PARIS (AP) — Hubert Germain, the last of an elite group of decorated French fighters who helped liberate France from Nazi control in World War II, has died. He was 101.
The French president’s office announced the death in a statement Tuesday, saying Germain “embodied a century of freedom.” It didn’t divulge details of his death.
Born in Paris on Aug. 6, 1920, Germain was taking his entry exam for France’s Naval Academy in June 1940, just after the French state capitulated to the Nazis.
“Rising from his examination table, he preferred to hand in a blank paper rather than give a blank check to the France that had gone to bed, that had given in to resignation and renunciation,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement.
Just before his 20th birthday, Germain fled to London with a ship carrying Polish troops to join Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s Free French force. Wounded in Italy during the war, Germain also fought in Egypt, Libya and what is now Syria, and took part in the “southern D-Day” Allied landings on the shores of Provence in 1944.
He was decorated by de Gaulle with the esteemed Order of the Liberation, an honor given to 1,038 people celebrated as “Companions of the Liberation.” Germain was their last surviving member, according to the Museum of the Order of the Liberation.
“With the departure of the last representative of this knighthood of the 20th century, a page of our history is turning,” Defense Minister Florence Parly said Tuesday.
Scattered other members of France’s anti-Nazi forces still survive, though their numbers are fast dwindling.
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After the war, Germain served as a mayor, legislator and government minister, and took part in war commemorations until he was at least 99, decked in his uniform weighed down with medals.
A memorial ceremony was held Friday at the Invalides monument in Paris. Germain will be buried at the Mont-Valerien memorial site west of Paris on Nov. 11, when France celebrates Armistice Day.
This story has been been corrected to show that Germain fought with Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s Free French forces and was not a French Resistance member.