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Cassou, Jean

Date of birth:
July 9th, 1897 (Bilbao, Spain)
Date of death:
January 15th, 1986 (Paris, Ve, France)
French (1870-present, Republic)


Fatherless at the age of 16, he had to work in odd jobs to support his family while continuing his studies at the Lycée Charlemagne then at the Faculty of Letters in Paris where he began a degree in Spanish.

In 1917 and 1918, he continued it, while exercising the function of master of studies at the Lycée de Bayonne.

Adjourned several times by the review board, it was not mobilized during the Great War.

Passionate about modern art, he participates in several literary reviews; he was the secretary of Pierre Louÿs before writing the column Spanish Letters, in the Mercure de France from 1921.

In 1923 he passed the competition for editor at the Ministry of Public Instruction and, two years later, published his first novel, Eloge de la Folie.

Inspector of Historical Monuments from 1932, Jean Cassou was a member of the Vigilance Committee of Antifascist Intellectuals after February 6, 1934 and, from 1936, headed the review Europe.

In 1936, he belonged to the cabinet of Jean Zay, Minister of National Education and Fine Arts of the Popular Front. Favorable to aid to the Spanish Republic, he approached the Communist Party but broke with it at the time of the German-Soviet pact of August 1939.

Mobilized in September 1939, he was assigned, in April 1940, to the training center for aspiring students in Vincennes and special assigned to the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, of which he was the deputy curator.

Faced with the increasingly urgent approach of the German armies, he was sent to the Château de Compiègne then devoted himself to the work of safeguarding the national heritage and it was at the deposit of the Château de Chambord, that he heard, on June 17, 1940 , Pétain's speech announcing the Armistice. Refusing defeat, he quickly decides to resist.

Immediately dismissed from his post as curator of the Museum of Modern Art by the Vichy government, he wrote his first leaflets against Vichy and the Germans in September 1940. he found some of his friends such as Claude Aveline or Agnès Humbert who, like him, were looking for a way to act. In the fall of 1940, Jean Cassou met the small group of researchers from the Musée de l'Homme led by Boris Vildé, Anatole Levitsky and Paul Rivet, the group from the "Musée de l'Homme", already organized in the clandestine action ( intelligence, evasion, propaganda).

With Claude Aveline, Agnès Humbert, Simone Martin-Chauffier and Michel Abraham, Jean Cassou is entrusted with the editing of the underground newspaper of the Group, Resistance, whose five issues follow one another from December 15, 1940 until March 1941.

While arrests against members of the Musée de l'Homme group are increasing, Jean Cassou escapes the Gestapo by taking refuge in Toulouse.

Agent P 2 of the "Bertaux" network, named after its founder Pierre Bertaux, from August 1941, he was arrested on December 13, 1941 for the Musée de l'Homme affair and imprisoned in the military prison of Furgole in Toulouse, where he composed, head-on, because he did not have the right to write, his 33 secretly composed sonnets which were published in 1944, under the pseudonym of Jean Noir, by the Editions de Minuit. He was sentenced to one year in prison by the Toulouse Military Tribunal.

After having served his sentence, he is released and falls back into the hands of the surveillance of the Territory (ST) which sends him to the internment camp of Saint-Sulpice du Tarn. On the order of the Resistance to the director of the ST who played the double game, he was released on June 18, 1943 and immediately resumed service in the Resistance.

Appointed by the Steering Committee of the United Resistance Movements (MUR) as Inspector of the southern zone, Jean Cassou is mainly responsible for the Inspectorate of networks, movements and maquis in the southwest. He joins to this activity that of editor-in-chief of the Cahiers de la Liberation and President of the Regional Liberation Committee of Toulouse.

In June 1944, he was appointed by the Provisional Government of the French Republic Commissioner of the Republic for the Toulouse region. On the night of August 19 to 20, 1944, at the time of the liberation of Toulouse, after he chaired the first meeting bringing together some of the main officials of the Departmental Liberation Committee, his automobile fell on a German column. Two of his companions are killed at his side and, seriously injured, he himself is left for dead.

Taken to hospital, in a coma, Jean Cassou, under the pseudonym of Alain, was replaced at short notice by Pierre Bertaux but he was retained in his title of Commissioner of the Republic and resigned after a year of convalescence. .

Jean Cassou resumed his function of chief curator in the National Museums and was immediately appointed, in October 1945, chief curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, a post he held until 1965.

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Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
June 12th, 1945
l' Ordre de la Libération
Second World War (1939-1945)
1 citation
Croix de Guerre (1939-1945)
Second World War (1939-1945)
with rosette
Médaille de la Résistance Française