Francis Chirat (1916-1944)

Francis Chirat

[Born August 7, 1916, in Villeurbanne (Rhône), gunned down on July 27, 1944 in Lyon (Rhône); messenger boy; president of the JOC [Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne] section of Villeurbanne; departmental secretary of the MPF [Mouvement populaire des familles] in Lyon; distributor of Témoignage chrétien (1943), leader of the organizations of Christian youth resistants in the southern Zone [Zone sud] (1944).]

Oldest of three children, son of a silk worker, Francis Chirat went to the parochial school of Villeurbanne and entered work at the age of 13 as a messenger boy of Crédit lyonnais. Member of the JOCiste section of his town, he became its secretary, then the president at age 17. Departmental secretary of the Lyonnaise Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne (JOC) in 1934, he also militated in the CFTC [Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens] and supported the strikers of 1936. Constrained thereafter in a prolonged repose, he read much, from the Bible to Karl Marx and Bukharin. 

He went through his military service (1938-1939), and then the Phoney War [drôle de guerre] in Lyon, at the fodder yard of the cavalry, before being sent to combat on May 1940. Demobilized, returning to the yard as secretary, he pursued his action at the JOC: establishing a senior branch of the movement, contact with the prisoners. He organized the “Press and Propaganda” section of the 15th anniversary regional congress (June 1942), [and] wrote for the JOCiste organ Jeunesse ouvrière and associated with the Cahiers de notre jeunesse team of the Association catholique de la jeunesse française’s (ACJF).

Andrée Brevet

After the round-up by the Germans of 150 Villeurbannes on March 1, 1943, he created a committee of mutual assistance to claim their freedom and to help out the families, with the aid of the young president of the JOCF in Villeurbanne, Andrée Brevet.  Shortly after he became the permanent and regional secretary of the Mouvement populaire des familles (MPF). He gave support to the youth  of the Service du travail obligatoire (STO) in Germany, aiding workers who opposed [the STO] and procuring for them false papers.

He then made his service at rue Salomon-Reinach a center for the distribution among the worker milieu of the clandestine [weekly] Témoignage chrétien, distributing three thousand Cahiers and ten thousand Courriers with each publication. In close contact with those responsible for the journal, he asked for texts more accessible for young workers. In spite of periods of physical exhaustion which obligated him to rest in the country, he was very active and attentive to everyone. Living the JOCiste spirituality of giving in the name of Christ, he overcame the emotional loneliness from which he suffered after many disappointments, notably by Andrée Breve in January 1944 (extracts of their correspondence in Livre de vie d’une jociste). 

At the end of 1943, he met the student JÉCiste [Jeunesse Étudiante Chrétienne] Gilbert Dru, busy inside the ACJF developing “Christian teams” to group together and to support the scattered youths in the maquis or the resistance organizations. Francis Chirat became responsible for the southern Zone [Zone sud], visiting the maquis and the groups of the South-East. The collaboration of these two militants led to a close friendship between Francis, skilled organizer, familiar with the worker milieu, and the intellectual Gilbert who drew up vast perspectives for future actions. Chirat assisted Dru in the creation and activities of the Comité de coordination et d’action chrétienne (CCAC) which, under the presidency of Maurice Guérin, prepared the Liberation and the rest to ensure the presence of young Christian resistants in a grand republican movement. Francis Chirat also represented the “Jeunes chrétiens combattants” inside the Forces unies de la jeunesse patriotique (FUJP) of the Southern Zone. He presented Marxism to a group of youths gathered in Lyon around Joseph Hours for clandestine political formation.  

After having participated in aid at the time of the bombing of Lyon on May 26, 1944, he resumed his tours, he was in Paris with Gilbert Dru at the beginning of July, in Marseille from the 14th to the 16th. On the evening of the 17th, the Gestapo appeared in Lyon, on premises on loan to Guérin , where a CCAC meeting had just ended. Dru and Chirat were the only ones remaining, carrying compromising documents. Arrested, they were held in the Montluc prison and tortured. On July 27, at noon, the day after an attack against German troops, they were slaughtered as hostages with a submachine gun alongside three other prisoners, [at] Bellecour square, in front of the cafe where the attack had taken place, and the body of these “terrorists” (presented as responsible for the attack) were left exposed for four hours on the sidewalk – where today the monument “Veilleur de pierre” symbolizes the sacrifice of numerous Lyonnaise resistants. On August 1, the funerals of Francis Chirat and Gilbert Dru brought together a crowd of friends at the parish Notre-Dame Saint-Alban. Francis Chirat was decorated with the Croix de Guerre alongside the Silver Star and the Médaille de la Résistance. 

Andrée Brevet, whose family, engaged in an intelligence network, was threatened, went into hiding in March 1944. Having become a liaison officer for the “Corvette” intelligence network, she was arrested in Paris on July 17 and deported on August 15 in Ravensbrück where she died on March 23, 1945, at the age of twenty-five (Croix de guerre with vermeil star and Medal of the Resistance).

[SOURCES : Xavier de Montclos (sous la dir.), Dictionnaire du monde religieux dans la France contemporaine, t. 6 : Le Lyonnais-Le Beaujolais, Beauchesne, 1994. – Francis Chirat, 7 août 1916-27 juillet 1944, Paris, Éd. Ouvrières, 1945. – Renée Bédarida, Les Armes de l’Esprit, Témoignage chrétien (1941-1944), Éd. Ouvrières, 1977. – Bernard Comte, Jean-Marie Domenach, Christian Rendu, Denise Rendu, Gilbert Dru, un chrétien résistant, Beauchesne, 1998, p. 117-119. – Les Cahiers du GRMF, 2 : De l’Action catholique au mouvement ouvrier, 1984, p. 207-208 ; 6 : Des chrétiens à l’épreuve du politique. Les engagements du MPF-MLP à Lyon 1934-1960, 2003. – Andrée Brevet, Livre de vie d’une jociste, Amiot-Dumont, 1952, p. 107-143. – Renseignements communiqués par Bernard Comte.]

[https://maitron.fr/spip.php?article19899, notice CHIRAT Francis [CHIRAT Pierre, Antoine, Francis] par André Caudron, Nathalie Viet-Depaule, version mise en ligne le 4 décembre 2014, dernière modification le 11 mars 2020.] < — (Original)