Saturday, 9 January 2010

MISSAK MANOUCHIAN: HIS LAST LETTER



In my previous post I talk about Missak Manouchian and the foreign members of the French Resistance movement whose tragic fate led Aragon to write his poem, ‘L’affiche rouge’. After some research I found the letter Missak Manouchian wrote to his wife Mélinée the morning before his execution. I though it would be good idea to post this letter on my blog since Aragon was inspired by it when he wrote his poem.

In fact Aragon directly refers to Mélinée in the poem and makes several references to Manouchian’s own words, especially in the fourth, the fifth and the sixth stanza. Like in the poem Missak Manouchian appears as someone very humble and insists on the fact that he does not have any hatred for the German people. I found his letter fascinating and very touching at the same time because, although he is about to be executed, he still writes with a lot of humility and tries to remain calm and brave. Like in the poem his tone is rather straightforward but still very moving, since he is saying goodbye to his wife and friends but above all to his own life. I will also publish my own English translation of the letter because I thought it would be an interesting element to add in order to complete my previous post.


Here is a picture of the actual letter by Missak Manouchian :



Now here is the French version of the letter: (the original letter was taken from the ‘anticolonial.org’ website available at: http://www.anticolonial.net/spip.php?article6 )


« Ma Chère Mélinée, ma petite orpheline bien-aimée,


Dans quelques heures, je ne serai plus de ce monde. Nous allons être fusillés cet après-midi à 15 heures. Cela m'arrive comme un accident dans ma vie, je n'y crois pas mais pourtant je sais que je ne te verrai plus jamais.


Que puis-je t'écrire ? Tout est confus en moi et bien clair en même temps.


Je m'étais engagé dans l'Armée de Libération en soldat volontaire et je meurs à deux doigts de la Victoire et du but. Bonheur à ceux qui vont nous survivre et goûter la douceur de la Liberté et de la Paix de demain. Je suis sûr que le peuple français et tous les combattants de la Liberté sauront honorer notre mémoire dignement. Au moment de mourir, je proclame que je n'ai aucune haine contre le peuple allemand et contre qui que ce soit, chacun aura ce qu'il méritera comme châtiment et comme récompense. Le peuple allemand et tous les autres peuples vivront en paix et en fraternité après la guerre qui ne durera plus longtemps. Bonheur à tous... J'ai un regret profond de ne t'avoir pas rendue heureuse, j'aurais bien voulu avoir un enfant de toi, comme tu le voulais toujours. Je te prie donc de te marier après la guerre, sans faute, et d'avoir un enfant pour mon bonheur, et pour accomplir ma dernière volonté, marie-toi avec quelqu'un qui puisse te rendre heureuse. Tous mes biens et toutes mes affaires je les lègue à toi à ta sœur et à mes neveux. Après la guerre tu pourras faire valoir ton droit de pension de guerre en tant que ma femme, car je meurs en soldat régulier de l'armée française de la libération.


Avec l'aide des amis qui voudront bien m'honorer, tu feras éditer mes poèmes et mes écrits qui valent d'être lus. Tu apporteras mes souvenirs si possible à mes parents en Arménie. Je mourrai avec mes 23 camarades tout à l'heure avec le courage et la sérénité d'un homme qui a la conscience bien tranquille, car personnellement, je n'ai fait de mal à personne et si je l'ai fait, je l'ai fait sans haine. Aujourd'hui, il y a du soleil. C'est en regardant le soleil et la belle nature que j'ai tant aimée que je dirai adieu à la vie et à vous tous, ma bien chère femme et mes bien chers amis. Je pardonne à tous ceux qui m'ont fait du mal ou qui ont voulu me faire du mal sauf à celui qui nous a trahis pour racheter sa peau et ceux qui nous ont vendus. Je t'embrasse bien fort ainsi que ta sœur et tous les amis qui me connaissent de loin ou de près, je vous serre tous sur mon cœur. Adieu.

Ton ami, ton camarade, ton mari.


Manouchian Michel.


P.S. J'ai quinze mille francs dans la valise de la rue de Plaisance. Si tu peux les prendre, rends mes dettes et donne le reste à Armène. M. M.”


Mélinée Manouchian


Here is my translation of the letter:


“My dear Mélinée, my beloved little orphan,


In a few hours I will no longer be of this world. We are going to be shot this afternoon at 3.00pm. This is happening to me as an accident in my life, I do not believe it and yet I know that I will never see you again.


What can I write to you? Everything inside me is confused, yet clear at the same time.


I joined the Army of Liberation as a voluntary soldier and I die within inches of victory and of the objective. Happiness to those who will survive us and enjoy the Freedom and Peace of tomorrow. I am sure that the French people and all those who fight for freedom will know how to honour our memory with dignity. At the moment of death I proclaim that I have no hatred for the German people and for whomsoever, everyone will have what he will deserve as punishment and as reward. The German people and all the other nations will live in peace and brotherhood after the war, which will not last much longer. Happiness for all… I have one profound regret and that is not having made you happy, I would have liked to have a child with you, as you always wished. So I am asking you to get married after the war, no matter what, and, for my happiness, to have a child, and in order to fulfil my last wish, marry someone who can make you happy. All my goods and all my belongings I leave them to you your sister and my nephews. After the war you can claim your right to a war pension as my wife, for I die as a regular soldier from the French army of liberation.


With the help of friends who will be willing to honour me properly, you will publish my poems and writings that are worth being read. If possible you will bring my souvenirs to my parents in Armenia. I will soon die with my 23 comrades with the courage and the serenity of a man with a very clear conscience, for personally, I haven’t done any harm to anybody and if I have, I did it without hatred. Today is sunny. It is while looking at the sun and the beautiful nature that I loved so much that I will say farewell to life and to all of you, my beloved wife and my beloved friends. I forgive all those who did hurt me or those who wanted to do so, with the exception of the one who betrayed us to save his life and those who denounced us. Lots of love to you and to your sister and all the friends who know me, near and far, I hold you all in my heart. Farewell. Your friend, your comrade, your husband.


Manouchian Michel


P.S. I have fifteen thousand francs in the suitcase of the ‘rue de Plaisance’. If you can take them, pay off my debts and give the rest to Armène. M.M."



If you are interested in the story of the ‘Manouchian Group’, you can also have a look at two films which were made in remembrance of their struggle:

The first one is called ‘L’affiche Rouge’ (‘The Red Poster’) and was directed by Frank Cassenti in 1975. It mainly deals with a group of actors and actresses who decide to organize a party in remembrance of the ‘Manouchian Group’. All through the film they make parodies of the Nazis and recall scenes from the past, while questioning witnesses, friends and relatives of the victims. The film won the Jean Vigo prize in 1976. I could not find any trailer but here are two pictures from the film:





The second one is more recent and is called ‘L’Armée du Crime’ (‘The Army of Crime’), a title taken from the caption on the propaganda poster ‘The Red Poster’ (‘L’Affiche Rouge’) (see my previous post) and was directed by Robert Guédiguian in 2009. It is a gripping account of Jewish, Poles, Romanians and Italians Resistance fighters in Paris during the German Occupation and deals with the events surrounding ‘The Red Poster’ affair. It tells the story of the ‘Manouchian Group’ from its birth until the execution of its members in 1944. Here are some pictures from the film along with a trailer with English subtitles:






REFERENCES


All the websites which helped me to write this post:


Pérez, Michel, ‘L’affiche Rouge’, in Charlie Hebdo, November 1976, available at : http://www.festival-entrevues.com/cgi-local/film_fiche_detail.pl?id=569

http://www.anticolonial.net

http://www.notrecinema.com/communaute/v1_detail_film.php3?lefilm=7494

http://www.studiocanal.com/cid8231/l-armee-du-crime.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/the-army-of-crime-15-1796061.html

16 comments:

  1. I am very touched by this letter. It is very emotional, full of love and simplicity. Moreover there is no hate or resentment for the German people, what makes it more admirable to my mind.

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  2. Envigorating film (l'Armee de Crime) and I am grateful for the opportunity to copy Manochian's photo to my file of heroes.
    Thank you for this translation of his final letter to Melinee; an extraordinary legacy of courage and love of life.

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