Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin

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Jean Moulin aux Arceaux near the promenade du Peyrou in Montpellier.

© Legs Antoinette Sasse, General-Leclerc-de-Hauteclocque and Liberation of Paris museum - Jean-Moulin museum (Paris Museums)

Publication date: January 2015

General Curator, Director of the General Leclerc and the Liberation of Paris Museum and of the Jean Moulin Museum (Paris Museums) Research Director at Paris 4

Historical context

This photograph by Jean Moulin (1899-1943) helped to nourish the legend of the hero of the Resistance. Prior to the Occupation, it was chosen by her sister, Laure Moulin, for the ceremony of transferring the ashes to the Pantheon on December 19, 1964 and used by her, in 1969, as the front cover of the biography dedicated to her brother. The legend was thus born.

Some have dated her after her suicide attempt on June 17, 1940, to explain that her scarf concealed her ugly scar. It is not so ; the circumstances of the making of this photograph are now known.

Having come to spend a few days with his mother and sister in Montpellier in mid-February 1940, Jean Moulin was photographed by Marcel Bernard, his childhood friend, in Les Arceaux, near the promenade du Peyrou. He was then prefect of Eure-et-Loir.

This photograph is also the story of a friendship. “Jean loved Marcel Bernard like a brother,” writes Laure. Marcel Bernard is a talented photographer who takes many pictures of his friend.

Image Analysis

The famous photograph, very posed, shows Jean Moulin wearing an overcoat, bundled up in a scarf, wearing the felt. He was not very satisfied with the result, finding the photograph too frozen, and wrote from Chartres on March 12, 1940: "It is not very brilliant for a virtuoso like him. Like most southerners, Jean Moulin is cautious. The felt, the overcoat and the scarf were the hallmarks of men's fashion of the time.

The face of "Rex" in hiding is very different from that of the winter of 1940. He most often wears, for practical reasons, berets and Canadian. Resistance fighters who worked with him, such as Daniel Cordier, his secretary, underline his features hollowed out, tired and emaciated by the hard life of resistance, which recall the photographs of his adolescence.


Entering the administration without a vocation, Jean Moulin has revealed himself to be a great servant of the State to the point of becoming one of the glories of the prefectural body. He built his career thanks to the support of his father and his friends, including Pierre Cot, Minister of Air (1933-1938), who was one of its greatest architects. In the disaster of June 1940, Jean Moulin was one of the few prefects to remain in his post until the end, thus obeying the orders of the Minister of the Interior, Georges Mandel.

On June 17, 1940, Wehrmacht officers summoned him to sign a document falsely accusing black troops of the French army of massacres of civilians. Beaten up and fearing to end up giving in to the blows, he slits his throat to avoid dishonor. “My duty is all outlined. The Boches will see that a Frenchman too is capable of scuttling himself, "he wrote at the end of 1940. Barely saved, he resumed his duties before being dismissed in early November for having refused to" dismiss a number of general councilors ". The Vichy government considers him too close to the ideas of the Popular Front to which he belonged. Moreover, two years later, Pierre Laval offered him an important post in vain, which he refused because he did not want to come to terms with a government that advocated national revolution and collaboration.

Putting the love of the Republic above all else, he carried out the mission entrusted by General de Gaulle, leader of Free France, by imposing, as Jacobin prefect, the union of all the components of the Resistance, movements, unions and political parties, with a view to Liberation in the Council of the Resistance. Dominating differences, he lent the leader of Free France the support of a united Resistance, bolstering his legitimacy as head of a government at war. He is giving his full potential as a statesman.

  • Liberation (war)
  • War of 39-45
  • Resistance
  • Occupation
  • Vichy regime


AZÉMA Jean-Pierre, Jean Moulin: the rebel, the politician, the resistant, Paris, Perrin, 2003 CORDIER Daniel, Jean Moulin: the Republic of the catacombs, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "La Continuation des temps", 1999.LEVISSE-TOUZÉ Christine, VEILLON Dominique, Jean Moulin: artist, prefect, resistant (1899-1943), Paris, Tallandier / Ministry of Defense, 2013.MOULIN Laure, Jean Moulin, Paris, Presses de la Cité, coll. "At a Glance", 1969.

To cite this article

Christine LEVISSE-TOUZE, "Jean Moulin"

Video: Jean Moulin. Klaus Barbie


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