The Cross : What happened on June 14, 1940, at the Museum of Man ?
André Delpuech : This morning, the director of the Musée de l’homme, Paul Rivet, takes the initiative to post on the door a poem by the british writer Rudyard Kipling, published in 1885, entitled “ Thou shalt be a man, my son “, which ends by the famous verse : “If you can keep your courage and your head/When all others lose/Then the Kings, the Gods, the Chance and the Victory/ Will be forever your submissive slaves, / And, which is better than the Kings and Glory / and Thou shalt be a man, my son. “
This act of resistance, on the day of the entry of the Germans in Paris, marked the spirits. Paul Rivet is a physician, anthropologist and américaniste, a former member of the popular Front. He has been engaged in the renovation of the Museum of the Trocadero in 1938, which became the Museum of Man, where then work fifty researchers and technicians, specialists in anthropology and ethnology.
For this director’s iconic, the role of science is to raise awareness and alert on the dangers that threaten society. As early as 1934, while Hitler has been appointed chancellor the previous year in Germany, he founded, together with the physicist Paul Langevin and the philosopher Alain, the Committee of vigilance of the intellectual antifascists.
Paul Rivet located in the museum of German-jewish exiles, and Russian émigrés, including the ethnographer, Boris Vildé and the linguist Anatole Lewitsky. On July 14, 1940, he published an open letter to marshal Petain in which he is critical of the regime with a vengeance, which earned him to be relieved of his duties. Put in danger, he left Paris on 11 February 1941 and joined the British, escaping a police raid of the Gestapo to 24 hours.
That started Paul Rivet at the Museum of Man ?
A. D. : A resistance network is in place as of the summer of 1940 under the leadership of Boris Vildé, Anatole Lewitsky and the librarian Yvette Odo. It is one of the first groups clandestine struggle against the Nazis to appear in occupied France. Around this core revolve of individuals with strong character that the writer Jean Cassou, the journalist Pierre Brossolette, the art historian Agnès Humbert, or Sylvette Leleu, the owner of a garage in Béthune.
The group is working with small units spread throughout the territory by participating in the escape of prisoners and the collection of information. It plays an important role in the information of the Parisians misled by the propaganda of the Vichy regime by publishing in December 1940 the diary Resistance from information from the BBC and an informant working at the embassy of the United States.
In 1941, as reported, Boris Vildé, Yvette Oddon and Anatole Lewitsky are incarcerated. It was then that Germaine Tillon, anthropologist, specialist of the Berbers of Algeria, takes over a part of the museum’s activities. In January 1942, following the trial of these resistant that the press calls the” Case of the Museum of Man “ten of the defendants are sentenced to death, the leaders of the network Boris Vildé and Anatole Lewitsky. Yvonne Oddon finally being deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Seven men are executed by firing squad at Mont-Valérien in 1942. On 13 August, Germaine Tillon is stopped to turn and then deported in 1943 to Ravensbrück concentration camp. It is the end of the network at the Museum of Man.
How it resonates with the world today ?
A. D. : The men and women of the network of the Museum of Man have continued to fight to defend the freedom of thought, access to knowledge and the equality of peoples. Since its reopening and its complete redesign in 2015, the Museum of Man continues the missions laid down by its first director : to defend a message of humanist and universalist, and to fight obscurantism.
Through his exhibitions (such as “We and the other, from prejudice to racism “ in 2017-2018), and based on science, the Museum allows one to see the unity of the human species in its diversity so that the public can better understand it.