Germaine grew up in Clermont-Ferrand, France with a mother who also had revolutionary leanings of her own. In her teens Germaine left for Paris where she studied social anthropology/ethnology to understand the world with which she lived in. Germaine also did field work in Algeria in preparation for her doctorate. When she had came back to Paris in 1940, Germany had already seized control of France.
Germaine immediately had an opportunity to save a Jewish family when she returned and did so by giving them her papers to ensure them a greater potential for survival while limiting her own. She then joined and became a leading member of a French Resistance group from 1940 to 1942 who specialized in "the distribution of propaganda, the manufacture of false papers, the passing of intelligence to London, the escape of allied airmen, the hiding of Jews and the publication of its own newspaper." In 1942 she was betrayed by an informant priest, Germaine was arrested, imprisoned and later deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin in 1943.
Against incredible odds, she survived Ravensbrück, where possibly 90,000 women and children, including her mother, the writer Emilie Tillion, were murdered.
After the Second World War...Trained as an anthropologist, Tillion was an astute observer of human behaviour, a staunch defender of human rights and fierce critic of violence. After the Liberation, she criticised the use of torture in the Algerian war of 1954-62, and condemned human-rights abuses in the Gulags and post-2003 Iraq.
Germaine also...resumed her academic career, researching into the deportation of women from France, and again spending time in Algeria, where open warfare erupted in 1954.
Given her understanding of North Africa, it was only natural that the French government should have called upon her services and in 1955, she became part of the Governor-General's cabinet. Involved in the setting up of "social centres" to facilitate Franco-Muslim understanding and to ameliorate the distressing living conditions of Arab men and women, in 1957 she met secretly, and at great personal danger, Yacef Saâdi, one of the nationalist leaders, in a bid to halt the terror that was sweeping through Algiers. Though she was unable to stop the summary killings and public executions, that year Tillion took part in an inquiry into the use of torture in French North African prisons and holding camps. In 1960, Tillion joined the protests against the brutal treatment meted out to Djamila Boupacha, a young Algerian girl who had been raped with a bottle while in French custody.
Germaine later received the Grand-croix de la Légion d'honneur (Only five other women were ever bestowed with this award).retained her attachment to North Africa, writing extensively about the position of women in the region, who she believed were repressed not because of Christianity or Islam but because of the lingering vestiges of primitive society and a caste system.
Germaine Tillion did woman different by not merely witnessing the evil that men do, but documenting that evil in face of mortal danger and then looking those dangers straight in the eye and saying that one word that can get a woman killed in the privacy of her own home-Germaine Tillion said NO!