You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.

Franz Kafka

Thomas Elek - Biography

Thomas Elek, also known as Támas Elek and KERPAL (b. 7 December 1924, Budapest - d. 21 Feb 1944, Paris) was one of the members of the French resistance executed at the fort of Mont Valérien as a member of the Manouchian Group, a volunteer of the French liberation army FTP-MOI. His name was one of the ten featured on the Affiche Rouge, displayed on thousands of copies by the Germans citywide after the trial of the 23 captured members of the Manouchian group. His photograph was displayed with the caption "Elek Juif Hongrois 8 déraillements" (Elek, Hungarian Jew, 8 derailments).

Contents

Biography

Early years

Thomas Elek was born in Budapest, Hungary on the 7 December 1924 to a family of communist intellectuals. The Elek family (Thomas, his father Sandor, his sister Marthe and his mother Hélène, then pregnant with a brother, Bela) emigrated to France in 1930. They settled in Paris, where his mother, after various minor jobs, became a restaurateur in 1934.

Second World War

Elek left the Lycée Louis-le-Grand at the age of 16, to become involved in the underground movement. He joined a group of students at the Sorbonne who were linked to the Groupe du musée de l'Homme, wrote and distributed tracts, and stuck papillons (butterflies - flyers) to walls. In August 1942, sympathising with the Jeunesses Communistes (Communist Youth), he became involved with the FTP-MOI (Francs-tireurs et partisans - Main-d'œuvre immigrée) and took up the armed struggle. His nom de guerre was KERPAL. Shortly after, Elek was assigned a solo attack on the Rive Gauche German bookstore, in which he used a booby-trapped book. In March 1943, along with the young Czech, Pavel Simo, he made a grenade attack on a restaurant reserved for German officers at Asnières. Simo was arrested, and executed on the 22 May 1943 at the Stand de tir de Balard.

On 1 June 1943 in a spontaneous attack, Elek threw two grenades into a group of 70 Germans in front of the Jaurès metro station. He was promoted and named head of the group at the center of the 4th detachment of the FTP-MOI Paris region; they were known as des dérailleurs and commanded by Joseph Boczov.

Elek participated in several railway derailments, notably that of the night of 28 July on the Paris-Château-Thierry line. This derailment is stated to have caused the death of 600 German soldiers .

In 1943 Elek was arrested with others of the Manouchian Group and tortured by the Brigades Spéciales. He was handed over to the Germans and detained in Fresnes Prison. All but one of the Manouchian group were condemned to death in a show trial and shot three days later, 21 Feb 1944, at Mont Valérien.

Legacy

  • Rather than acting as a deterrent, the Affiche Rouge inspired citizens to more actions with the Résistance.
  • Elek is portrayed by actor Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet in the 2009 French film The Army of Crime, directed by Robert Guédiguian.

See also

  • Francs-tireurs et partisans - Main-d'œuvre immigrée
  • Affiche rouge
  • Brigades Spéciales
  • Geheime Feld Polizei

Bibliography

  • FFI - FTPF, Pages de gloire des vingt-trois, Immigration, 1951.
  • La Mémoire d'Hélène (autobiographie d'Hélène Elek), éd François Maspéro, 1977
  • Les Jeunes et la Résistance, dir. Laurence Thibault, AERI/La Documentation Française, 2007
  • L'Affiche rouge, Adam Rayski, Mairie de Paris, 2003
  • La Résistance en Ile-de-France, DVD-Rom, AERI, 2004
  • Le Sang de l'étranger - Les immigrés de la M.O.I. dans la Résistance, S. Courtois, D. Peschanski, A. Rayski, Fayard, 1989


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