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Despite being blinded as a child, Jacques Lusseyran went on to help form a key unit of the French Resistance and survive the Nazis’ Buchenwald concentration camp. He wrote about these experiences in his inspiring memoir, And There Was Light. In this remarkable collection of essays, Lusseyran writes of how blindness enabled him to discover aspects of the world that he would not otherwise have known. In Poetry in Buchenwald,” he describes the unexpected nourishment he and his fellow prisoners found in poetry. In What One Sees Without Eyes” he describes a divine inner light available to all. Just as Lusseyran transcended his most difficult experiences, his writings give triumphant voice to the human ability to see beyond sight and act with unexpected heroism.
Jacques Lusseyran (September 19, 1924 July 27, 1971) was a blind author, professor, and French Resistance leader. Born in Paris, he was blinded in a school accident at the age of eight. At age seventeen, less than a year after the German invasion of France, Lusseyran formed a Resistance group called the Volunteers of Liberty with fifty-two other boys. Because of his ability to read people as a blind person, he was put in charge of recruitment, and the group grew to over six hundred young men. The group later merged with another Resistance group called Défense de la France, which published an underground newspaper that eventually achieved a circulation of 250,000. After the war, it became one of France's most respected daily newspapers, France Soir.
In January 1944, Lusseyran was arrested, along with the other leaders of Défense de la France, and spent fifteen months in the Nazis’ Buchenwald concentration camp. When the U.S. Third Army arrived at Buchenwald in April 1945, Lusseyran was one of roughly thirty survivors of the two thousand French citizens who had been imprisoned with him.
After the war, despite his service as part of the Underground and his brilliant schoolwork, Lusseyran was denied admission to the École Normale Supérieure because of a decree passed by the Vichy government barring invalids” from public employment. Although for years he was prevented from becoming a professor, he repeatedly presented his case and was eventually able to teach in France. Later he moved to the United States, where he first lectured at Hollis College and then became a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He was a professor at the University of Hawaii in 1971 when, at age forty-six, he was killed in a car accident with his wife, Marie, not far from Juvardeil in France, where he had been happy as a boy.