The last remaining French resistance fighter awarded the highest bravery order by Charles de Gaulle for his World War II exploits has died aged 101, France’s defense minister announced on Tuesday.
“I want to inform you that Hubert Germain, the last surviving member of the Order of the Liberation, has died,” Florence Parly told French lawmakers.
“It’s an important moment in our history,” she added.
President Emmanuel Macron “bows down in front of the life of this figurehead of Free France,” the Elysee said in a statement paying tribute to Germain.
Germain was among 1,038 decorated with the Order of the Liberation for their heroism by Resistance leader and later president de Gaulle.
Shocked by French collaborationist leader Philippe Petain’s call to lay down arms against the Germans, he was inspired by de Gaulle’s call for resistance on June 18, 1940, made from BBC studios in London.
As a member of the French Free Forces and the Foreign Legion, Germain took part in key battles at Bir-Hakeim in Libya, El Alamein in Egypt, and in Tunisia.
He took part in the decisive French-led assault on Mediterranean beaches in August 1944, setting foot on home soil for the first time in years.
He fought for the liberation of the southern city of Toulon, the Rhone Valley and Lyon in central France, moving to the Vosges mountains and Alsace in the east, and ended the war in the southern Alps.
Out of the more than 1,000 Resistance heroes honoured by de Gaulle, a third died in combat and 80 percent of the survivors were wounded in action.
‘Flame of resistance’
Of the last three survivors, Edgard Tupet-Thome died aged 100 in September 2020 and Daniel Cordier died, also aged 100, in November that year.
In his last public appearance, Germain met President Emmanuel Macron in June this year as they marked at Mount Valerien, the hilltop fortress west of Paris where German forces executed more than 1,000 captured fighters and hostages.
Germain was helped from his wheelchair to accept a red sash from Macron, who kissed him on both cheeks. Germain then saluted the president before putting on his military cap.
“Eighty-one years on, General de Gaulle’s call still resonates. The flame of the resistance will not be extinguished,” Macron wrote on Twitter after that ceremony.
Macron will preside over a ceremony for Germain on November 11 -- Remembrance Day marking the end of World War I and the victims of conflict -- at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and then his burial at Mount Valerien, said his office.
A separate ceremony will take place at the Invalides memorial complex in Paris in the next days, it added.
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