Bernard Musmand

Bernard Musmand in Montpellier during the war.

Photographed by Mitch Braff in January of 2002


Bernard Musmand was born in 1930 in Metz, France. The Nazi takeover in 1940 forced his family to move to the south of France, which was outside of German control. They sent Bernard to a boarding school, where he posed as a Catholic. He became a courier for the Sixieme, a resistance group, and transported falsified papers for those escaping Nazi persecution.

Approximate area of partisan activity for Bernard Musmand

Bernard often came face to face with Germans or with French sympathizers, but he knew how to act confident and had a trick: to ask for the time or a match in perfect German. This eased any suspicions others might have of his true identity. His youth and his chutzpah saved him countless times.

When the Gestapo came to the boarding school looking for Bernard, the dean arranged his escape before the Germans could capture him. Bernard went to Millaut and again joined the Sixieme, all of whom joined the Maquis armed resistance. Aged fourteen and very afraid, Bernard went into an ambush against Nazi troops, gaining bravery once in battle.

When the French Army reformed, he was made Second Lieutenant but given a desk job. Refused permission to fight on the German front, he revealed his age and Jewish identity in exasperation. Within two weeks, he was relieved of duty and sent back to his family and his schoolmates.

"It was an exciting time, in certain ways," Bernard remembered. "I wish and hope it will never come back, but everything counted and you felt life was precious." As a young man, he swore never to speak German again. "I knew it was hateful; I know what the Germans did for Israel, but I can't forget." Bernard has not since uttered a word of the invader's language.

Bernard passed away in January 2010.