PARIS — Raymond Aubrac, one of the last major figures of the French Resistance who got away from the Nazis' grasp in a now-legendary escape led by his equally renowned wife, has died. He was 97.
Aubrac died late Tuesday at Paris' Val-de-Grace military hospital, said his granddaughter Helene Helfer Aubrac. She said he had been hospitalized in recent days after suffering from fatigue.
Born Raymond Samuel on July 31, 1914, to Jewish parents who were deported to Auschwitz, he and his wife — born as Lucie Bernard — took up the nom de guerre Aubrac after joining the Resistance early on in World War II. They helped set up Liberation-Sud (Liberation South), one of the first networks of the Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France.
Raymond Aubrac was captured along with celebrated Resistance hero Jean Moulin on June 21, 1943, when police raided a Resistance meeting spot — a doctor's office — near the southeastern city of Lyon.
Lucie Aubrac helped orchestrate her husband's escape from a Lyon prison following his arrest. She persuaded the local Gestapo leader, Klaus Barbie, to let her meet with her imprisoned husband. During the meeting, she told Aubrac of the Resistance's plan to attack the German truck that was to transfer him to another prison, then herself led the armed commando attack that sprung both her husband and Moulin.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a statement, said the escape had "entered into the legend of the history of the Resistance," and praised Aubrac and all Resistance members as "heroes of the shadows who saved France's honor, at a time when it seemed lost."
After the war, Lucie Aubrac returned to the classroom, teaching history and geography, while Raymond went on to a successful career in government and banking. He retained ties to Communists and Socialists.
Raymond Aubrac backed Socialist Francois Hollande for France's two-round presidential election starting on April 22; his wife died at age 94 just weeks before the last presidential election in 2007 when Hollande's longtime partner and fellow Socialist Segolene Royal lost to the conservative Sarkozy.
"The death of a man doesn't prevent his fight from continuing," Hollande told reporters. He said he'd met with Aubrac about three weeks ago and was told that the ex-Resistance fighter was closely watching the race.
Aubrac is survived by three children — son Jean-Pierre Aubrac and daughters Catherine Vallade and Elisabeth Helfer Aubrac — and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were not yet clear, Helfer Aubrac said.