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Early resistance Organisation of resistance Resistance in cities Young people

The Black Hand

They were between 14 and 16 years young when they created one of the frist resistance groups after the military defeat of France in June 1940. They lived in the region of Alsace, which was not only occupied by German troops  but annected to the German Reich and which was submitted to a comprehensive policy of Nazification, which included to eradicate French language and traditions in this multilingual border region.

 

The group, called „La main noire” (The black hand), was created in september 1940 by 16-year-old Marcel Weinum, and soon gathered  25 boys, mostly apprentices, and most of them pratcicing catholics. They refused to accept the annexation of Alsace and its Nazification. The members of the Main Noire organized themselves in little groups, without knowledge of their parents and the support of adults, and carried out a broad range of resistance activities: anti-German propaganda, for example through leaflets and graffiti, stealing of weapons, sabotage actions, and intelligence gathering. The group’s name should “symbolize the vengeful hand which opposes the Nazi affronts made in Alsace”.

 

In the late evening of 8 May 1941, Marcel Weinum, with another member of the group, Albert Uhlrich, were walking through the non-illuminated streets of Strasbourg, carrying grenades in a briefcase, with the aim to destroy shops which exhibited the portrait of Hitler. But then they saw a car carrying the Nazi flag, unguarded, parked in front of restaurant – it obviously belonged to a high ranked Nazi. So they decided to throw two grenades on the car which was heavily damaged. Soldiers came fastly, but they managed to escape. It turned out that it was the car of Gauleiter Robert Wagner, the highest Nazi representative  in Alsace.

 

End of May 1941, Marcel Weinum and then many other members were arrested and put on trial. Weinum was sentenced to death and decapitated on 14th April 1942, while others were sentenced to prison or forced to join the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front. Forgotten for many decades, they are today honored in Alsace as one of its first resistance groups. But they remain unknown by the wider public in France and Germany – what is certainly also due to the particular situation of Alsace: „La main noire” is not considered as being part of the resistance in Germany, and the resistance in Alsace was not directly connected to the big resistance movements in France.

 

Nicolas Moll

Sources / further reading
  • Gérard Pfister (dir.), Marcel Weinum et la Main Noire, Éditions Arfuyen, Paris-Orbey, 2007 (with testimonies and original documents)
  • Madison Whipple, Marcel Weinum & La Main Noire: Alsace’s Youth Resistance During WWII: https://www.thecollector.com/marcel-weinum-la-main-noire/ , 18.7.2023
  • „L’hommage aux jeunes résistants alsaciens de la Main noire” [Tribute to the young Alsatian resistance fighters of the Black Hand], 14.4.2012 : Short tv-report on the unveiling of a street plaque  named after one of the members of  La main noire, Ceslav Sieradzki: https://enseignants.lumni.fr/fiche-media/00000003438/l-hommage-aux-jeunes-resistants-alsaciens-de-la-main-noire.html

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