Jeannie Rousseau (Viscomtesse de Clarens) (born April 1, 1919) was an Allied intelligence agent in occupied France during World War II, a member of Georges Lamarque's "Druids" network. Codenamed AMNIARIX, she evaded Gestapo agents while gathering crucial information on the Germans' emerging rocket weapons programs from behind enemy lines. Her intelligence reports, forwarded to London, led directly to the British raid on Peenemunde and to delays and disruptions in the V-1 and V-2 programs, saving many thousands of lives in the West. Rousseau was captured twice and spent time in three concentration camps.
R.V. Jones relates that when he first inquired about the source of the extraordinary report that had originally tipped off the British Government to what was going on at Peenemunde, all he could learn was that it came from "une jeune fille la plus remarquable de sa generation," part of a small espionage network reporting from occupied France. Early in the war Rousseau had, because of her gift with languages, served as an interpreter in transactions with the Germans and had begun to report on what she had seen and heard. She was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941 but was later released and prohibited from staying in the coastal area. She returned immediately to espionage in Paris. During 1943, she filed, among other reports two particularly remarkable ones about Peenemunde. These reports led Jones, and ultimately, the rest of the British Government and the rest of the Allies, directly to the missile and rocket development work going on there. Her courage in collecting this intelligence and in forwarding it under very difficult circumstances, led, through Jones's analysis and persuasive abilities in London, to the British raid on Peenemunde.
Shortly before D-Day, a plan to evacuate her and two other agents was aborted by the Gestapo. She was the first to be caught. But even as she was being captured, she succeeded in warning her comrades so that one was able to escape. And again, as Jones has put it: "AMNIARIX's reports stand brilliantly in the history of intelligence, and three concentration campsRavensbruck, Konigsberg (a punishment camp), and Torgau could not break her."
Rousseau began gathering intelligence on German operations even before she was able to make contact with Allied intelligence. She took a job at the French national chamber of commerce as a translator and soon became the organization's top staffer, meeting regularly with the German military commander's staff. She was a frequent visitors with the Germans, discussing commercial issues such as complaints about Nazi commandeering or offers to sell them goods such as steel and rubber. "I was storing my nuts, but I had no way to pass them on."
Her formal career as a spy began with a chance meeting with Georges Lamarque on a night train from Paris to Vichy. Lamarque remembered Rousseau from the University of Paris, where she had shown talent in languages (including German) and finished first in her class, in 1939. He asked her to work for him, and she immediately agreed.
Rousseau worked as a freelance interpreter after the war, for the United Nations and other agencies. Those who met her characterize her as full of humor, a sublime calligraphist who kept her past to herself. Avoiding interviews with reporters and historians, her story remained largely untold. However, in 1993, now as Madame Jeannie de Clarens, she agreed to accept the CIA's Agency Seal Medallion; and she revealed more details of her story to journalist David Ignatius in 1998.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA.