tv Lynne Olson Madame Fourcades Secret War CSPAN May 28, 2019 8:46pm-9:38pm EDT
>> next, glenn olson recalls the life of marie madeleine forgot, leader of the french resistance intelligence organization during world war ii. ms. olson spoke about her book the secret war at politics and prose bookstore in washington dc. this is for the five minutes. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon. or good evening. i am part of the event staff here at politics and prose and
what a crowd. before we begin let me just go over a few quick things. first, please silence your cell phones and other noisemaking devices. we are audio and video recording this evening and you do not want to be the one whose phone goes off on c-span. secondly, during a question and answer portion in the interest of being able to hear everybody, please ask your questions at this microphone. that way we can all understand for both our recording and everyone here. lastly, please fold up your chairs and place them against something solid. our staff or me would greatly appreciate that. i'm pleased to introduce lynn olson to politics and prose. she's the author of last hope island, those angry days, troublesome young men and citizens of london as well as several other books. she previously worked as a
journalist for the associated press and baltimore sun. in her new book olson tackled the character previously introduced in last hope island. marie is the only woman to serve as a [inaudible] during world war ii. her spy network alliance was the longest lasting and most important of the french resistance. most notably supplying information critical to the success of d-day. however, along with incitement came danger and she suffered many close calls and personal office. however, she always remained dedicated to the idea of freedom, both from german occupation but also from patriarchal french society. paula mclean, author of the paris wife, writes lynn olson is at the top of her game giving us the renowned beauty and elite french socialite who surprised everyone, including herself perhaps, by becoming one of the most consequential players in the high-stakes spy game of nazi occupied europe. her nerve, resolve an
extraordinary inner resources shine and inspire here. this is a fascinating portrait of uncommon audacity. please join me in welcoming lynn olson. [applause] >> is this on? i am thrilled. i look around this room and my life goes before me. politics and prose is and was our neighborhood bookstore. when we moved to washington we moved about a mile away, less than 1 mile away from here and our daughter from the time she was four, five, six years old was over here all the time as were we. it's my favorite place in the world. looking at -- members of my family and old friends and work associates, new friends and
playing book lovers, thank you so much for coming tonight. [applause] before i start i want to make one introduction. obviously, it's a book about france and about the french resistance and particularly about an extraordinary french woman named marie madeleine [inaudible]. i was doing my research and doing my writing i was blessed with having a colleague and egg guide in all things french and as it turned out i could go into the story but it she's as it turned out a neighbor of ours and become eight )-right-parenthesis and lived in paris for 25 years and first as a couture model and then as a reporter for time magazine. her name is [inaudible] and
standing right over there. i could not have done this book without her. marie-madeleine fourcade secret war is the eighth book of history i've written. writing history is my second career which i stumbled into by accident and as katie said my prescript is that of a journalist and i worked with some of you. i spent 12 years as a reporter with the ap and then for the baltimore sun here in washington pat ferguson here with my bureau chief. before and during that time i do not have thought of becoming a historian and did not wake up one morning when i was a kid and say i know what i want to do when i grow up i want to write about history. in fact, when i went to school and i daresay it's probably true for many of you history was the driest subject i could imagine. memorizing events and dates in
the names of kings and presidents and generals was and is not my idea of fun. but that is not what history really is. history is about people. think of the word itself. his story. history. it also could be her story but i could devote another lecture to that. [laughter] when i write a book of history i worked very hard to tell the story through people in history after all is made by people and shaped by people and coming up with ideas for books and doing the research and look for characters who have made a difference but have never had much attention paid to them. people who are forgotten heroes and that's a common thread in all my books and they all focus in some way and unsung heroes, people of courage and conscience who helped change their country in the world but for various reasons have slipped into the
cracks. since seven of my books deal with war, specifically world war ii is not surprising most of the heroes i spotlighted up to them were men. [inaudible] the american ambassador to london during world war ii whom i wrote about in citizens of london. it's the exception to that rule and is about a woman and an exception in another way. only book i have written whose main focus is on one individual. the others have told sweeping panoramic stories of some aspect of world war ii in the anglo-american alliance in citizens of london are the brutal debate in this country about getting into world war ii. most of these books have huge cast of characters but as much as i've enjoyed writing them i've often felt a great sense of frustration and having to dismiss in a few sentences or paragraphs people who, in my
mind, deserve far more attention than i've been able to give them. that was especially true for marie madeleine -- marie-madeleine fourcade who i mentioned in my last book in my most recent book, last hope island, about the relationship between britain and the occupied countries of europe. how could one not be fascinated by this story of a beautiful and elegant young french woman, mother of two young children who just happen to be the leader of the largest and most important spy network in france during the war. marie-madeleine fourcade was the only woman who had a major resistance organization in france and took it over in 1941 when she was only 31 years old. that's remarkable in itself. what makes it even more fascinating is at the time and to some extent today as dori was
want to tell me, france was a deeply conservative patriarchal society in which women were largely confined to their domestic roles as wife and mother's. back then they still do not have the right to vote. women did not have the right to vote in france during world war ii. it was not until 1945 after paris had been liberated that they were given that right. marie madeleine marie-madeleine fourcade rebelled against that restrictive view of women and spent all her life refusing to let men dictate what she could do. she had a strong will and taste for risk and adventure and qualities not often seen in young french women from well-to-do families like hers but then again, few gentile french women had unconventional backgrounds and upbringing that she did. her father was a shipping executive and was born spent much of her childhood in shanghai which in the early
years of the 20th century was considered the essence of exoticism, mystery and excitement. it was an open city which meant you do not have to have a visa or passport to get there. as a result shanghai was crowned with an extraordinary election of immigrants ranging from white russians fleeing from the bolsheviks to chinese warlords and revolutionaries to american and european gangsters, spies and drug smugglers. not to mention international arms dealers. marie madeleine loved every minute of living there. as a teenager she, her mother and two siblings moved to paris after her father died of a tropical disease. she never lost a taste for the unconventional. at the time of the wrench capitulation to hitler in 1940 marie madeleine embodied every single thing about women that the vichy government detested. she was separated from her army
officer husband and i should mention she married at the age of 17 to a very handsome i think he was captain of the time military intelligence officer and they immediately had two children and decided in her mid- 20s she had enough of him and is very conservative views on how life should behave and she picked up her two children moved back to paris. whereupon she immediately learned how to fly a plane and bought a car in a time when women, certainly in france, most women do not know how to drive, much less buy a car, participated in car rallies which were the big craze in europe during that time and horror of horrors got a job. again, was very unusual. all of that. she had a mind of her own and ambitions that stretched far beyond housekeeping and given up taking care of her children to resist the germans.
after the war broke out she became deputy to the founder of an instant spy network and his name was [inaudible]. he was another former french army intelligence officer and also marie madeleine's longtime mentor. when he was captured in july 1941 she took over command of the group which was called alliance. although some alliance agents had doubted her at first most were quickly won over by her charisma, courage, resilience and determination to stay in the field with her agents. one of her top agents said after the war quote, she was young and very beautiful but there was an unmistakable aura of authority about her. when dori and i were in paris last year the son of another of her key people in the network told us she never operated according to society's rules but
followed her own rules. basically, she acted like a man. [laughter] although the group's official name was alliance the gestapo called it noah's ark because it's agents use the names of animals and birds as their code names. it was marie madeleine who would come up with that idea and assigned each agent or not all agents but i'll talk later about how many agents she had but many of her agents his or her codenames. many of the men given the names of proud and powerful members of the animal and bird kingdoms like wolf, lion, tiger, elephant, fox, eagle to name just a few. but for her own codenames she chose hedgehog. on the surface at least to me that seemed a rather odd choice. hedgehog is a beguiling bright eyed little animal with prickles
all over his body and was and is a beloved figure in classic children's books. in allison and wonderland hedgehogs are used as croquet balls by the queen of hearts. beatrice potter's story about peter rabbit one of her most endearing characters is the hedgehog named mrs. peggy winkle was based on potter's own pet hedgehog and i discovered that in the uk having a hedgehog is a pet is very popular there. a lot of pet hedgehogs. but the hedgehog's unassuming appearance is deceiving. when it is challenged by an enemy and rose up in a tight little ball which causes all the spines on his body to point outward. at that point as a friend of marie madeleine swan said, it becomes a tough little animal that even a lion would hesitate to bite. at the time when the alliance operated throughout all of france and number bird more than
3000 agents and by far the largest intelligent network in the country i want to make clear these are not trained spies, most of them. they were ordinary french citizens and came from all classes of society, workers and businessmen, policemen, soldiers and sailors, shopkeepers, government clerks, bus drivers, fishermen, members of the french aristocracy, priests, ministers and most famous child actor in france. what they were doing was crucial for the allied cause. much more so than the work of a number of other resistance groups. before i go further, i want to explain they were basically three different kinds of resistance activity in france. one was the kind that you care about most. groups which specialized in sabotage and other forms of open rebellion against the nazis. those are the people that the british, sle, special operations executives worked with.
... smuggling out airmen and other servicemen out of occupied france and back to freedom, but the actual contribution to victory was a small. by contrast, the third strand of activity, espionage was vitally important to the allied cause from the first day of the war to last. in order to plan both defensive and offensive military operations against the germans, the allied commanders were dependent on spy is an friends
and the rest of occupied europe to inform them where the enemy was, and what he was doing. france was particularly important, and allied in dozens of other intelligence networks that spring up to meet that need. from 1940 when the alliance was created until the war in europe in it in a come in 1945, marie madeleine and her colleagues deluged him with a flood of top-level intelligence about a huge array of german military secrets ranging from truth movement and the location of your fields and anti-craft consists of the submarine schedules. you have to remember france was the occupied country closest to britain and most of them are buying the british cities, london and the others, and the submarines that were thinking of merchant ships were based in france so in order to fight back early in the war, it was vital
that they know everything they could about the german operations. alliance with important leader in the war again, because france was the place where the allies were going to land a to say they need to know everything they could about the beaches upon which the troops were going to land on june 61944. marie madeleine's agents in normandy would provide the allies with a 5 55-foot long map of the normandy beaches on which the allies would land showing every german gun and placement and beach obstacles along the coast. together with details of army units and their movements. that was 55-foot long would be the basis of much of the map that the troops could carry.
you might ask how difficult was it for a woman to lead a network like this, especially not only with the french, but the british. alliance worked extremely well with the m.i. six, and the answer to that is they had no idea that who took over from the creator of alliance with a woman for almost a year. she kept her identity secret because she was convinced that they would never accept this as the head of a major spy network and she was probably right in that position if she had to prove herself in the alliance before her identity was revealed. she took over in july of 1941. it was finally repealed in november 1941 which was almost six months later and it was because of the crisis in the networks i go to in great
detail. she was smuggled across the border into neutral spain and any diplomatic mailbag because she had no papers obviously so she had to behave in a diplomatic mailbag and was the beginning of 1941 in which she almost froze to death. and then presented herself in madrid in the british m.i. six officials she was elegant and dressed in a black silk dress and couldn't believe she was the head of alliance that she didn't have to worry that much because although there was grumbling from the officials and they found out they couldn't argue with her accomplishments and those of alliance. as the war continued t continuet to crush the group that was playing a major role helping to assure the defeat. of the 3,000 agents, nearly 500 were arrested, tortured and
executed by the german over the course of the war including the man marine madeleine loved and by whom she had a child in the middle of the war. all this was agony for her. she was a tough leader but she also prided herself on forming close personal relationships with her top lieutenants and other members of the network. what an extraordinary sense of community between her and those whom she lived and worked much more so i think them is true of the resistance networks. one thing i try to do in this book is depicted with the life was like for people who were actually in the resistance because i don't think most books about them do this. there was a lot of fear and terror they lived every day in fear of being arrested because of the incredible dangers.
there was also a sense of love and joy and community and they were a family. she considered to be as much a part of her family has her own children. in the memoir she would later write for is no end to the list of names i have on my network chart as i learned of the new casualties. each time i cross off the name of a friend i experienced the feeling of having fielded the executioners act. i was dying of grief. throughout the war she also was on the run from the gestapo and moved her head quarters every few weeks constantly changing her hair color, clothing and identity. she also was captured twice in fact "-end-quotes time managed to escape once again an incredible scene which my husband insists on telling everybody that ask for this book quite rightly as the most
dramatic thing in the book once i forcing her slender petite body through the bars of her jail cell. until the end of the war, she managed to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to come around for. hers is an extraordinary story as it is the stor is the story s remarkable as they are, both remained virtually unknown today. i do know since the war there've been lots of the the french resistance. it's gone to the resistance networks i talked about earlier. one of the reasons was the secrecy of the wartime operations. not much is available about them in the historical archives.
the second one i will talk about quickly because she really wasn't an ally of the de gaulle for most of the more. she insisted on working only with the british and he's famous for once having said whoever is not for me is against the city considereme said heconsidered tf not an enemy and he certainly wasn't happy at all that it was independent in terms of its operations. for that reason, they basically created the image of the resistance at least for the first several decades. so, the people they considered to be resistant with the people that went down at least in the early history as resistance heroes and marine madeleine wasn't one of them.
the goal to become de gaulle created an organization in a group of those whom he added the movement considered in the struggle for the french lubrication during world war ii. by the end of the war on the 1,038 persons were thought to be worthy of the honor. of that number, 1,038, 1,032 were then so becomes the most important reason that isn't that well-known. included in this worth three vendors of the alliance, three of marine madeleine's deputies also chosen with her estranged husband a french officer who commanded a regiment during the landing in southern france in august of 1944. others named to the group with the leaders of the resistance but intense networks among them, the chief of the intelligence network that was second only to the alliance in light of the
importance but she wasn't one of the six women awarded the honor. the statistics had been associates of those that were close allies of de gaulle. the only one who'd been a resistance chief were unparalleled in for a judged worthy of the honor. the omission reflected the sexism that have prevailed during the war among the french and the most resistance leaders. they were like the rest of the society and their view they did it come anyou come and they sta. in the words of one french historian, discrimination based on the notion of any quality was a solidly rooted in the resistance as everywhere else in france.
tens of thousands at risk and in many cases lost their lives by dividing the germans. although as i said virtually none were given leadership positions in resistance organizations. as one historian put it, just as ththe businessesthe businesses e personnel only for positions like switchboard operator or receptionist, women and girls were brought in primarily to be liaison agents that while they may have been regarded as subordinate, they were in fact highly important and extremely dangerous jobs. female resistance were aware of the society's norms of acceptable behavior for them in other women and many of them both during and after the war minimized the importance of their achievements. like a member of the male
counterparts, they needed to manage credit for the contributions nor ask for recompense. as the historian has written, those who've done the least in the resistance often spoke the most while those who've done the most spoke the least. when income he added, were particularly modest. even marine madeleine felt obliged to downplay what she had done describing herself in one postwar interview and this is the quote of the wife of an officer and mother of a family and member of a political party and catholic. to quote the french biographer it was a rather humble and misleading self-description by the only woman to have led a large and important resistance network. her words fail to capture her uniqueness before, during and after coming as a woman who transgressed on a regular basis, but they capture the tension
between her actions and the societal expectations. for several decades following the war coming history of the french resistance was written almost exclusively by men largely ignored the contributions of women. although that is no longer true, most current overviews of the subject while certainly mentioning women have continued to underplay the extent and importance of their participation. and although there have been a flurry of books in recent decades that have examined various aspects of the french women's experiences during the war, even they tend to shy away from highlighting a typical women like marine madeleine fourcade whose work as an intelligence network was so different from that of most female resistance members. if the lack of attention bothered her, she never showed it. in her view of the thousands of
age in in her networ her networs who should be random or if she worked very hard to keep their memory fresh. the years have passed, but their spirit is still alive. i should like to know that they will not be forgotten. the claim that earned them their heart will be understood. these ordinary men and women never planned to be heroes, but they were every bit as much in some perhaps even more than 5,038 and try and. although they were from various walks of life and political backgrounds for the common denominator over go to love their differences. a refusal to be silent and an iron determination to fight against the destruction of freedom and human dignity. in doing so, they along with other members of the resistance saved the soul in honor of
france. many years after the war coming american journalist actually david ignatius of the "washington post" asked russo, one of marine madeleine's operatives why she had risked her life to join the alliance. i don't understand the question, she replied, and was responsible for one of the greatest allied intelligence coups of the war. she went on to say it was a moral obligation to do what you are capable of doing. how could you not. thank you. [applause] and now i would love to hear questions. somebody has to have a question. >> always good to see you again
and good thing you have when yw book coming out. it's a pleasure for all of us. david was asked by a student what it takes to write a successful book, and his answer was it has to be something that you can do before you can go on and do anything else. i was wondering if that was the case with you in writing your book, and also i'm interested in how did you come to the decision that you were going to be a historian? >> each book that i've written i've usually when run across one or two characters and this woman
grabbed me from the beginning and i didn't have in mind when i was writing and finishing it that i was going to do this but after publishing, and thinking what i was going to do, i just thought i' i've got to find out more about her. i had the line about her escaping naked through the bars of her jail cell. why has nobody written about that. she's been written about in bits and pieces. a fresh biography has been written that i thought she really deserves her own book. what prompted me to become a historian again when we wrote
our first book about the correspondence before entering the war and we spent a lot of time researching london during the war particularly during the early days of the war and i just fell in love with that whole period. you can find a more dramatic period to write about. edward r. murrow is the start of my book writing career. from that i then got fascinated in finding out about the people like the american ambassador. all these things we found out intrigues me but haven't been written about so i kind of look
in minutes and crannies of what hasn't been explored and that's what i really do but this book was particularly fun to write. it's a lot easier to write about one figure though you are writing about a lot of people because it is the through line from the book. it was so much fun to do we have a blast doing it. >> thank you had been a softball question. thank you for writing about the people that you can't consistently share the intelligence dots and decency even when they are going off on tangents and having fun doing peculiar things.
the softball question is 20 or 30 years from now when you are still writing books, look at america today and who are these heroes that you might look at? >> i think there are people who are shoving evidence that they may be, but so far that's one of the reasons more and more i love to immerse myself in history. when you are going through it, you don't know. in world war ii, you know churchill is a hero. if britain was going to be saved, you know it's time but right now i don't know. when i'm writing i try to block
>> do you have any idea how many women were there, any idea about the number? >> it's about 20% she tried hard to recruit as many women as she could and i talk about russo. there's a lot of material in the book about her. she found out a lot of information about the terror weapons it's a great story that i refer to and she reported that to the alliance and was captured friday gestapo and was sent to
several concentration camps and was days away from death when she was rescued some she did survive, but there were many others. at the end of the war, and i can't quote exactly, but she said basically the bravest were the women. she said there were numerous women who were captured and tortured but not one of them gave up any information about the network or she so they would have been dead. she said every single woman even under torture. and then just a follow-up. many of them are captured and tortured. do you have any idea if there were more, the percentage was 20% roughly but do you have any idea if they were at greater
risk. >> it seems to me they might be in terms of if they were captured. >> i haven't seen the statistics but as i said i think there were 438 that they know were executed by the germans. i would say probably the number was ten to 15% the number of women who were killed. >> one thing that seems to me a little strain shot but maybe it shouldn't, the role especially in the intelligence movement category of spy networks it just seems like women with bein woule ideal position to be out and about those in the country and in the city collecting information about what's going
on and where that they would be less. so, the question is that true or am i off base is it possible that a woman out on the road looking at the troop movements or whatever would have had more unusual. the answer is more complex. wives and mothers did help certainly in the early years of the war especially as they said they were basically bought the ones that were in the shipyard. they didn't do that kind of work around the bases, but what they did do, there was a liaison.
they were out there in public and in the beginning they couldn't conceive of women being spies, saboteurs, whatever. so they did get away with a lot. the young female assistant who plays a major role in the book and you will see a picture of her she does act as a courier. she finally was called and escaped, and there were many
like her. thank you for introducing us to this fascinating story. this extraordinary person was young when the war was over so i'm wondering did she play a new role in the post are period. the reconciliation between germany and france. >> she actually became a big proponent during the war. she was very much in love with her second-in-command as
charismatic as she was good to see how there were sparks between them, and she became pregnant and asked. she divorced her estranged husband and remarried. her husband was a very strong supporter of de gaulle and mary matalin joined him in that belief and they were to go to the leaders of the campaign in 1958 to bring de gaulle back to power so that helped resuscitate her a bit in the eyes of de
gaulle she also spent most of her time working to help the survivors of her network with those agents who survived but also the widows and children of those who'd been killed, she devoted her life to a crusade to make sure they had enough money to live in really until pretty much the day she died. but a very elegant social life in postwar paris she was a member of the european parliament for a while and in her mind, alliance was the most important like many in the mail
resistance didn't seek to further her self. all she cared about were the people that she had worked with to help in the country. >> are you in a position now to share with us what you thought about this as a topic or focus for the next book? >> i have kind of an idea. someone asked don't you ever want to change john rose and talk about something else. i got a contract for a book in world war i believe it or not and i did years worth of research, maybe six months and i'm supposed to write five chapters and by contract or oasis five chapters and i get a bit of money and then if they
like it i sat down to write this chapters and for the first time in my life i had writer's block. that never happens to me. i realized i couldn't stand the characters i was writing about. if i do another book it will be about world war ii, i'm not quite sure yet. thanks. ' we have copies of speed madame fourcade's secret for.
ms. rhodes spoke at porter square in massachusetts. the spies who are in the resistance sabotage the nazis and helped win world war ii. in the "d-day girls," sarah rose calls on finals and oral history to do with throwing mostly unknown story of remarkable women who destroyed wines, and bush nazis and gathered crucial intelligence laying the groundwork for the invasion proveofproved to be the turningt in the war. refinery 29 calls it a thriller in the form of a nonfiction book and the book is comprehensive