tv Lynne Olson Madame Fourcades Secret War CSPAN May 29, 2019 12:02am-12:54am EDT
. >> good evening i'm part of the event staff here at politics and prose. please silence your cell phones we are audio and video recording this evening and you do not want to be the one whose phone goes off in c-span. please ask your questions at this microphone so please hold up your chairs we would greatly appreciate that.
i am very pleased to introduce lynn olson to politics and prose trouble some young men and the citizens of london as well as several other books and working as a journalist for the associated press. in her newng book she tackles the character previously introduced the only woman to serve as the chief resistance the longest laughing or most important of the french resistance most notably with the success of d-day and to suffer no close calls her personal losses and then also remain dedicated to the ideas of freedom from german occupation and paula mclean writes she is at the top of
her game giving us the renowned beauty who surprised everyone including herself by becoming one of the most consequential players in the high-stakes spy game of nazi occupied game. to shine and inspire this is a fascinating portrait of one common audacity. please join me to welcome lynn olson. [applause] . >> can you hear me? i am thrilled. i look around this room. politics and prose is and was our neighborhood bookstore we moved less than a mile away from here. and our daughter was over here
all the time as were we. it's my favorite place in the world. members of my family, old friends, work associates, new friends, thank you so much for okcoming tonight. clap. [applause] and before i start i want to make one introduction. this obviously is a book about france and the french resistance and an extraordinaryme frenchwoman and when i was doing my research and my writing, i was blessed with having a colleague who knew all things french. as it turns out she is a
neighbor of ours and has become a closegh friend first as a good tour model she is standing out over there. [applause] and i could not have done this book without her. so her secret war is the eighth book of history that i have written. writing history is my second career. a first career was of a journalist and then for "the baltimore sun" and washington and before or during that time we never had any thoughts of
becoming a historian i didn't wake up one morning to say i know what i want to do when i igrow up i want to write about history. in fact, when i was in school history was the driest subject i could imagine to memorize events and dates and that is not my idea of fun. butt that's not what history really is. it is about people. thinkor of the word itself. his story but her story i could devote another lecture to that. [laughter] so i work very hard to tell the story through people history is made by people and shaped by people. coming up with ideas for books and to do the research and look for characters who have made a difference but never had a much attention paid to tthem and people who are
forgotten. as a commonn thread, to focus in some way to the unsung heroes of courage and conscience who helped to change their country in the world but for various reasons have slipped into the? sent seven of my books deal with world war ii, it's not surprising most of the heroes were men like john gilbert do there during the ambassador to world war ii writing about and citizens of london. it is the exception to the rule and is aboutom a woman and it's the only book i have written who focuses on one individual. the others have sweeping panoramic stories the anglo-american alliances and citizens of london or getting into world war ii.
most of the books have a huge cast of characters but as much as i enjoy writing them i often feel a great sense of frustration and having to dismiss in a few sentences or paragraphs people who deserve far more attention that i have been able to give them. and that was true for madame fourcade who i mentioned in my last book which is about the relationship between britain and the occupied countries of europe. how could one notby be fascinated of this elegant young french woman who just happened to be the leader of the largest and most important spy network in france during the war? the only woman to have a major
resistance and took it over in 1941 when she was only 31 years old. that's remarkablee in itself. but what makes it even more fascinating at that time and to some extent, france was a deeply conservative patriarchal society where women were largely confined to the domestic roles. back then they still do not have the right to vote in france during world war ii. not until 1944 afternc paris was liberated they were finally given the right. but madame fourcade was against the restricted view and spent all her life refusing to let them dictate what she could do. she had a strong will and a case for risk and adventure qualities not often seen in young french women from well-to-do families like hers but then again few french
women have the unconventionalnc background and upbringing that she did. her father was a shipping executive and spent much of her childhood in shanghai of the early years of the 20th century was consider the essence of mystery and excitement. in open city which meant you did not have to have a visa or passport to get there. as a result shanghai was crammed with an extraordinary immigrants to the chinese warlords and revolutionaries to american and european gangsters, spies and drug smugglers not to mention international arms dealers. madame fourcade loved every minute of living there. as a teenager she and her mother and her siblings moved to paris after their father died suddenly but she never
lost her taste for the unconventional. that french capitulation marie madeleine left everything at the marshall detested separated from her army officer husband, i should mention she married at the age of 17 a very him some captain a military intelligence officer they immediately had two children and she decided in her mid- twenties she had enough of him and his conservative views and so she took theer children and move back to paris whereupon she learned how to fly a plane. she bought a car in a time when women do not know how to drive but alone by a car. she participated in car rallies during that time and
she got a job which was very unusual. all that proves she had a mind in her own and ambition that stretched far beyond kihousekeeping and took care of her children to resist the germans after the war broke out t she was deputy to the founder of spynt network he was another for me intelligence officer also her longtime mentor when he was captured july 1941, she took over command of the group which was called alliance. althoughli some agents most were quickly won over by her charisma and courage and resilience and determination. one of the top agents said she
was young and very beautiful but an unmistakable aura of authority about her. and we were in paris last year essential that she never operated according to society's rules, she followed her own. basically she acted like a man. although the group's official name the gestapo call that noah's ark they use the names of animals and birds as the codename. marie madeleine had come up with that idea and assigned each or made any agents on - - many agency codenames they were proud and powerful names of the bird kingdom like wool for life and tiger, elephant fox and eagle. for c her own codename she chose
hedgehog. [laughter] and on the surface that seemed a rather odd choice that is a little animals with prickles all over his body and is a beloved figure in classic children's books and "alice in wonderland" hedgehogs are used escrow cables in the queen of hearts and peter rabbit one of the most endearing characters is a hedgehog based on her own pet and i discover that in the uk having a hedgehog as a pet is very popular. [laughter] butng the unassuming appearances deceiving when challenged by an enemy it rolls up in a causesittle ball which all the spines on its body to point out and at that point it
becomes a tough little animal that even a lion would hesitate to bite. alliance operated through all of france and numbered more than 3000 agents and was by far the largest intelligence network in the country. i want to make clear these were not trained to spies but ordinaryar french citizens coming from all kinds of society workers and businessme businessmen, policemen, soldiers and sailors, shopkeepers and bus drivers and fishermen members of the french aristocracy and the most famous child actor in france. what they were doing was crucial for the allied cause much more so than other resistance groups. before i go any further i want to explain there are basically
three different kinds of resistance activity.re one that you hear about the most specialized andhi sabotage and open rebellion. those are the fetishes - - the british the soe worked with and that others also received considerable attention in books and films but as exciting and dramatic as their stories are, neither played a critical role to win the war. saboteurs and other resistance fighters were important after d-day but did little to obstruct the germans before then. escape networks to heroic work to smuggle out and shut down the allied airmen with their contribution to victory was small. but espionage was vitally
important to the allied cause from the first day of the war to the last in order to plan defense and offense of military operations allied commanders were dependent on the rest of occupied europe to warn them where the enemy was. and what he was doing. france was important and dozens of other intelligence networks sprang up to meet that need. so in 1940 until the war ended marie madeleine and her colleagues daily used with the flood of top-level intelligence about a huge array of german and military secrets t ranging from troop movement with antiaircraft defenses and submarine schedules you have to remember france was closest to britain
and most of the german planes bombing british cities london and the others and the germans of burmese sinking british merchant ships were in france so in order for the british to fight back it was vital they know everything they could about german operations there. alliance was important later again because of france. it was the place where the allies we're going to l land to take back europe so they needed to know everything they could about the beaches on which the troops would land. june 61944. her agents in normandy would provide the allies with a 55-foot long map of the normandy beaches on which the allies would land showing every german placement and fortification and beach obstacle along theg coast.
together with details of army units so just imagine 55 feet long so that's the map that they would carry with them on d-day. so how difficult was it for a woman to lead a network like this? ianot only the french but the british they worked extremely closely with mi-6 and they had no idea the person who took over from the creator of the alliance was a woman for almost one year. she kept her identity secret because she was convinced they would never accept the idea of a woman is a major spy network and probably was right so she thought she had to prove herself in alliance before her
identity was revealed and it was finally revealed she took over july 1941 revealed november. almost six months later because she was smuggled across the french border into neutral spain in a diplomatic mailbag because she had no papers beginning of december 1941 and she about froze to death and then presented herself in madrid to british mi-6 official dressed in a black silk dress and he cannot believe she was head of alliance but she didn't have to work that much because although there was some grumbling when they found out
they cannot argue with her accomplishments and those of alliance. as the war continue the onstapo set out to crush the spy group i was playing such a major role to assure their defeat with her 3000 agents nearly 500 was arrested and tortured and executed by the germans over the course of the war including the man she loved and by whom she had a child in the middle of the war. all of this was agony she was a strong tough leader but prided herself on forming close personal relationships with her top lieutenants. there was an extraordinary sense of community between her and those that she lived and worked much more so than was true of other networks. one thing i tried to do in this book is protect what daily life was like for people
who are actually in the resistance because i don't think most do that. so there was a lot of fear and terror they lived every day in mortal fear of being arrested because of the incredible dangerous activity but also a sense of love and joy and community among them. and she considered them to be a part of her family as her own children in her memoir she would later write there was no end to the list of names i had to erase on my charts as i learned of casualties every time i crossed off the name of a friend i experience the feeling of wielding the executioner's acts and dying of grief. throughout the war she was also on the run from the gestapo and moved her headquarters every few weeks changing her hair color and
clothing and identity. she was captured twice and both times she managed to escape once with an incredible scene that my husband insist on telling everybody who asks about this book it is the most dramatic scene in the book once by stripping naked and putting her body to the bars of her jail cell. [laughter] and until the end of the war she managed to hold her network together even as they repeatedly threatened to crumble around her. hers is an extraordinary story of alliance but as remarkable as they are she and her network remained virtually unknown today. as you know, since the war there have been floods of books and films of the french resistance but for that matter any other intelligence organization. the lion share of resistant
networks that i talked about earlier. one of the reasons for the lack of attention was the secrecy of the wartime operations that material is available for the second one i will talk about very quickly because she would not work for day gaulle for most of the war she insisted only working with the british. day gaulle is famous for saying whoever is not for me is against me. so he considered alliance if not an enemy, certainly was not happy at all it was independent in terms of operations. so for that reason, after the war, day gaulle and the french
basically created the image of the resistance for the first several decades after the wars of the people they considered to be resistance heroes were the ones in the early history and mary was not one of them. those in the french movement considered heroes only 1038 but of those 1032 were men so that's the third most important reason she's not that well known because she's a woman so included in this exclusive fraternity were three male members of clients. ofalso chosen was her estranged husband a french officer who commanded a regiment with
landing in southern france in august 1944. others name to the group were leaders of various resistance movements and networks among them the chief of the chief intelligence network only second in size and importance but madame fourcade was not one of the six women awarded the honor. most of the six were associates of male movement leaders close allies of day gaulle. the only woman who would actually been a resistance on the network's achievements were unparalleled was not judged worthyy of the honor. the omission of the small number of women reflected the sexism prevailed during the war among the french and resistance leaders just like a british society i thought the men fought and the woman
stayed home in the words of one french historian based on the notion of inequality between the sexes was rooted in the resistance as everywhere else in france. but notwithstanding without hesitation to include french women, tens of thousands of women had risked and lost their lives by defying the germans although virtually none were given leadership positions in these organizations as one historian put it just as businesses recruited female personnel only for positions by switchboard operator or receptionist, women and girls were brought in to be couriers and liaison agents. while they may have been regarded as subordinates they were highly important and extremely dangerous jobs.
female resisters were keenly aware of the society's norms of acceptable behavior and as a result many of them both during and after minimize the importance of their achievement achievements. like a number of male counterparts they needed to manage credit for their contributions asking for recompense. . . . .
on a regular basis, but they capture the tension between her action and societal expectation. for several decades following the war, histories of the french resistance which were written almost exclusivelyta by men largely ignored the contributions of women although that is nont 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 experiencesxp during the war evn they tend to shy away from highlighting a typical women
like madame fourcade whose work in the network was so different from the norm of most members. if the lack of attention bothered her, she never showed it. in her view of the thousands of agents in her network were the ones who should bee remembered and she worked very hard to keep their memory crash. the years have passed, my friends have died but their spirit is still alive. i should like to know that they will not be forgotten, their claiflame and their hearts wille understood. these ordinary men and women never planned to be heroes, but they were every bit as much and some perhaps even more than the 1,038 enshrined. although they were from various walks of life and political backgrounds, a common denominator overrode their different is the refusal to be
silent and iron determination to fight against the freedom and human a dignity. in doing so they saved the sole and honor of france. many years after the war in american journalism actually david ignatius of thee "washington post" asked one of the operatives why she had risked her life to the alliance. i don't understand the question, who replayed russo responsible for one of the crews of the war. she went on to say it was a moral obligation to do what you are capable of giving. it was a blast. how could you not do it. thank you. [applause] and now i would love to hear
questions. somebody has to have a question. jim, you have a question. always good to see you again and always good when you have a book coming out. it's a pleasure for all of us. david halberstam was asked one time by a writing student what it takes to write a successful book, and his answer was it has to be something that you do before you go on to do anything else. and i was wondering if that was the case with you in writing your books, and also i'm hoterested in how did you come to finally the decision that you were going to be a historian? how did that happen?
>> i agree with what david said. each book that i've written, i felt i usually run across one or two characters this one she grabbed me right from the beginning and i didn't have in mind when i was writing but after it was published i just thought i am so fascinated by her i've got to find out more about her and i had the line about her escaping. why has nobody written about
that? a fresh biography has been written but that's it and i thought she really deserves her own book. what prompted me to become a historian began when we wrote our first book which is about fthe correspondence to create a cbs news before and during the war and we spent a lot of time researching london during the war particularly the early years of the war and i just fell in love with that whole period. you can't find a more dramatic period to write about, and just grabbed me. so, edward r. murrow is the father of my book writing career, he really is.s. from that book, then i got fascinatedgo in finding out abot people like this and the
american ambassador, and we became fascinated in the fact that in the battle of britain so all of these things that we found out really intrigued me and probably hadn't been written about, so i kind of look in the nooks and crannies of portal for history to see what has not been explored, and that's what i do. but this book was particularly fun to write. it's a lot easier to write about one figure even though you are writing about a lot of people because the user through the book you don't have to keep jumping from country to country, and i think dori would agree with me that it was so much fun to do. we just had a ball. it was really neat. >> first of thank you and then a softball question. thank you for writing about these people who you found
consistently who sharehe intelligence, guts and decency even when they were going off on tangents andts giving these peculiar things, they are so damn decent. now the softball question, 20 r 30 years from now when you are still writing books, look at america today into other heroese heroes that you might look at? >> i hope they are there. i think there are people who are showing evidence that they may be so far, that's one reason, more than one i'd like to immerse myself in history because you can find you know, when you are going through it, you don't know. i mean obviously world war ii, churchill is a hero, britain was going to be saved and
civilization at the time he was going to have a big role in matt right now, i don't know. i mean, i actually when i'm writing into this is true i try to block out what's going on. we talked about it enough when i'm not writing and the answer to your question is i don't kn know. >> hello. how are you? >> we have a history. congratulations on your new book. if your book going to be published in france? >> >> i don't know. it's been sold to the uk. we hope so, but we have
absolutely none of my books have ever been published in french. i'm hoping that they will do that. i just don't know. >> thank you for writing a great story about a great woman particularly in this month. anybody else? >> d. have any idea how many women were their? any idea about the number? >> the numbers i run across or about 20% which is very high for a resistance organization. she tried very hard to recruit as many as she could, and i talk about russo there is a lot of material in the book about her. she found out a lot of information about the weapons of hethe great story i referred to
she reported that to the alliance and was captured by the gestapo and was sent to several concentration camps and ended up waiting less than 70 pounds and was days away from death when she was rescued she didn't survive, but there were many others. at the end of the war she said basically most of her agents were brave but the bravest were the women. there were numerous women who were captured and tortured, but not one of them gave up any information about the network. she said i would have been dead with every single woman even under torture was silent and refused to talk.
>> many of them are captured and tortured. do you have any idea if theredo were more women the percentage was 20% roughly that you have any idea if they were at a greater risk of? it would seem to me they might be that i have no idea in terms of if they were captured. >> i haven't seen the statistics. 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. >> thank you for this book. >> thank you very much. one thing that seems a little strange to me, maybe it shouldn't, but the support and rolsupportingrole of women espee
intelligence category of spy networks it seems women would be in the ideal position to be out and about both in the country and in the city collecting information about what's going on and where. so the question is is that true or am i off base is it possible that a woman out on the road looking at the troop movement or whatever would have have had more m unusual, -- >> that's a good question. the answer is more complex. you are right in the sense that the fact women were regarded as five and mothers and not a threat did help in the early years of the war especially by
young attractive women most of them were not the ones in the shipyard. what they did a radio transmitters and messages and help people escape so they were out there in public but the germans like the french were very traditional and in the beginning, they didn't -- they couldn't conceive of women being spies, saboteurs, whatever, so they did get away with a lot. in fact, one of the main characters is a female assistant who plays a major role in the book and is beautiful, long blonde hair and she did all sorts of things. she did act as a courier and
talked about how she would flirt her way through the checkpoints etc. and she finally was caught and escaped and there were many women like her. part of the reason they could get away with a lot at least earlier is because of the traditional view of women. >> thank you. >> thank you for introducing us to this fascinating story and this extraordinary person was still very young when the war was over, so i p am wondering dd she play a war to take a role in the postwar period and because of her personal interest how did she take to the rapid reconciliation between germany and france? >> very good question both very good questions. i should have mentioned her after the war. after the war, she basically
became a big proponent of de gaulle. she remarried and i said she was very much in love with her second-in-command actually. as passionate and charismatic as she was coming you could see why there were sparks between them, she became pregnant, had the baby come he was captured and was thrown into concentration camp and was held just at the end of the war by the gestapo so after the war, she divorced her estranged husband and remarried a considerably younger businessman and had another child after the war. herr husband was a very, very strong supporter and she joined
him in that belief and they were two of the leaders of the campaign in 1958 to bring de gaulle to power so that helps to resuscitate her back a bit. she also spent much of her time working to help the survivors of her network of those agents that survived but also, the widows and the children of those who had been killed. she devoted her life to crusades to make sure that they had enough money to live. and really pretty much until the day she died. but she was a very elegant socialite in postwar paris. a member of the european parliament for a while, but in her mind alliance was the most
important thing. i mean they were members of her family still come and she never gave up on that. that to me, she like many of the male resistance just as i said didn't seek to further herself. all she cared about the people whom she had worked with. >> are you in a position to share with us what you had thought of as being a possible topic or focus for thehe next? >> now. [laughter] i'm going to wait. i have kind of an idea. somebody asked don't you ever want to change genres and talk about something else besides world war ii and i said i had a fleeting image of doing that and got a contract for a book about
world war i believe it or not, and i did a years worth of research, not quite that much, six months and i've just arrived six chapters and by contract with this five and i get a bit of money and then i sat down to owwrite those five chapters and for the first time in my life i had writer's block. i could write and that never happens to me. i realized i couldn't stand any of the characters i was writing about. they were not heroes to me they were woodrow wilson, teddy roosevelt and henry cabot lodge. so i went back to world war ii. if i do another book coming and i'm under contract for another time it will be about world war ii and possibly i'm not quite sure yet. thanks. [applause] >> is that if? okay. well, thank you very, very much for coming. i really appreciate it. thank you. [applause]
country so you can make up your own mind, created by cable in 1979, c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. next, sarah rose on her hook, "d-day girls" tells the story of the women sent to france to create and lead the front and resistance. she spoke at porter square books in cambridge massachusetts. this is 50 minutes. tonight we are so pleased to welcome sarah rose for her new book, "d-day girls: the spies who armed the resistance, sabotaged the naziss and helped win world war ii" i she draws on recently declassified files in lle diaries and oral histories to tell the thrilling mostly unknown story of three remarkable women who destroyed my income and bush did not cease, prodded prison