Enter now, Germaine Tillion!
Do us the great honor of being the first guest of our temple of heritage heroes, you, the ethnologist with a hundred lives, who has done more than collect a sensitive and intangible heritage, who has grasped the true meaning of this quest. You will feel yourself at home here...
 
Because you are fascinated by human beings
You were born in 1907. Since childhood you have wanted to understand the people around you, discover the secret of human nature. And then one day, you discover that a science is already doing all that, and so you become an ethnologist.
In 1935, after earning your diplomas, you're eager to practice your insatiable curiosity, you go immediately on the field, in a mission in the Aures (a province in the east of Algeria). You study a Berber ethnic group for five years, and there, you understand the basics: "If ethnology, which is a matter of patience, listening, courtesy and time, can still serve a purpose, it is that of learning to live together.”
 
Because you are a fearless rebel
Back in France at the time of the debacle in June 1940, you are disgusted by the armistice: "For me it was a shock so violent that I had to leave the room to vomit." So you act, you help prisoners to escape and flee to the free zone. Then you get attached to other resisters, those of the network from the Musée de l'Homme. You become the leader of this network in July 1941, after the arrest or death of your companions, in your turn you are arrested and taken in October 1943) to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
There, facing the worst barbarism and death, you use the science of ethnology as a weapon: "It's so important to understand what crushes you. It is perhaps this that we can call "exist". To understand is to fight, and you're the most courageous warrior, you do not debase yourself to hatred or revenge. You give even a clandestine conference to your companions in which you allow them to decrypt the causes and mechanisms of horror in which they live. After the war, you pursue this fight, you become a historian and critic of Nazi and Stalinist concentration camp system. You preserve all oral, written and photographic testimonies that you can bring together to ensure that this memory should not be allowed to escape future generations.
But your ultimate weapon against barbarism is the laughter, the best enemy of all systems that dehumanize. You make your comrades laugh with an operetta written in secret: the Verfügbar aux enfers, in which you develop a liberating black humor, written to very cheerful popular tunes. While your tormentors want to make of you an obedient beast, you throw your biggest smile in their faces, remain yourself and inflict on them a terrible defeat.
 
Because you are always committed for mankind
You say: "Knowledge is a commitment and an escape, because when you have nothing left, only the human mind can keep you from sinking." Because for you, to be an ethnologist is not only to save the testimonies of the past, but also acting in the present.
Your fieldwork in Algeria, that you pursue after the war, serves for you to understand, expose and fight the poverty of Algerians and between 1954 and 1962, the violence of the two warring parties during the War of Algeria.
Your fieldwork allows you to understand the condition of women in Mediterranean societies, and to commit yourself for their emancipation.
And you'll be committed until your last breath in 2008, at the age of 101 years.
 
In summary, we welcome you here because you are an example for all the Guidos, because you fight like nobody else  barbarity, defend human dignity through culture and knowledge, always pursueing a quest for understanding the world that makes you stronger, and you still help us by infusing us with the spirit of resistance.
 
 
To go further :
 
 
Ravensbrück, tr. Gerald Satterwhite, New York, Anchor Books, 1975.
 
The Republic of Cousins, tr. Quintin Hoare, Londres, Al Saqi Books, 1983
 
Algeria: The Realities, tr. Ronald Matthews, Londres, Eyre & Spottiswood ; New York, A.A.Knopf, 1958. Réédition : New York, Greenwood Press ; 1976.
 
 
Author: 
Guido

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