Jeannie Rousseau

Jeannie Rousseau
Jeannie Rousseau (de Clarens).jpg
Jeannie Rousseau (1939 or 1940 photo)
Born (1919-04-01)1 April 1919
Died 23 August 2017(2017-08-23) (aged 98)
Montaigu, France
Spouse(s) Henri de Clarens

Jeannie Yvonne Ghislaine Rousseau, married name Jeannie de Clarens, (1 April 1919 – 23 August 2017) was an Allied intelligence agent in occupied France during World War II, a member of the "Druids" network led by Georges Lamarque [fr]. Codenamed Amniarix, she evaded Gestapo agents while gathering crucial information on the Germans' emerging rocket weapons programs from behind enemy lines. Her intelligence reports, forwarded to London, led directly to the British raid on Peenemünde and to delays and disruptions in the V-1 and V-2 programs, saving many thousands of lives in the West. Rousseau was captured twice and spent time in three concentration camps.[1] After the war, she worked as a freelance interpreter.

Early life

Born on 1 April 1919 in Saint-Brieuc, Jeannie Yvonne Ghislaine Rousseau was the daughter of Jean Rousseau, a World War I veteran and a French foreign ministry official, and his wife Marie, née Le Charpentier. A brilliant linguist, she graduated in languages from Sciences Po in 1939. After the outbreak of World War II, she moved with her family to Dinard where she became an interpreter for the occupying German forces.[2][3]

Wartime work

Rousseau began gathering intelligence on German operations even before she made contact with Allied intelligence. She took a job at the French national chamber of commerce as a translator and soon became the organization's top staffer, meeting regularly with the German military commander's staff. She was a frequent visitor with the Germans, discussing commercial issues, such as complaints about Nazi commandeering or offers to sell them goods, such as steel and rubber. "I was storing my nuts, but I had no way to pass them on."[4][5][6] She was arrested by the Gestapo in January 1941,[2] but was later released and prohibited from staying in the coastal area.

In 1941 she moved to Paris where she began working for a Parisian company that supplied materials to the German war effort, thus positioning herself as a source of valuable information for the Allied forces.[6][7][8]

Her formal career as a spy began in 1941, with a chance meeting with Georges Lamarque on a night train from Paris to Vichy.[8] Lamarque remembered Rousseau from the University of Paris, where she had shown talent in languages, including German, and finished first in her class, in 1939. He asked her to work for him, and she immediately agreed.[4]

During 1943, she filed, among other reports two particularly remarkable ones about Peenemünde. These reports led R.V. Jones, and ultimately, the rest of the British government and the rest of the Allies, directly to the missile and rocket development work going on there. Her collection and forwarding of this intelligence under very difficult circumstances led, through Jones' analysis and persuasive abilities in London, to the British raid on Peenemünde.[1] R.V. Jones relates that when he first inquired about the source of the extraordinary report that had originally tipped off the British government to what was going on at Peenemünde, all he learned was that it came from "one of the most remarkable young women of her generation," part of a small espionage network reporting from occupied France.[2]

Shortly before D-Day, a plan to evacuate her and two other agents was foiled by the Gestapo. She was the first to be caught. But even as she was being captured, she warned her comrades and one escaped. As Jones put it: "AMNIARIX's reports stand brilliantly in the history of intelligence, and three concentration camps — Ravensbruck, Königsberg (a punishment camp), and Torgau could not break her."[1][9] She was rescued by the Swedish Red Cross shortly before the end of the war.

Life after the war

Jeanne de Clarens with James Woolsey and Reginald Victor Jones in 1992

While recovering in Sweden from tuberculosis contracted during her imprisonment, she met Henri de Clarens, who had been in the Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps. The two married and had two children. De Clarens died in 1995.[2][10]

Rousseau worked as a freelance interpreter after the war, for the United Nations and other agencies.[2] Avoiding interviews with reporters and historians, her story remained largely untold.[5] In 1993, then as Madame Jeannie de Clarens, she agreed to accept the Central Intelligence Agency's Agency Seal Medal.[2] She revealed more details of her story to journalist David Ignatius in 1998.[4] Other awards included the Legion of Honour in 1955, supplemented by the grand officer medal in 2009. She also received the Resistance Medal and the Croix de guerre.[2]

She died on 23 August 2017 in Montaigu, Vendée, aged 98.[2][11])[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Honoring Two World War II Heroes". Center for the Study of Intelligence. CIA. 14 April 2007. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Grimes, William (29 August 2017). "Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens, Valiant World War II Spy, Dies at 98". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Jeannie de Clarens née Rousseau". Mémoire de guerre (in French). Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Ignatius, David (28 December 1998). "After Five Decades, A Spy Tells Her Tale; Britain Gained Warning of Nazi Rockets". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  5. ^ a b Ignatius, David. "Frenchwoman Reveals Tale of Spying on Nazis / Reports persuaded Churchill to bomb weapons testing site". San Francisco, California: SFGate. Washington Post.
  6. ^ a b Campbell, Christy (29 March 2012). Target London: Under Attack from the V-Weapons During WWII. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7481-2201-1.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Jeannie Rousseau". The Times. 28 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b Holmey, Olivier (29 August 2017). "Jeannie Rousseau, spy for the French Resistance". The Independent.
  9. ^ Ignatius, David (29 August 2017). "A diminutive woman — and a spy who defined courage". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ Katz, Brigit (30 August 2017). "Courageous WWII Spy Jeannie Rousseau Has Died at 98". Smithsonian.
  11. ^ "Résistante très active, elle avait transmis de précieux renseignements sur les bombes V1 et V2 allemandes: Jeannie de Clarens est décédée" [Active Resistant, who had transmitted valuable information about German V1 and V2 rockets: Jeannie de Clarens has died]. RTL (in French). 25 August 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Décès de l'ancienne résistante Jeannie de Clarens" [Death of former Resistant Jeannie de Clarens]. Le Figaro (in French). Paris. AFP. 25 August 2017. Retrieved 25 August 2017.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA document "Honoring Two World War II Heroes".