LILLE, France (AFP) — Yvette Lundy, a Resistance hero who helped Jews escape occupied France, survived the horrors of Nazi concentration camps and went on to teach reconciliation, has died aged 103, authorities said Sunday.
The youngest of seven children from a farming family in the champagne-growing region around Epernay, Lundy was a schoolteacher during the occupation and also worked at the town hall, a key job that allowed her to join a resistance network known as the Possum Escape Line.
From 1940, she supplied fake papers to Jews, men fleeing the Nazis' forced labour program — the STO — in Germany, and escaped prisoners of war, who were hidden by her brother Georges at his farm.
But the Gestapo caught up with her in June 1944, arresting Lundy, then 28, at her school.
She would be interned at Ravensbrueck some 50 miles north of Berlin, the only camp reserved for women and children.
Lundy would never forget the dehumanization she experienced there from the very beginning, when she was forced to undress in front of SS officers.
"The body is naked and the brain is suddenly in tatters. You're like a hole, a hole full of emptiness, and if you look around it's more emptiness," Lundy said.
The ordeal would last nearly a year until Lundy was assigned to a Kommando slave labour unit near Weimar — liberated by the Russian army in April 1945.
"Still today, I think of the camp at one point each day... often at night before I fall asleep," Lundy told AFP in 2017.
On the occasion of her 100th birthday that year, she was elevated to the Legion of Honor's second-highest level, that of grand officer.
Mayor of Epernay Franck Leroy said on Facebook that Lundy had "represented the honour of France during the darkest hours of our history.”
It was nearly 15 years before she began to speak out about her experiences, giving talks to French as well as German students.
Leroy praised her "incredible commitment to the duty of remembrance.”
She "also had a viewpoint on war and notably on Franco-German reconciliation which she saw as extremely important,” he told AFP.
© Agence France-Presse
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.