Olga Bancic (Romanian: [ˈolɡa ˈbant͡ʃɪk]; born Golda Bancic), also known under her French nom de guerre Pierrette (May 10, 1912 – May 10, 1944), was a Jewish Romanian communist, known for her role in the French Resistance during World War II. A member of the FTP-MOI and the Manouchian Group, she was captured by Nazi German forces in late 1943. She was tried with Missak Manouchian and 21 others in February 1944. While the others were executed immediately after the trial in France, she was transported to Stuttgart, Germany and beheaded in May.
Early life and education
Golda Bancic was born in 1912 to a Jewish family in Chişinău, Bessarabia, which was then part of the Russian Empire. The region became part of the Kingdom of Romania after World War I and the break-up of the empire. She worked in a mattress factory by the age of 12, and joined the local labor movement, taking part in a strike. Despite her age, she was taken to prison and beaten.
Bancic, who became a member of the outlawed Romanian Communist Party (PCR), was subsequently arrested and imprisoned several times during the 1930s and considered it part of her activities. In 1938, she traveled to France, where she aided local left-wing activists in transporting weapons to Spanish Republican forces fighting in the Civil War.
Marriage and family
In 1939 shortly before the outbreak of World war II, Bancic gave birth to Dolores, her daughter with Alexandru Jar, a writer and fellow activist. She left her child for safety in the care of a French family, following the start of German occupation.
Together with Jar, Bancic joined the Paris-based Francs-Tireurs et Partisans de la Main d'Oeuvre Immigrée (FTP-MOI), an armed group, and took part in about 100 sabotage acts against the Wehrmacht. They also helped manufacture and transport explosives. This came at a time when the PCR, weakened by successive crackdowns, had become divided into several autonomous groups. Similar to Gheorghe Gaston Marin, Bancic was among the Romanian activists who were integrated into the French Communist Party.
Arrested by the Gestapo on November 6, 1943, Bancic was tortured, but resisted giving information about her collaborators. On February 21, 1944, Bancic, Manouchian, and 21 men were sentenced to death— all male defendants were executed by a firing squad later that day at Fort Mont-Valérien. As French law prohibited execution of women by firing squad, Bancic was deported to a prison in Stuttgart, where she was beheaded by axe in the yard, on her 32nd birthday. During her transportation to the prison, Bancic wrote a letter to her daughter Dolores (called Dolores Jacob) and threw the paper out the window, in hopes that someone would get it to her. The letter was passed on and preserved.
After the show trial and executions, the Gestapo published thousands of copies of a propaganda poster, known as l'Affiche Rouge because of its red background. The poster featured ten men of the Manouchian group with their alleged crimes, and portrayed them as foreigners and an "army of crime". Intended to quell citizen resistance, the poster of the deceased French underground members inspired more. Parisians wrote on the posters Mort pour la France! (They died for France).
Bancic was survived by her daughter Dolores and Alexandru Jar. Jar returned with Dolores to Romania, where he managed to work as a writer under the new Communist regime. In the mid-1950s, the Communist leadership persuaded Jar to denounce "the cult of personality" among intellectuals, for which he was expelled from the Writers' Union in May 1956. After that, he became an opponent of the Party leadership around Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej when Dej continued waves of purges and arrests to stifle writers and intellectuals. Together with Mihail Davidoglu and Ion Vitner, Jar was criticized by the activist Miron Constantinescu for "intellectualist-liberalist tendencies."
In the postwar years, Communist authorities named several streets in Romania in honor of Bancic, and erected small monuments to her memory. Her name continued to be used as an asset by the Communists. Since the 1989 Revolution, she has fallen into some disfavor. In 2005, the writer and journalist Bedros Horasangian objected to Bucharest officials' plans to remove the Polonă Street commemorative plaque noting her activities and to change the name of Olga Bancic Street; he argued:
"It is not proper and insults the memory of a woman who actually died for Allied victory (when Romania was allied to the Germans!). [...] In France, those who have fought in the antifascist resistance enjoy full respect".
In popular culture
Bancic is portrayed by the actress Olga Legrand in the French film The Army of Crime (2009) about the Manouchian Group, directed by Robert Guédiguian.