Raymond Aubrac dies at 97; French Resistance hero of World War II

Raymond Aubrac, one of the last major figures of the French Resistance, who got away from the Nazis' grasp in a legendary escape led by his equally renowned wife, has died. He was 97.

Aubrac died late Tuesday at Paris' Val-de-Grace military hospital, said his granddaughter Helene Helfer Aubrac. She said he had been hospitalized in recent days after suffering from fatigue.

Born Raymond Samuel on July 31, 1914, to Jewish parents who were deported to Auschwitz, he and his wife — born as Lucie Bernard — took up the nom de guerre Aubrac after joining the Resistance early on in World War II. They helped set up Liberation-Sud (Liberation South), one of the first networks of the Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France.

Raymond Aubrac was captured along with celebrated Resistance hero Jean Moulin on June 21, 1943, when police raided a Resistance meeting spot — a doctor's office — near the southeastern city of Lyon.

He was taken to a Lyon prison, but Lucie Aubrac helped orchestrate his escape. She persuaded the local Gestapo leader, Klaus Barbie, to let her meet with her imprisoned husband. During the meeting, she told Aubrac of the Resistance's plan to attack the German truck that was to transfer him to another prison, then herself led the armed commando attack that freed both her husband and Moulin.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement that the escape had "entered into the legend of the history of the Resistance," and praised Aubrac and all Resistance members as "heroes of the shadows who saved France's honor, at a time when it seemed lost."

After the war, Lucie Aubrac taught history and geography, while Raymond went on to a successful career in government and banking.

Aubrac's wife died in 2007. He is survived by three children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.