Contributing to historical works

Rail workers and the Resistance

In December 2011, La Vie du Rail published Les Cheminots dans la Résistance (Rail Workers & the Resistance), a book by historian Cécile Hochard based on the eponymous exhibition organized by the French Resistance Foundation with the backing of SNCF. As well as shedding light on how the state-owned company was forced to become a cog in the Nazi machine, the author reproduces official documents, with expert commentary, to give a fresh, more nuanced and detailed look at how rail workers—acting alone or as members of networks and movements—played their part in the Resistance.

Cécile Hochard, Les Cheminots dans la résistance (Rail Workers & the Resistance), Paris, La Vie du Rail, in association with the French Railway Historical Society (AHICF), 2011.

©Rails et histoire/La Vie du rail

A biography of Henri Lang

In 2012, we worked with French author Nathalie Bibas on a biography of Henri Lang. A graduate of France’s prestigious Ecole Polytechnique engineering school, Lang served as SNCF Regional Manager, South-eastern France, in 1938 when the company was established. He also taught at the École des Ponts et Chaussées civil engineering school.

In 1940, he was dismissed from both positions under the anti-Jewish laws passed by the Vichy government. Nevertheless, he remained in charge of a project to install electrical service on the Paris-Lyon rail line—work he did right up until the day before his arrest on December 12, 1941.

Lang was held at Royallieu-Compiègne internment camp and then deported to Auschwitz on March 27, 1942, where he died on May 21 that same year.

Nathalie Bibas, Henri Lang, 1895–1942: Un dirigeant de SNCF mort à Auschwitz (Henri Lang, 1895–1942: An SNCF executive killed at Auschwitz), Paris, LBM, 2012.

Underground leaflets and stickers

Resistance members worked diligently, writing and printing thousands of leaflets and papillons, tiny stickers carrying messages of civil disobedience against the occupying forces. For all their flimsiness—and their hurried, makeshift design—they have survived the ravages of time, delivering a powerful message about the dark days of the Occupation and conveying the sense of urgency that drove the Resistance.

These priceless documents, held in the Rare Books Reserve at France’s National Library, are reproduced with commentary in this book published with SNCF’s support.Tracts et papillons clandestins de la Résistance : Papiers de l’urgence (Underground Leaflets and Stickers of the French Resistance: Conveying a Sense of Urgency), Paris, Artulis, 2015.

Learn more (all links in French):
– Artulis dedicated mini-site
Leaflets produced by rail workers and found at rail facilities in German-occupied France (on SNCF’s Open Archives website)
– An article by Bruno Leroux and Cécile Hochard on leaflets found at rail facilities between 1941 and 1943 and held in SNCF’s Historical Archives.

A leaflet written by rail workers, found at Roanne station in 1943 ©SNCF SARDO

A biographical directory of the executed

In 2015, we worked with the authors of a new biographical directory—the first volume to profile every person summarily executed during the Occupation. Its extensively researched and detailed biographies cover those arrested and killed for being active Resistance members—or on account of their origin, background, activism or defiance—in the German- and Italian-occupied and Vichy-controlled zones of France. Despite their diversity, most of these people shared one thing in common: a determination to stand up to cruelty.

Claude Pennetier, Jean-Pierre Besse, Thomas Pouty and Delphine Leneveu (eds.), Les Fusillés (1940–1944), Dictionnaire biographique des fusillés et exécutés par condamnation et comme otage ou guillotinés (The Executed (1940–1944): A Biographical Dictionary of the Summarily Executed, Murdered Hostages and the Beheaded), Ivry, Les Éditions de l’Atelier, 2015.

The book is no longer in print. Since 2017, the biographies have been hosted on a dedicated website (in French).