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Jeanne Daman Scaglione collection

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2007.14.1

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    Jeanne Daman Scaglione collection
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    Overview

    Description
    The Jeanne Daman Scaglione papers include biographical materials, correspondence, photographs, printed materials, writings and artwork, and sound recordings documenting Belgian Catholic teacher Jeanne Daman Scaglione, her wartime resistance activities rescuing Jewish children, and her postwar work supporting United Jewish Appeal, the State of Israel, and Holocaust memory.

    Biographical materials document Jeanne’s education and teacher training, participation in the Belgian National Movement resisting Nazi occupation during the war, Immigration to the United States, her work raising funds for United Jewish Appeal and speaking in support of the State of Israel and Holocaust memory, and awards and commendations she received.

    Correspondence includes three wartime letters from friends and postwar letters from Jeanne to her husband.

    Photographic materials include three photograph albums and many loose photographs documenting Jeanne Daman Scaglione, World War I era and interwar life in Europe, wartime work, and her postwar activities supporting United Jewish Appeal, the State of Israel, and Holocaust memory. Additional photograph documenting a tree planted in Jeanne’s memory at Yad Vashem as well as the 1960 Winter Olympics. This series also includes a photo album and scrapbook documenting Jeanne’s speaking engagements.

    Printed materials include clippings documenting Jeanne’s speaking engagements, a World War II era song book for German soldiers, and picture postcards from Canada, England, Israel, and United States, as well as two World War I era Belgian postcards.

    Writings and drawings include a draft of a biography of Jeanne Daman, class journals (1940-1942) documenting Jeanne’s lessons for her kindergarten classes, a notebook containing wartime artwork by children, and reports on wartime activities by Jeanne Daman and Fela Perelman. Jeanne’s report contains information about the Jewish resistance in Belgium. Fela’a report contains information about the pair’s collaboration to save Belgian Jewish children. The collection also includes Jeanne’s diary of poetry (1939-1940). The entries are descriptive accounts of her personal thoughts and feelings, as well as historical events.

    Audio recordings include three sound reels and five records. One sound reel contains a 1963 speech by Jeanne Daman, but the other two reels have not been identified. The records contain songs by Cantor Maurice Goldberg, a recording based on Leon Uris’ Exodus, a radio broadcast of “The Eternal Light,” and two recording of a 1948 interview with Jeanne Daman.
    Date
    inclusive:  circa 1914-1993
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Aldo Scaglione
    Collection Creator
    Jeanne D. Scaglione
    Biography
    Jeanne Daman (later Scaglione, 1918-1986) was born in Letchworth, England, to Roman Catholic parents, Léon-Pierre Daman and Célestine-Hortense Daman (née Bouckenville), who had been evacuated from Belgium before the German invasion during World War I (1914-1918). The family returned to Belgium shortly after Jeanne’s birth. She had a younger sister, Yvonne-Odile (later Broadhurst, 1921-?). Léon-Pierre became a custodian at a school, and the family lived on the grounds there. Jeanne attended public school and spoke French, Flemish, German, and English. She was awarded her diploma on July 15, 1936. She became a kindergarten teacher, and worked as a teacher’s aide in public schools while she studied for her teaching certificate, awarded in 1940.

    In May 1940, Germany invaded and occupied Belgium. They instituted anti-Jewish laws and regulations, and new classroom curriculum was designed to spread their propaganda. Jeanne refused to teach the new curriculum, and resigned from teaching. She found work as a secretary in a factory, which manufactured steel saw blades. The school where Jeanne’s father worked was turned into an armament depot. Jeanne and her family continued to live on the grounds in very close proximity to the six German soldiers billeted there.

    In late November 1941, German authorities decreed that all Jews must be registered, and began banning Jewish children from classrooms. In 1942, as the expulsion of Jewish children from classrooms increased, Jeanne was contacted by Felicia Perelman (Fela, 1909-1991), a leading figure in Jewish relief efforts. Fela knew that the Belgian government was required to ensure education for all children, and went to government officials to secure funds, support, and qualified personnel for the continued instruction of Jewish children in separate schools. She invited Jeanne to join the staff of Nos Petits, a Jewish kindergarten, where Jeanne took a very active role. Soon, 23-year-old Jeanne became headmistress of the school.

    In the summer of 1942, German authorities began arresting and deporting Jews to forced labor and concentration camps. As this continued, Jeanne saw children suddenly go absent from school or become orphaned by the arrest of their families, and helped find hiding places for them. Keeping the children in a single location, like the school, was very dangerous, and allowed authorities to locate them easily. They might deport the children, or as Jeanne learned one day, use them as bait to bring family members out of hiding in order to be deported. These dangers led to the closing of the school. Jeanne and Fela focused their efforts on “rescue,” securing placements for all of the children at the school in conjunction with L’Oeuvre Nationale de l’Enfance (ONE, National Children’s Committee). Once the children were all placed, Jeanne continued her rescue efforts by working closely with Fela and her husband Chaim (1912-1984), the Jewish and Belgian resistance groups, and underground networks. Among these was the Comité de Défense Des Juifs en Belgique (CDJ, Committee for the Protection of Jews in Belgium), founded in September 1942.

    As the effort to deport Belgian Jews intensified, the number of abandoned children in need of assistance increased. Jeanne would often rendezvous with children at a designated location. Then she would accompany them to their new address, often coaching them on a new identity and background along the way. She had to drill these new, false identities into their heads, in case they were ever questioned by authorities. Jeanne’s work expanded to include adults, supported by underground organizations that provided false identity papers and ration cards for Jewish women that she placed in Belgian households as maids.

    Jeanne’s role working with the CDJ increased and she begin working with Albert Domb, head of the special section that dealt with traitors and informers. While working with him, Jeanne coordinated attacks on collaborators that had denounced CDJ activists to the Gestapo. Under false pretenses, Jeanne joined the Secours d’Hiver (the Belgian version of German Winterhilfe, or Winter Help); a welfare organization that provided supplies and warm clothing to soldiers on the Soviet front. This allowed her to create a cover as a nice, German-speaking, Catholic woman who supported the authorities, while also making it easier for her to encounter German agents, Gestapo members, and their collaborators.

    To bolster her cover and assist Belgian workers, Jeanne returned to her position at the factory, where she was the only Belgian that spoke German. She often used this to her advantage to argue against the deportation of skilled, Belgian workers to German factories. Jeanne saved 65 workers from being deported. She often had to visit German headquarters to argue on behalf of the workers. During one visit, she was able to steal an official stamp, and used it to stamp about 100 blank, false documents before returning the tool to the office under false pretenses.

    Toward the end of the war, the Jewish resistance put Jeanne in contact with the illegal, counter-occupation work of the Mouvement Royal Belge (MRB, Royal Belgian Movement). She served as an intelligence and liaison agent, known as number 9412 in the 9th Brigade of the MRB. By September 1944, the Belgian resistance knew that Allied forces were advancing toward Belgium. With this in mind, the MRB wanted Jeanne to create a cache of German weapons that could be turned against them. Jeanne agreed to do so, and transported other weapons for them by bicycle. Jeanne was also asked to persuade the soldiers to surrender the building and weapons to the resistance. She carefully worked on convincing the soldiers that she did not want to see them killed by the Allies, and that she was worried about their safety. Eventually, she won them all over, and they surrendered the depot to the resistance. In February 1945, Belgium was liberated, and Germany surrendered in May 1945.

    After the war, Jeanne helped return Jewish children - that had been in hiding - to their families, and provided care to the children who returned from the concentration camps. In March 1946, she travelled to the United States and worked for the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). She travelled across the country giving speeches about what she had done during the war, what she had seen in the camps afterwards, and how much help the survivors needed. In 1949, Jeanne visited her family in Belgium, and then travelled to Israel to visit friends and former students. In September 1951, she returned to the US aboard the SS Liberte. During this trip, she met Aldo Scaglione (1925-2013), who had been an Italian partisan during the war. They married in Chicago, Illinois, on June 27, 1952, and settled in Berkeley, California, where Aldo taught at UC Berkeley. Jeanne continued her speaking engagements for the rest of her life, with the frequency increasing once they moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1968. Jeanne rescued more than 2,000 children and many adults. In 1971, she was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. On October 12, 1980, she was honored with the Entraide [Mutual Aid] medal from the Belgian Jewish Committee 1940-45.

    Physical Details

    Extent
    3 sound recordings.
    5 records.
    Extent
    8 boxes
    2 oversize folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Jeanne Daman Scaglione papers are arranged as 6 series:
    I. Biographical materials, 1935-1986
    II. Correspondence, approximately 1942-1952
    III. Photographs, approximately 1914-1983
    IV. Printed materials, approximately 1914-1980s
    V. Writings and drawings, 1939-1993
    VI. Audio recordings, approximately 1948-1968

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    Aldo Scaglione donated the Jeanne Daman Scaglione collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    The accessibility of this collection was made possible by the generous donors to our crowdfunded Save Their Stories campaign.
    Special Collection
    Save Their Stories
    Record last modified:
    2024-04-11 13:19:05
    This page:
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