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French Resistance Fighter Tchakarian Dies At Age 101, Last Of Famed Manouchian Group

Then-French President Francois Hollande (left) and Serzh Sarkisian, the Armenian leader at the time, inaugurate Missak Manouchian Square in 2014 in Yerevan.

Arsene Tchakarian, the last surviving member of a famed group of immigrant Resistance fighters in France during World War II, has died at age 101, his family said on August 5.

Tchakarian, who was born to Armenian parents in Turkey in 1916, died on August 4 at a hospital at his home in the Paris suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine.

Tchakarian arrived in France in 1930, when his father accepted a coal-mining job. He was conscripted into the French Army in 1937, but was demobilized after France surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940.

He eventually became a member of a small group of foreign Resistance members led by Missak Manouchian, an Armenian poet and fellow communist. The fighters carried out attacks on German forces and conducted sabotage in Nazi-occupied France in 1943.

The group, which also included several Jewish members, was broken up in 1944 when 23 of its fighters were captured by German forces and sentenced to death by a military court.

Tchakarian managed to avoid the roundup and escaped to Bordeaux, where he remained active in the Resistance until the end of the war.

The Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis, attempted to discredit the group after anger surfaced over the executions, denouncing the fighters as "the army of crime."

The government’s "Affiche Rouge" or "red poster" focused on the foreign and Jewish origins of the group as part of efforts to turn the populace against the Resistance.

A film, titled Army of Crime, was made about the group in 2009.

Tchakarian, who received multiple medals for his bravery after the war, was granted French citizenship in 1958.

He received the Legion of Honor, France's highest distinction, in 2012.

President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter that Tchakarian was "a hero of the resistance and an indefatigable witness whose voice sounded strongly right to the end."

Tchakarian campaigned after the war for recognition of the mass killing of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide.

The mass slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks is a highly sensitive issue in both Armenia and Turkey.

Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than a planned, systemic effort by the Ottoman government against the Christian minority.

At least 23 countries, including France and Germany, recognize the killings as genocide.

With on reporting by AFP and dpa