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95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a True Heroine
When the German army invaded Paris in 1940, Agnes Humbert a strong minded, politically aware art historian, immediately knew that she had to 'do something', the thought of accepting the invasion was anathema to her and she helped to form one of the first organised groups of the French Resistance. The speed with which this was set up and began to operate was staggering...
Published on 11 Sep 2008 by Elaine Simpson-long

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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading
Firstly it should be noted that this book is not a memoir of the French Resistance or occupied France. It's called "Resistance," subtitled "Memoirs of Occupied France" and features on the cover a Parisian couple in the midst of the occupation. The entire summary on the inside flap, barring the last line, describes the German occupation in France, and the formation of the...
Published on 10 Jan 2009 by Antonin Artaud


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95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a True Heroine, 11 Sep 2008
By 
Elaine Simpson-long (Colchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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When the German army invaded Paris in 1940, Agnes Humbert a strong minded, politically aware art historian, immediately knew that she had to 'do something', the thought of accepting the invasion was anathema to her and she helped to form one of the first organised groups of the French Resistance. The speed with which this was set up and began to operate was staggering. She had excellent contacts and friends in literary and journalistic circles and an underground newspaper, combating the German propaganda machine, was printed and circulated around Paris. It was simply amazing that they managed to keep this going and out of the hands of the authorities for nearly a year before they were betrayed and she was arrested and thrown into prison. Seven of the men who founded the group died by firing squad and Agnes, while escaping the death penalty, was sentenced to five years in a German labour camp.

She had kept a diary up to her imprisonment and she completed it after liberation in 1945. Unable to keep a written record of her experiences she recreated them afterwards, relying on her memory alone. This gives this fascinating book a contrast in writing, the earlier diary memories dashed down quickly on a daily basis, breathless and eager to get everything on paper as it happened; the later reflections more considered even though she wrote at top speed in 1945 after the was liberated and before her memories faded. 'I remember everything as clearly as it it was written in notebooks' everything was recorded in memory and all she had to do was slowly turn the pages.

She worked in a factory spinning materials for uniforms for the German troops, often working a 12 hour shift, with little food and having to stand for hours, weak with fatigue

"My feet are absolute agony and we'll be standing here for hours. I have a brainwave. I ask permission to take off my awful shoes (my insteps are bleeding) and wrap my feet in the lengths of rayon that are scattered all round........the director on Anrath (the factory) is going to carry out an inspection and I was told I should stand to attention when he arrives....he stops in front of me asking me viciously why I have taken off my shoes. I explain. He replies: 'Very good you will be severely punished' and with that promise he leaves me'.

Despite all this Agnes makes sure that she causes the cotton to knot and break and does her best to carry out minor acts of sabotage which will cause maximum inconvenience. Later, when she is set to making boxes, once she has hammered in the nails, she makes sure she shears them off so that the crates will fall apart as soon as possible. Such actions continue throughout her five years and these small rebellions strengthen her will and help to keep her going even when her weight plummets and she is given the nickname 'Ghandi' as she is so bony and skeletal.

In this closed world, with teachers and professors working cheek by jowl with prostitutes and murderers, the solidarity and camaraderie among the prisoners assumes the importance of life saving proportions. Friendships of exceptional intensity are formed, generally between prisoners who hardly ever see each others faces and who have little time for intimate chat or gossip though at first Agnes had harsh words for the criminals with whom she was in such close proximity: 'Wretched faces, vicious and primitive, a collection of gallows birds, thieves, syphilitic prostitutes and murderers'.

Once liberation took place and the prisoners were all released by the incoming American army, Agnes embarked on important work with them. With her fluent German and English and her knowledge of the workings of the Nazi camp system, she made herself indispensable and In an amazingly short space of time her authority and energy restored, she was put in charge of administration of the town where they were billeted organising local prison camps, provision of shelter and food and first aid to refugees.

The rapidity with which she shed her identity as a political prisoner after four years of imprisonment is quite astounding and a tribute to her strength of personality and intelligence. After the war she became a founder and president of her local group of a left wing organisation Fighters for Freedom, and in 1949 was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

For many years this book Notre Guerre, was out of print and unobtainable though when it was first published in 1946 it caused quite a stir. It was one of the first books written about the Resistance and written while memories were fresh and, according to the Afterword, historians were immediately aware of this testimony and its value has continued to be recognised ever since.

I found Agnes' story to be profoundly moving, it took my breath away at times and also made me laugh, as she had a wicked sense of humour. Whenever I read a book such as this, and one that is a true story as well, I am staggered at the bravery displayed under fire. It makes me feel very humble and also makes me wonder just how I would behave and act if placed in such circumstances. I am thankful that I have never had to find out, but gosh a document such as this does make you think.

A truly wonderful book and I have no hesitation if giving it five stars. Do buy and read - you won't regret it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agnes Humbert, Resistance, 30 Oct 2008
By 
Mr. J. G. R. Morrison (Richmond, Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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The diary: each day recorded is an at-this-moment experience for us, as it was for her. Her natural incredulity of events, the indignance, action when angered, practicality, strength of character, complete lack of sentiment, humour for the absurd even in the the most dire situations, even detached admiration for the "fairness" of the presiding Judge at the trial. With the flair for description that she had as an art historian, and her own remakable personality, she managed to record events daily until when she was forced to store in her head the events of the last few years. We are proud of you, Agnes!

There are over 20 good-quality black-and-white photographs of people and places. My favourite is the portrait of her at the seaside with her arm round her son Jean, the sun on her face and her hair in her eyes.

There are sincere Acknowledgements by the translator and editor; a Preface by William Boyd; an Afterword by Julien Blanc with a commentary on the documents, some family history, and what happened after the War; an Appendix of documents which includes the citation for the Croix de Guerre; a chapter of interesting and relevant Translator's Notes; and of course a bibliography and an index.

Congratulations to Barbara Mellor, Bloomsbury Publications, and her team of collaborators for this marvellously produced and presented book. I cannot praise this book enough.
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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading, 10 Jan 2009
Firstly it should be noted that this book is not a memoir of the French Resistance or occupied France. It's called "Resistance," subtitled "Memoirs of Occupied France" and features on the cover a Parisian couple in the midst of the occupation. The entire summary on the inside flap, barring the last line, describes the German occupation in France, and the formation of the resistance movement from the Musee de l'Homme in Paris. It would be safe to assume looking at the book that this is a personal memoir of the French resistance in occupied France - it isn't.

Of the 370 pages in the book only the first 50 or so directly concern the Resistance in France and the activities of Humbert and her colleagues. It's a gripping start, and it's no surprise to learn that it is this portion of the book that is taken straight from diaries that Humbert kept at the time (the rest of the book is written from memory after the fact.) These short, matter of fact entries offer little new information about the workings of the resistance, but they do convey the sense of tension and foreboding that the residents of Paris experienced at the time, as well as the excitement of their clandestine activities. Humbert is soon caught and imprisoned however, and the focus of the book changes.

The bulk of the memoir is a description of Humbert's time in various (mostly German) prisons or working in slave labour in a Rayon factory in Germany. The book suffers as Humbert largely avoids any personal reflection or insights into her situation, instead choosing page after page of detailed description of her terrible treatment and the plight (or otherwise) of her fellow prisoners. Naturally you would not deny Humbert her testimony, but the bulk of the book is a rather cold 150 page long description of her hellish surroundings. Other than very brief ruminations on art and literature, conversations, and the odd moment of light humour, the book barely deviates from repeated descriptions of her surroundings, her work, her wounds, her food, her sleeping and toilet arrangements and the miserable existence of those around her. It is difficult to engage with the text and Humbert injects little of her personality into these passages. Her resistance activities and colleagues are barely mentioned here and her family are mentioned on only a handful of occasions - for the most part this is a fairly dry and very narrow look inside German factories and dormitories under the Nazis. The last chapter covers her release and her brief time working alongside the allies in Germany. Following this is 100 pages of what amounts to padding - a long afterword (that raises some pertinent questions about the book) an appendix and copious translator's notes.

There is no doubt this is a hugely valuable document, but it doesn't surprise me at all that it has taken so long to be translated. As an academic reference it is priceless. If you are a researcher looking for an unflinching, detailed testimony of years spent in captivity under the Nazi's then this book will hold much useful information, but it is neither a memoir of the French Resistance, an insight into Agnes Humbert herself, or a particularly moving or engaging story that you would expect to be promoted in the manner it has. I have read widely on WW2 and do not need memoirs of conflict to be stirring fairytales with a beginning and end, but I'd question the appeal of this book to a casual reader.

William Boyd in the introduction and on the back of the book claims that, unlike so many other books about war, this one moves beyond "harrowing testimony..fascinating documented fact" and into the "realm of literature." I disagree. This is a harrowing testimony which is chock full of useful evidence. Is it valuable? Undoubtedly. Does Humbert's story need to be told? Unquestionably. Is this a moving piece of literature suitable for a mainstream readership? I'm not so sure.

To call Humbert a brave and admirable woman would be an understatement, but she and her memoir left me cold. I'd recommend it to those with a specific interest in POWs/forced labour during WW2.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slave labour, 3 Jan 2010
By 
Koyuki (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
This is an account of the author's experiences following France's ignominious defeat at the beginning of the second world war. She became involved in the newsletter "Resistance" (hence this book's title) leading to imprisonment and trial, three years sentenced to "work" in Germany and finally liberation and a period ferreting out former Nazis in the Hesse region at the end of the war. The narration, in part copied from her pre-capture diary and occasional notes secreted during captivity, and her memories all collated immediately after the war, is particularly vivid . It gives an insight into the people involved in the early subversion networks (indifference to the acknowledged risks and Gestapo interest, high espionage mixed with practical jokes such as typing liberation slogans on currency), the willingness to acknowledge humanity where it was shown by her captors, and the terror of the slave labour factories where sadism ruled over economic advantage. Although the initial focus is Paris, the major part of the account is of the time in Germany- not clear from the title.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating true story of a woman who was part of the early French resitance and then survived being a save labourer in Germany, 10 Aug 2009
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Agnes Humbert has written an engrossing account of her life as a member of one of the first resistance groups to spring up after the fall of France, followed by the details of her arrest, imprisonment in France, her trial and the her deportation to a slave labour camp in Germany. The book also covers the period immediatley after the German defeat and the part she played in helping to identify Germans who had taken an active part in the abuse of her fellow slave workers and other atrocities.

She comes across as a woman of complete conviction who had a strong sense that she needed to maintain her dignity at all costs, in order to survive the terrible conditions in which she was forced to live.

Although extremely sad and distressing in parts, it is also moving and uplifting. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lynne lanson, 29 Oct 2011
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Gosh, what a tremendous book. I could not put it
down from start to finish. One of the best books
written about the resistance. If you lend out your
copy - be prepared to replace! Cannot rate this
book highly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very thought provoking account, 17 May 2011
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This is a very moving and at times difficult book to read. I am only a few years younger than the author and found it difficult at times to believe that such things were happening just across the Channel whilst I was studying for Higher Schools. It was a case of 'there but for the grace of God'.... I had not before read such an account of the ordeal suffered by French [and other occupied people] under the German Occupation. We knew that many people were sent to Germany to work but this is the first time I have read a first -hand account of the appalling treatment they suffered.It has altered my perception of Germans somewhat.These were oordinary people doing their 'job' but showing such appalling indifference to the pain and distress they were meting out. It poses questions which are impossible to answer. Have the Germans changed so much? I wonder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different aspect, 16 Aug 2009
By 
Mollylb (Bedfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
An amazing account from a truly amazing person. Another aspect of the awful cruelty of the second world war on certain groups and the inhumane treatment meeted out in the factories in Germany.I feel so humbled by Agnes Humbert. This should be read in the same way Ann Franks Diary is.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply involving, 21 Oct 2008
By 
Greybeard (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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If you have any interest in human beings at all then I suspect this book will appeal to you at one level or another. It is well written with amazing detail considering the circumstances. Mme Humbert was a very strong woman and her attitude and humour shine through even at her darkest moments.

Well worth reading!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courage, 18 Nov 2008
By 
Lynette Baines (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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Agnes Humbert was an art historian living in Paris when the Germans invaded in 1940. She immediately became part of a group which spread anti-Nazi propaganda throughout occupied France through newsletters called Resistance. The title of the newsletter, Resistance, became the name of all the groups opposing the occupation. Agnes' group was quickly betrayed & Agnes was arrested & sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for distributing propaganda. This book was written using the diary she kept until her arrest & her memories of her trial & deportation to a German labour camp. Agnes was forced to work in German factories in shocking conditions as slave labour. Slave workers were forced to do the most dangerous jobs such as weaving nylon without any protective clothing. Their hands were continually burnt by acid & they were considered unworthy to receive medical attention or adequate food. Agnes fought back by sabotaging her work so as to make the nylon useless or the wooden boxes she made in another factory fall apart because she cut short the nails she was given. After the Americans liberated the camp in 1945, Agnes began organizing supplies for the refugees pouring into Germany & collecting evidence to prosecute the Nazis. This remarkable book is a testimony to the strength of Agnes Humbert. She never loses her sense of humour, or her sense of outrage at the fate of her country & her determination to survive.
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