On discovering the horrors of the persecution of the Jews and other fellow countrymen and women, Henri Grouès joined the Resistance in July 1942. It was at that point that he met Lucie Coutaz, who would remain his loyal secretary for 39 years.
He used several false identities including “Abbé Pierre” so he wouldn’t be caught by the Gestapo and the police of the Vichy regime.
Abbé Pierre’s involvement in the Resistance began on 18 July 1942, when he took in two Jewish people who knocked on his door as they were being hunted down. At that moment, he realised the extent of the persecution the Jews were facing and spontaneously began to take action. With assistance from a nun he managed to obtained false identity papers for them and helped them escape to Switzerland. He created networks of routes through the Alps and set up a workshop in his home to manufacture false identity papers.
In February 1943, a law was passed to provide forced labour for Germany. Abbé Pierre formed the first maquis (underground fighters) for young people resisting the new law, and in April 1943, he founded a newspaper for them, for which he needed a secretary. He then met Lucie Coutaz, his loyal secretary for 39 years, who supported him with all his struggles and later co-founded Emmaus with him.
During this period, Henri Grouès used four different pseudonyms, including Abbé Pierre, so as to avoid identification by the Gestapo and Vichy police, whilst he became increasingly active in the Resistance. In May 1944, he was sent to cross the Pyrenees to Algiers covertly where he met General de Gaulle.
French Member of ParliamentAfter the war, Abbé Pierre was called on to go into politics. He was elected Member of Parliament for Meurthe-et-Moselle in October 1945. He was not re-elected in 1951.
Abbé Pierre returned to France in January 1945 once the Nazi occupiers had left. He was called on to represent the Catholic Resistance at the National Assembly.
On 21 October 1945, he was elected Member of Parliament for Meurthe-et-Moselle at the National Assembly, grouped with the Christian Democratic Party (MRP), even though he defined himself as an “independent elected representative heading the list of the MRP”.
Throughout his three terms, Abbé Pierre fought in particular for the defence of Resistance fighters, the promotion of federalist ideas and campaigned for the status of conscientious objector to be officially recognised. He gradually distanced himself from the MRP, eventually resigning in 1950 in protest against police violence and repression during a strike. With a few other Members of Parliament he founded the “Independent Left”.
He stood for election on 17 June 1951 but was not re-elected, although this did not disappoint him too much.