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René Lefebvre and his family, c.1908
Victims of Sonnenburg concentration camp. Bundesarchive picture of 1945

René Charles Joseph Marie Lefebvre (February 27 1879 - March 4 1944) was a French factory-owner from Tourcoing[1], who died in 1944 in the Nazi concentration camp in Sonnenburg,[2] in the Province of Brandenburg (today in Lubusz Province in western Poland), where he had been imprisoned by the German Gestapo because of his work for the French Resistance and British Intelligence.[3] René Lefebvre was the father of French Roman Catholic archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the international Traditionalist Catholic organisation Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (SSPX).[4]

Lefebvre was born in Tourcoing in Nord, in northern France in 1879, from a family which gave almost fifty of its members to the Church since 1738, including a cardinal, a few bishops and many priests and religious[2] He was a devout Catholic who brought his children to daily Mass.[5] In 1923, he advised two of his sons, Marcel and René, to begin studies for the priesthood at the French Seminary in Rome.[6] Of his eight children, two became missionary Priests, three girls entered in different religious congregations and the other three founded large Catholic families.[2]

Lefebvre was also an outspoken monarchist[7] who ran a spy-ring for British Intelligence when Tourcoing was occupied by the German Empire during World War I. Later, during World War II, when Nazi Germany occupied France, he resumed this work, helping soldiers and escaped prisoners return to un-occupied France and London. [8] He was arrested and sentenced to death in Berlin on May 28 1942, for "complicity with the enemy and recruitment of young people to bear arms against the Greater German Reich". He was sent to KZ Sonnenburg, a former prison converted into a concentration camp, mainly holding Communist and Social Democrat activists.[9] Lefebvre died in 1944 in Sonnenburg after one year of sufferings and privations;[2] his body has never been recovered.[4]

On July 16 1953, Lefebvre was posthumously decorated by the French government with the Médaille militaire for his active participation in the resistance movement. Lefebvre was married to Gabrielle Wattin, who died in 1938.[4]


  1. ^ The ghost at all our tables, Stephen McInerney on Marcel Lefebvre: The biography, Oriens, Summer 2005
  2. ^ a b c d Archbishop Marcel LEFEBVRE, by Father Ramón Anglés
  3. ^ The Rest of the Story -- Lefebvre's Father, in Inside the Vatican, February 8, 2009
  4. ^ a b c Jeanette M. Pryor & J. Christopher Pryor, "René Lefebvre and the Holocaust, Le Floch Report, March 19, 2006.
  5. ^ Monsignor Lefebvre in his own words (February 2002)
  6. ^ In 1923 Marcel followed his brother to the French Seminary in Rome , taking his father’s advice (or rather, obeying his father’s command) to avoid the diocesan seminaries, which he suspected of liberal leanings. The ghost at all our tables, Oriens journal
  7. ^ A convinced monarchist, he devoted himself during the whole of his life to the cause of the French Dynasty, seeing in a royal government the only way of restoring to his country its past grandeur and a Christian revival. A Calvary 1941-1944 René Lefebvre Part 1, June 1984, Volume VII, Number 6, The Angelus
  8. ^ Marcel Lefebvre, Словари и энциклопедии на Академике
  9. ^ See e.g.: Kaspar Nürnberg: Sonnenburg, in: Der Ort des Terrors. Studien und Dokumente zur Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, Volume H 2, by Wolfgang Benz, and Barbara Distel (ed.), C.H. Beck Verlag : Munich 1986. ISSN: 0257-9472 (German)


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