Communist resistance Odette Nilès was the last survivor of the Choisel camp. It was there that she had met Guy Môquet, her “fiancé”, shot before the kiss she had promised him. She died on the night of May 26-27 at the age of 100.
For a long time, she remained discreet about her budding romance with the young hero of the Second World War Guy Môquet. Even his son, born just after the war and named Claude-Guy, only learned the origin of his surname very late. It was not until 2008, when President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the last letter from this young man, a symbol of resistance to the German occupier, would be read in high schools, that Odette Nilès was asked by the media to tell this love affair born in the Choisel internment camp, in Châteaubriant, in the west of France.
The 18-year-old was transferred there in September 1941, a month after her arrest in Paris. She meets Guy Môquet, a year younger than her, at the “barrier”, the limit between the men’s camp and the women’s camp. On either side of this strip of land that separates the fences, the two young people talk. He plays the harmonica, writes poems and quickly develops a crush on Odette. He asks her one day if she would like to give him a kiss. She accepts. He offers her a ring made from a coin. And gave him a sweet farewell note before leaving for the platoon with 47 comrades, on October 22, 1941: “ I’m going to die (…) Without having had what you promised me “.
Leaflets and demonstrations
Daughter of workers, Odette Lecland was born on December 27, 1922 in Paris. She moved to three years with her family in the suburbs, in Drancy, in the northern suburbs of the capital. His father joined the PCF at the Congress of Tours. She was part of the Secours rouge and then of the Jeunes filles de France. From the start of the war, the high school student distributed leaflets and took part in demonstrations on the Grands Boulevards in Paris. She was arrested by the French police on August 13, 1941 at the Richelieu-Drouot metro station on her way to one of them. Along with 16 boys. All are under 20 years old and appear in court-martial, before the Germans. The death penalty is required. Three will be executed, the others imprisoned.
For nearly three years, Odette was interned in several camps. Until that of Mérignac, from where she escaped in 1944 and joined the resistance in Bordeaux. It was there that she met a certain Maurice Nilès, a young FFI (French Interior Forces) commander. Her future husband. After the war, he became deputy (1958-1985) and PCF mayor (1959-1997) of Drancy. She also remained faithful to her communist ideal all her life and campaigned for women’s rights. Director of the secular patronage of the city of Aubervilliers, she meets Yuri Gagarin and dines with Fidel Castro. For decades, she testified in schools, tirelessly, to bring to life the memory of her comrades who were shot.
The last survivor of the Choisel camp had peacefully passed the 100-year mark at the end of December in her retirement home in Drancy. But remained haunted by this Marseillaise sung loudly with the others to accompany their brothers in the peloton, this October 22, 1941. “ Odette Nilès represented a century of commitment and freedom “, paid tribute to him President Emmanuel Macron, on this Saturday anniversary day of the creation of the National Council of Resistance.