LCI. “And then I said to myself: ‘You went back to France! France does not belong to you, it is not your France, but tonight it will be mine.”
He then participated in the Vosges and Alsace campaigns and ended the war in the southern Alps, in the Authion massif. After the war, the then executive of a chemical company became involved in politics. He was first elected mayor of Saint-Chéron, in Essonne, in 1953, and then deputy of Paris in 1962. He was also Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (1972-1974) and then Minister in charge of relations with Parliament (March-May of 1974).
In recent years, Hubert Germain continued to share his testimony. With him he tirelessly carried the memory of his comrades: “There comes a day when what you have left is the respect that we must have for all those who sacrificed themselves and whom we no longer speak of. All those I killed, even without knowing it, too. I carry them in my prayers. Those I couldn’t help, too. My duty today is to think about them, just when some of them were forgotten by their families. “
As the last survivor of the 1,038 companions of the Liberation, Germain had the option of being buried in the crypt of the monument to the fighting France in Mont-Valérien, in the Hautes-Seine. And so he wanted it.
A ceremony on November 11
His body will rest in vault number 9 of this monument erected in homage to the French combatants, resistance and deportees of the Second World War. There he will be buried on November 11 during a national tribute presided over by Emmanuel Macron. Earlier, in a ceremony to be held in the next few days in Les Invalides, the head of state will pay tribute to the last Companion of the Liberation, whom he described as “an outstanding figure of Free France.”
Hubert Germain, le dernier des 1038 Compagnons de la Libération, est mort. Le Mont Valérien acquaintances the corps de ceresistant from the premiere heure, heroes of Bir Hakeim et du Débarquement de Provence, who reconquered notre liberated and reconstructed notre patrie. https://t.co/gEbpcr3VOk
– Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 12, 2021
Hubert Germain will join the 16 people who died for France between 1939 and 1945, thus representing all forms of engagement and the different combat sites of this country. They consist of 11 soldiers (including two riflemen from North Africa, two riflemen from Black Africa and three members of the Free French Forces) and five members of the Resistance (including one member of the French Forces of the Interior of Vercors and one Indochinese resistance).
Eighty years after the creation of the Order by General de Gaulle, its last representative is no more, but the memory of this commitment will live on. “We were those burning embers and the Order of Liberation has given itself the mission of maintaining those burning embers as a testimony of that time,” reiterated Hubert Germain.
This text was adapted from its original in French.