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Postcard written by René Karschon from the Maison des Roches in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to his mother in Brussels.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 41566A

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    Postcard written by René Karschon from the Maison des Roches in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to his mother in Brussels.
    Postcard written by René Karschon from the Maison des Roches in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to his mother in Brussels.


    Postcard written by René Karschon from the Maison des Roches in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to his mother in Brussels.
    1942 July 24
    Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, [Haute-Loire] France
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Rene Karschon
    Event History
    Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is one of a cluster of largely Protestant villages on the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon in the Haute-Loire region of France, where thousands of Jews and political refugees found shelter during the Second World War. The residents of these villages heeded the call of Pastors André Trocmé and Edouard Theis and other local leaders to extend aid to the persecuted even at the risk of endangering their own lives. The movement of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees into the region began in earnest in 1940. Some had enough money to rent their own homes, but most lodged with local families or in the many boarding houses that dotted the region. Their numbers increased after the defeat of France and the decision of the new Vichy regime to incarcerate refugees in internment camps. The height of the Jewish influx came in the spring and summer of 1942. At this time Christian relief organizations, such as the Cimade, Secours suisse aux enfants and the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), and Jewish groups like the Oeuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE) and the Eclaireurs Israelites de France (EIF) began funneling groups of Jews to the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon. These organizations, which had been operating small teams of relief workers in the internment camps, began, in the spring of 1942, to establish refugee homes in the Haute-Loire and other regions to receive groups of Jews who were being released from the camps on condition that they be placed in the charge of an authorized agency. Pastor André Trocmé, in a meeting with Burns Charmers, head of the American Friends Service Committee in Marseille, readily acceded to Charmers' request to house refugees (most of whom were children and teenagers) in the vicinity of Le Chambon. Several refugee homes were set up under the auspices of different relief organizations including Coteau Fleuri (Cimade), La Guespy (Secours suisse), Faidoli (Secours suisse), Les Grillons (Secours suisse), L'abric (Secours suisse) and Maison des Roches (Fonds Europeen de Secours aux etudiants). Other refugees were placed in private homes and boarding houses in the villages, and on farms in the surrounding countryside. When the police round-ups of Jews began in August 1942, the heretofore legal assistance of refugees provided by relief workers and local residents abruptly turned into covert resistance activity. Refugees were hidden during round-ups; false identification papers, birth certificates and ration cards were produced; groups of Jews were secreted away at night to the Swiss border and smuggled across with the help of such international organizations as the Comites universels des Unions chretiennes and the Conseil oecumenique pour les refugies. It is estimated that 5,000 refugees, including 3,500 Jews, were aided by the people of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon. In January 1943 Pastors André Trocmé and Edouard Theis and school director Roger Darcissac were arrested by the Vichy authorities and interned at the St. Paul d'Eyjeaux camp for political prisoners near Limoges. They were released four weeks later. The rescue operation that took place in the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon was unique in that it involved the majority of the population of an entire region --Protestant, Catholic and non-religious-- who banded together to carry out what they viewed as their Christian, moral or political duty. Pastor André and Mme. Magda Trocmé and Pastor Edouard and Mme. Mildred Theis were among 34 residents of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon who were later recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Eventually, the entire population of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon was so acknowledged, and a rock garden was planted in their honor in Jerusalem.

    [Sources: Hewett, Nelly Trocme, (interview, June 2000); Saville, Betty, "La plateau du Vivarais-Lignon," in Les Enfants caches, Bulletin No.29 (Paris, December 1999).
    Merle d'Aubigne, Jeanne, et al., Les Clandestines de Dieu, Bethany Press, 1970.]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Rene Karschon

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    René Karschon was born in Düsseldorf, Germany on November 3, 1919. His father, Grisha, was a Jewish grain merchant who had immigrated to Germany from Odessa. In 1930 the family moved from Düsseldorf to Berlin, and in 1938 they fled the country for Belgium. After settling in Brussels, René enrolled at the Agronomy Institute in Gambloux. In May 1940, immediately following the German invasion of Belgium, René was arrested in Brussels and deported to France. He spent four-and-a-half months at the St. Cyprien internment camp before being transferred to Gurs in October 1940. There he was conscripted in the 182nd group of foreign workers. On June 15, 1942 he was granted a three-month leave to study French and was sent by a relief agency to the town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. After registering with the local police, René was brought to the Maison des Roches, a youth home financed by the FESE (Fonds Europeen de secours aux étudiants). Soon after his arrival the French police raided the home and arrested several of its Jewish residents. René evaded capture by hiding in a nearby villa. Subsequently, he was moved to another hiding place in Bronac. After securing false papers, René was guided to the Swiss border by members of the resistance. On September 9, 1942 he crossed into Switzerland, where he was helped by members of the FESE. After the liberation René was reunited with his mother, who had lived out the war hiding in Brussels. (His father had died before the war.) In November 1949 René married Aya Levin in Switzerland. The couple subsequently moved to Israel with René's mother.
    Record last modified:
    2001-08-20 00:00:00
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