Lyon is a big city situated in the centre of France, that which has always made it a strategically important city in case of conflict on French territory.
Nazi Germany was well aware of this and that is why once the German Army had invaded France in 1940 they were quick to install major military facilities in the city. They knew well that resistance movements would spread quickly there unless kept in check.
The Resistance and Deportation Museum is located in what was the Gestapo interrogation centre for Lyon. The Gestapo used the building to interrogate, torture and kill suspected resistance personnel, undesirable elements such as Communists and homosexuals, Jews, and those suspected of hiding them in Lyon in order to help them to avoid capture and deportation.
It was run by Claus Barbie, nicknamed 'The Butcher of Lyon' and head of the Gestapo in Lyon, who was eventually imprisoned for life for the torture and killing of many people there. He died in prison.
The museum contains many books and historical documents, such as this one which contains the names of thousands of Jews sent to the death camps.
A visit to the museum takes one through the very same corridors that were used to take prisoners to and from cells and interrogation rooms. They have now been turned into galleries which honour famous Resistance figures and those deported, using photographs, hand-written letters and other documents.
There are TV screens set into the walls at various intervals which run scenes from World War Two footage. Here is one of them, which shows French resistance groups training in the Lower Alps, not far from Lyon. Others show people getting herded onto trains, or Marechal Petain, the head of the Collaborationist French government during the occupation.
Many resistance fighters were ordinary working class people. This room recreates a kitchen from that period. Much of the organisation of the resistance effort was carried out in houses and apartments such as this, under cover of friends having a drink or a meal together. All the furniture and other objects are authentic period pieces. Ordinary people were also instrumental in helping allied military personnel who had been shot down in planes and who were trying to get back to Britain, or stopping Jewish citizens from falling into the hands of the Gestapo by sheltering them.
This door has been kept in place. It is a cell door, with inscriptions upon it that were put their after the liberation of Lyon by the allies.
Resistance movements used clandestine printing presses to print their tracts and other documents. They were carefully hidden in cellars or business premises because the discovery by the Gestapo of this kind of equipment meant torture, execution, or the death camps for those caught using it, or the owners of the property in which it was discovered.
The Resistance and Deportation Museum of Lyon is an edifying tribute to the heroism and suffering of the many French people who resisted Nazi occupation, and if ever you come to this fine city do not forget to take this wonderful opportunity to step back into history and remember the sacrifice of all those who fought for human decency and freedom.