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At the Museum of the Order of the Liberation, in Paris, the “spies” of General de Gaulle honored
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At the Museum of the Order of the Liberation, in Paris, the “spies” of General de Gaulle honored

It is a short row of rooms and showcases located in a discreet wing of the Hôtel des Invalides, in Paris. A small atypical exhibition in a place that is just as atypical. “The General’s Secret Agents”, presented at the Museum of the Order of the Liberation, is a corner of the veil lifted on a whole section of the original organization of French foreign intelligence (recruitment, training, etc.), at the same time an unprecedented return to the sources of French-style clandestine actions.

The history of the birth of the Central Intelligence and Action Bureau (BCRA), created in London in January 1942 by General de Gaulle, is thus traced. An office whose name has evolved over the years, but which was, during the Second World War, the intelligence service of Free France. That is to say the ancestor of the Directorate General for External Security (DGSE), partner of the exhibition, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Read also: “The Secret Services of General de Gaulle. The BCRA 1940-1944”, by Sébastien Albertelli, in London and in the shadows

Designed in partnership with the order of the Liberation, the exhibition highlights in particular the journey of the companions of the Liberation. Some 174 of them – out of a total of 1,038 – were indeed spies working for de Gaulle. Among them, 60% died on mission: 12 shot down, 17 shot, 8 accidentally, 10 in deportation, and 12 by suicide, in particular by swallowing cyanide. The best known of them, the resistance fighter Jean Moulin, succumbed to torture in July 1943.

Filiation between Order of the Liberation and DGSE

The Order of the Liberation and the DGSE forged a special collaboration in 2018. That year, the fourragère de l’ordre (distinction) was awarded to military units of the DGSE. Since then, young agents, civilian or military, receive a numbered badge at the end of their integration course. A project carried by the current director of the DGSE, Bernard Emié, anxious to anchor his agents in this filiation, and thus to retain them in the face of the sirens of the private sector who regularly come to poach many of them.

The exhibition is also a tribute to the creativity of all those who survived, in particular with the help of various gadgets unearthed from the archives.

Since 2017, each new promotion of the DGSE – there are three per year – has also been named after a Companion of the Liberation member of the BCRA who died for France. A way of remembering that dozens of agents – the precise figure is not public – have died on mission since the creation of the DGSE. In January, their first names or pseudonyms were read for the first time during an intimate ceremony, under the Arc de Triomphe, in the presence of Prime Minister Jean Castex and Minister of the Armies Florence Parly.

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