2012 September

The Red Poster

affiche rouge

Soon after the execution of Missak Manouchian and the other members of his resistance network in February 1944, the authorities plastered the walls of Paris with a red poster. Featuring medallion photos of the group’s members, the poster read: “Liberators? Liberation by the army of crime.” The verso of the famous Affiche Rouge proclaimed, “If French people pillage, steal, sabotage and kill, it’s always foreigners who give the orders; it’s always the unemployed and professional criminals who carry out the acts; and it’s always the Jews who inspire them. Strangle them now before they strangle you, your wives and your children.”

The foreign names and ugly mug shots (taken after the men were interrogated and beaten) were supposed to disgust the French public. But people dropped flowers at the foot of the walls where the posters hung, and under cover of night people scrawled across the poster the French patriotic slogan, “Mort pour la France” (Died for France). Missak Manouchian, Maurice Fingercwaig, Marcel Rayman, Spartaco Fontano, Arpen Davitian, Olga Bancic and the rest became martyred heroes of the French Resistance. They were later commemorated in a 1955 poem “Strophes Pour Se Souvenir” (Lines for remembrance) written by Louis Aragon for the inauguration of a street in the 20th arrondissement. To this day, the street is still called “Rue du Groupe Manouchian.”


Nancy Kricorian

Terrorists in Retirement

terrorist in retirement

While doing research on the uses of political violence by “non-state actors” for my second novel Dreams of Bread and Fire, I came across a 1984 French documentary entitled Terrorists in Retirement (original title Des terroristes à la retraite). It told the story of a French Communist Resistance network made up of immigrant workers. The network’s leader was an Armenian poet named Missak Manouchian. In late 1943, the Germans arrested Manouchian and twenty-two members of his group, which was comprised of Eastern European Jews, Armenians, and Italian and Spanish refugees. The men were executed by firing squad at Mont Valérien in February 1944. The sole woman was executed by beheading in Germany some months later.

After reading a little more about Missak Manouchian, an Armenian Genocide survivor who immigrated to France in 1925 when he was nineteen years old, I realized even as I was writing my second novel that I had found the time period and milieu for my next book. How did the Armenian community of Paris live the four years of the Nazi occupation? What had it felt like for Genocide survivors who had rebuilt their lives in France to look out the window on German troops marching down the Rue de Belleville? My third novel, All the Light There Was, grew out of these questions.


Nancy Kricorian