‘I Am Unable to Serve with Loyalty’
The Fellowship | March 1, 2017
Life: November 14, 1905 – March 1, 1944
Why you should know him: A police chief in occupied France during WWII, Phillipe’s acts of resistance saved the lives of many Jews, but ultimately cost him his own.
Throughout his career, Jean Phillipe held positions in both the French army and police forces. But when the Vichy government aligned with the occupying Nazis, Phillipe stood up for what was right and joined the Resistance.
In 1942, he was named chief of police in Toulouse. This position of power allowed him to become a leading member of the Resistance movement. It also allowed him to do much good – he prevented the arrested of fellow Resistance fighters, while also providing false identification papers to fleeing Jews. These false papers, complete with authentic police seals, allowed young Jews to be smuggled into neutral Switzerland or hidden in France.
In 1943, the Nazis ordered Phillipe to submit a list of all Jews in his precinct. Instead of betraying those who relied on him, Phillipe refused the request and tendered his resignation. In his letter of resignation, Phillipe wrote:
I regret to inform you that in view of our government’s present policy not conforming to my ideals, I am unable to serve it with loyalty. I refuse to persecute the Jews who, according to my opinion, have the same right for happiness and life as Mr. Laval [Prime Minister of the collaborationist Vichy France] himself. I refuse to forcibly uproot French workers from their families: I believe that we have no right to deport our fellow citizens and that any Frenchman who becomes an accomplice to this infamy is a traitor, even if he is called Philippe Petain [the Head of State of collaborationist Vichy France]…
After resigning, Phillipe continued his acts of heroism as part of the Underground Resistance. He was later arrested by the Gestapo, after which he was interrogated, tortured, imprisoned, and executed.
Because of his selflessness that saved countless Jewish lives, Jean Phillipe was named Righteous Among the Nations in 1995.