French anthropologist Germaine Tillion dies at 100

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Germaine Tillion, French World War II resistance fighter and anthropologist, died today at the age of 100.

She was born on May 30, 1907 in Allègre, Haute-Loire, France. Before 1940 and the fall of France she had already made 4 trips to Algeria, spending time there with the Berber people. During World War II she was a founding member of Groupe du musée de l'Homme, part of the French Resistance, which led to her arrest and being sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. She practiced anthropology during her internment, and after release at the end of the war published definitive treatise on the camp.

In the 1950s, during the Algerian War of Independence, Tillion served as an adviser to the French government in Algeria on its social policies, helping the government to set up 'Social Centres'. During this period, at the time of the battle of Algiers, she served as a liaison between the National Liberation Front leader Saadi Yacef and the French government, helping to arrange several cease-fires. Tillion was among the first to denounce the use of torture by French forces in the war.

Mme Tillion was one of the most decorated women in France, one of only five to be presented with the Grand-croix de la Légion d’honneur.