Josephine Baker: entertainer, resistance fighter to be added to Pantheon
Paris, Nov 27 (EFE).- Josephine Baker, a prominent entertainer who played an active role in the French resistance against the Nazi occupation, is set to be posthumously honored by being added to Paris’ Pantheon in recognition of her activism.
The US-born French entertainer on Tuesday will be the sixth woman to enter the secular temple where France honors its most illustrious figures shedding light on her efforts during World War II that are largely unknown internationally.
The French defense ministry’s historical defense service (SHD) has released the documentation it has on her work in the Resistance and later in the aviation of the Free French Forces.
Baker, who arrived in France in 1925 at the age of 19 to become a performer, soon joined the military effort, initially performing for French troops.
“Since the beginning of World War II, she did not want to be considered as a singer in the service of the Army, but as a combatant who sang,” Geraud Létang, an SHD historian, told Efe.
After the fall of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, she refused to perform for German troops and decided instead to cooperate with the French military espionage services.
Besides sharing information she got from Paris’ high society, her band provided camouflage for the resistance’s spies who joined her artistic troupe as technicians and makeup artists.
Commander Jacques Abtey, head in Paris of the military counterintelligence of the resistance, was presented as her agent.
In November 1940, the singer did a long tour of Spain and Portugal, two countries ruled by right-wing dictators, where spies from all the belligerent countries resided due to the Iberian countries’ neutrality.
For Baker, obtaining passports and travel permits was much easier than it was for the spies enrolled in her company.