Jacques Lusseyran (September 19, 1924 – July 27, 1971) was a blind French author and French Resistance leader. Born in Paris, he became totally blind in a school accident at the age of eight. He soon learned to adapt to being blind and maintained many close friendships. At a young age, he became alarmed at the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany. He decided to learn German so that he could listen to radio broadcasts and follow the rise of the Nazis. Less than a year after the invasion of France, in the spring of 1941, at the age of seventeen, Lusseyran formed a resistance group called, the Volunteers of Liberty with fifty-two other boys. Because of his remarkable ability to read people as a blind person, he was put in charge of recruitment and the group grew to over six hundred young men. The group later merged with another resistance group called Defense de la France, which published an underground newspaper that eventually achieved a circulation of 250,000. After the war, it became one of France’s most respected newspapers, France Soir. Lusseyran was arrested along with other leaders of the DF and he spent fifteen months in the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp. After the war, Lusseyran became a university professor in the United States. He died in a car accident in France in 1971.
And There Was Light: The Extraordinary Memoir of a Blind Hero of the French Resistance in World War II by Jacques Lusseyran
Publisher: New World Library; Third Edition (March 18, 2014)
Paperback: 288 pages
Genres: Memoir, History, World War II, Spirituality
Publicist: Monique Muhlenkamp, firstname.lastname@example.org 415-884-2100 ext. 15
Reviewed by Charles S. Weinblatt
“Light is in us, even if we have no eyes,” wrote Jacque Lusseyran, a French underground resistance leader during World War II. His breathtaking memoir, And There Was Light, reveals Lusseyran’s intense love of life and his courageous defense of France against Nazi Germany. Later, he had to survive brutality, sickness and starvation at the notorious Nazi concentration camp, Buchenwald.
In a school accident at the age of eight, Lusseyran becomes totally blind. Yet, he continues to experience an otherwise normal childhood with many close friends. In the months following his accident, Lusseyran makes the astounding discovery of a “rainbow-filled world within.” Despite his impediment, he is able to focus his remaining senses upon the world and people surrounding him with amazing results. He reads braille vociferously and gains admission to the finest schools in France. With his best friend Jean, Lusseyran immerses himself in life, friendships, learning and social causes. He is soon respected by everyone for his intellect, his amity and his unerring capacity to understand other people.
Lusseyran delivers a powerful description of the wonderful beauty of life and also its consummate evil, packaged together into a fast-paced expose of his youth. Though blind, he can “see” people and events with distinctive detail. Though imprisoned, his soul soars with courage. His friends defend him unquestioningly and his love for France never falters.
Lusseyran’s bravery inspires others to follow his example, even when captured by Nazis and sent to Buchenwald. He is a natural leader, yet without a trace of ego. He desires nothing for himself, but the ability to free France from Nazi occupation.
After experiencing permanent blindness, Lusseyran could have reverted to a peaceful, quiet life in his home or at an institution. Instead, he quickly learns how to overcome his blindness as he soldiers on into adolescence. As a young adult, he becomes immensely popular and is trusted by all. His burning need to save France stands as an illustration for many others.
Leading by example, Lusseyran pulls a large group of resistance fighters together. He has an uncanny ability to “read” others by their vocal patterns, weeding out those who are insincere and those who serve the Gestapo and the SS. His resistance fighters soon number in the hundreds and they eventually merge with another resistance group. Eventually, in 1943, Lusseyran and several other leaders are betrayed to the Germans. Interrogated extensively by the Gestapo, Lusseyran soon finds himself starving to death at Buchenwald. His survival there is nothing less than a miracle. Of more than two thousand resistance fighters imprisoned, Lusseyran is one of thirty to survive the war.
Told in first-person, this book is a powerful and evocative testimony of one disabled child’s power to change the world. While very well written and edited, the book might be enhanced by the addition of maps, diagrams and pictures relevant to events in Nazi-occupied France.
Not since Helen Keller has a blind person done more to save people and enrich their lives. As a leader of the resistance, Lusseyran allocates his powerful intellect and considerable courage to defend his beloved France against Nazi tyranny. This striking portrayal of bravery is poignant and touching. It is a salient and tender examination of the courage and fortitude exhibited by the resistance and imprisoned Frenchmen.
Reviewer Charles S. Weinblatt is the author of Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story, Lost & Found, Job Seeking Skills for Students and several other published books and articles.