An ethnologist at the Musée de l’Homme and a pioneer of the French Resistance, Anatole Lewitsky contributed alongside Boris Vildé and Yvonne Oddon to founding one of France’s earliest groups of resistance fighters: the Musée de l’Homme network.
Anatole Lewitsky was born in 1901 near Moscow. Descended from members of Russia’s imperial nobility, he fled into exile with his family during the Bolshevik Revolution and settled in Paris in 1924 where he lived in poverty. He worked multiple odd jobs while studying ethnology at the Sorbonne and followed Marcel Mauss’ lectures at the Ecole pratique des hautes études.
After graduating in 1932 with a degree in linguistic ethnology, Anatole Lewitsky was hired as a warehouse man at the Trocadero Ethnography Museum, but was soon noticed for his mastery of several languages. He acquired French nationality and helped create the Musée de l’Homme, where he met Yvonne Oddon and moved in with her in 1937. In October 1939, while running the museum’s comparative technology laboratory, he was drafted. With the armistice of June 1940, he left his unit to escape to the free zone. He returned to Paris in August 1940.
Returning to Paris that summer, he and two other colleagues (Boris Vildé and Yvonne Oddon), created one of the very first French Resistance groups: the Musée de l’Homme network. They worked in contact with General de Gaulle’s BCRA (Central bureau of intelligence and operations), which was in charge of underground operations on French soil. Organizing escapes to Great Britain and Spain, intelligence missions, printing tracts and newspapers, Anatole Lewitsky’s group took huge risks and was eventually found out.
Anatole Lewitsky was arrested by the Gestapo in February 1941 at the same time as Yvonne Oddon, after they were denounced by two employees from the museum’s technical services: Mrs. Erouchkowski (known as Madame Ski) and Mr. Fedorowski (called Fedo). Lewitsky was executed by firing squad at Fort Mont Valerien at the same time as Boris Vildé and five other members of the network, on 23 February 1942. He was buried in the Ivry cemetery.