Yvonne Oddon (1902-1982)

The Musée de l’Homme librarian and a pioneer of the French Resistance, Yvonne Oddon and her colleagues Boris Vildé and Anatole Lewitsky launched the French Resistance group that would come to be known as the Musée de l’Homme resistance network, and helped choose the name of the underground newspaper Resistance.


Born in Gap, Yvonne Oddon was a leader in transforming French libraries. On the recommendation of David David-Weill, she was hired by Georges-Henri Rivière as the librarian for the Trocadero Ethnography Museum in 1929, while continuing to consult for libraries and holding responsibilities with the French librarian association.

She furthered her know-how in the United States thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and created lasting ties with the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1937, the Musée d’Ethonographie du Trocadéro became the Musée de l’Homme and settled in its new location. Yvonne Oddon actively worked on the plans for the museum’s library, imposing American standards in terms of the library’s architecture and supervising the works herself. The new classified library was opened to the public and marked a turning-point in the management of specialised libraries. A photo library was also installed at the Musée de l’Homme, with photographic documents classified by Yvonne Oddon and Thérèse Rivière.

As early as 1940, she was among the first to commit to acts of resistance against the Occupation. Together with her colleagues Boris Vildé and Anatole Lewitsky they formed the resistance group now known as the Musée de l’Homme network, and helped choose the name for the underground paper Résistance. She frequented Germaine Tillion who would come to the library to do research and share news of underground activities.

Yvonne Oddon was arrested by the Gestapo in February 1941 at the same time as Anatole Lewitsky after they were denounced by two employees from the museum’s technical services: Madame Erouchkowski (known as Madame Ski) and Mr. Fedorowski (called Fedo). She was sentenced to death but was eventually deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Greatly weakened by her imprisonment, Yvonne Oddon was unable to resume her functions at the Musée de l’Homme until 1946. She died in 1982.