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Obituary

Daniel Cordier, WWII hero who "took every risk" for France, dies aged 100

Daniel Cordier at commemmorations for the 78th anniversary of the Appeal of 18 June, in 2018 at Mont Valérien.
Daniel Cordier at commemmorations for the 78th anniversary of the Appeal of 18 June, in 2018 at Mont Valérien. AP - Charles Platiau
4 min

Daniel Cordier, who as secretary to French resistance leader Jean Moulin helped France fight against its German occupiers in World War II, died on Friday aged 100.

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Cordier was one of only two remaining Compagnons de la Libération, an honour awarded by France's Charles de Gaulle, to those who risked their lives liberating France from Nazi occupation.

President Emmanuel Macron said a national ceremony would be held, most probably at the end of next week, to honour Cordier’s memory.

“When France was in danger, he and his companions took every risk so that France remained France. We owe them our freedom and our honour,” Macron tweeted.

Bip W

Cordier was born into a wealthy family in Bordeaux, south west France, in 1920. He admitted to being anti-Semitic before the war and was a member of the ultra-nationalist Action Française.

He had been about to enter the army but changed his mind when, following the German invasion in 1940, he heard Maréchal Pétain, leader of the collaborationist Vichy government, call on the French army to surrender. Considering this a betrayal, he left France to join de Gaulle in London, after the general's celebrated call to not accept defeat by Nazi forces.

Cordier became part of the secret intelligence service of de Gaulle’s Free French forces.

In 1942 he was parachuted back into France with the codename Bip W, where he was taken on as secretary to Jean Moulin in Lyon. Moulin had organised and unified the Conseil National de la Résistance (National Resistance Council).

He worked as Moulin’s right-hand man, liaising with other resistance leaders, until Moulin was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo in July 1943. He died on a train heading to Germany.

Cordier continued to rally and organise resistance fighters, but after being targeted himself he returned to England in May 1944 where he continued to work in the resistance’s intelligence service.

Daniel Cordier in Delville Camp (England) in July 1940.
Daniel Cordier in Delville Camp (England) in July 1940. © Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération

'Alias Resistance'

After the war he became a prominent art dealer and opened a gallery in Paris promoting lesser well-known artists.

He lived openly with a man, unusual at the time.

He also wrote an award-winning novel, Alias Caracalla, based on his wartime experiences with Moulin. In 2013 he was the subject of a celebrated documentary film "Alias Resistance".

In 2018 Cordier was awarded the Grand Croix of the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration.

Awarding him the cross, Macron told Cordier: “To be face to face with you is to find oneself immediately and compellingly face to face with history.”

Daniel Cordier at home in Cannes.
Daniel Cordier at home in Cannes. RFI/Cécile Pompéani

Cordier’s death leaves only one surviving member of the 1,038 Companions of the Liberation, Hubert Germain, who is also 100 years old. Two other Companions die​​​​​​​d recently: Pierre Simonet on 6 November aged 99 and Edgard Tupët-Thomet on 9 September aged 100.

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