Pierre Durand

1923 (Mulhouse) - 2002 (Paris)


"When we were young, we found our paths ourselves, the paths of struggle. We wanted independence, freedom and peace."

Pierre Durand was born in Mulhouse on 30 August 1923. After graduating from secondary school, he prepared for the entrance examinations at the École Normale Supérieure by attending seminars in history, philosophy and ancient languages at the Sorbonne in Paris. After the German invasion, he joined the French resistance, initially in Paris and, starting late in 1942, he moved on to the Franc-Tireurs et Partisans Français, the largest military resistance organization of France. In 1943, he assumed responsibility for the seven eastern départements of France.

On 10 January 1944, Durand was arrested during a raid in Besançon. Following interrogation and torture, he was taken to the Compiègne camp and, in May 1944, to Buchenwald Concentration Camp as a "political inmate". Here, he created ties to the French communist underground organization Le Comité de Défense des Intérêts Français (CIF). Because he knew German, he acted as a liaison between the CIF and the International Camp Committee headed by the German communists. At a memorial service held by inmates for their dead comrades on 19 April 1945, Durand read the oath of Buchenwald inmates in French.

After his return to France, Durand became the vice-editor in chief and reporter in chief for the communist party paper L’Humanité. His reporting focussed on the Soviet Republic as well as on the GDR and on West Germany, where he lived from 1950 on as foreign correspondent. Pierre Durand obtained a doctorate in jurisprudence, in political and social sciences. He wrote numerous non-fiction books starting in the 1960s, covering subjects such as French and Russian contemporary history, Karl Marx, the Résistance, French inmates in Buchenwald as well as Ilse Koch in his La Chienne de Buchenwald ("The Bitch of Buchenwald"). In 1982, he became chair of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and Subcamps.

Pierre Durand died in Paris on 6 May 2002.