By Matthew Knox
Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier was a member of the French Resistance during World War II and a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp and the concentration camp of Revensbruck.
Vaillant-Couturier began her career as a photographic reporter and was also involved in many political parties, including the Communist Youth Movement of France, and the Union of the Girls of France.
In 1933, she travelled to Germany just two months after Adolf Hitler came to power as a photographer for her father’s magazine VU. While there she investigated the rise of Nazism.
Starting as early as 1940, Vaillant-Couturier became engaged with the French Resistance. She took part in the publication of leaflets and pamphlets speaking against Nazism. On February 9, 1942, Vaillant-Courturier and multiple companions were arrested in a trap set by Marshal Philippe Pétain’s Vichy France police force, who were collaborating with the Germans. Her companions were all shot by Nazis, but she was interned, before being deported to Auschwitz.
In August 1944, she was moved to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where she stayed until the camp was liberated by the Red Army on April 30, 1945. She did not return to France until around a month later because she stayed to help treat the sick of the camp.
“A 16 June 1945 article in Le Monde read, ‘Each day, this magnificent Frenchwoman makes the rounds, uplifting courage, giving hope where it is often but illusion. The word “holiness” comes to mind when one sees this grand sister of charity near these men and these women who are dying every day.”