Children sit on outdoor benches in a Secours Suisse home in Praz sur Arly.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 59833
- Photo Designation
INVASION & OCCUPATION -- France -- OSE/Children's Homes -- General
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ruth Herz Goldschmidt
Children sit on outdoor benches in a Secours Suisse home in Praz sur Arly.
- Event History
- In the year preceding the outbreak of World War II, nearly 1000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria between the ages of 4 and 17 found refuge in Belgium. Some came individually, others illegally, and some on an organized transport which gathered the children from Cologne. The rescue effort was organized by the Comite d'Assistance aux Enfants Juifs Refugies (CAEJR), an organization founded by Madame Goldschmidt-Brodsky, whose husband, Alfred, was an official of the Belgian Red Cross. Most of the children were sheltered in private homes, and about 80 in two large children's homes. The girls' home, known as the Home General Bernheim, was located in the Brussels suburb of Zuen, and the boys' home, called Home Speyer, in the suburb of Anderlecht. After the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940, the children escaped to southern France. For most of the next year, the 100 children lived in an unfurnished barn on a large farm in Seyre, south of Toulouse. The children were accompanied to France by Lucienne and Gaspard deWaay, a couple who had worked with the children in Home Speyer, and by Elka Frank, director of the girls' home.
The deWaays remained with the children for several months. The older children helped care for the younger ones and worked on nearby farms. Food and clothing were in short supply. The Goldschmidts also fled to France and were living in the town of Cahors. Utilizing their connections with the Swiss Red Cross, they made contact with Maurice and Elinor Dubois, local heads of the Secours Suisse aux Enfants (Swiss Children's Aid), an agency of the Swiss Red Cross, and prevailed upon them to come to the aid of the Jewish refugee children. During the autumn of 1940, the Secours Suisse took charge of the group in Seyre, now under the direction of Alexander and Elka Frank, and brought in badly needed supplies. They also decided to move the children to a more secluded site, the abandoned Chateau de La Hille, which was closer to the Spanish border. In February of 1941, the older boys moved to the chateau to begin renovating it for occupancy. Elka and Alexander Frank followed with the younger children a few months later. Shortly after the move, Roesli Naef assumed the directorship of the home. During the summer of 1941, seventeen of the younger La Hille children were able to leave for the United States through the efforts of of the US Committee for the Care of European Children assisted by the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee). Two other teenagers also immigrated to the US that summer. In August 1942, French police raided the La Hille colony and arrested approximately 40 of the older children, who were then sent to the Le Vernet internment camp to await deportation. Naef immediately contacted Maurice Dubois, who went to see Rene Bousquet, the authorities in Vichy to demand the release of the children. When Dubois threatened to close all the Swiss camps in France, Vichy agreed to free the La Hille youth. After their return to the home in September, Naef began making arrangements to smuggle the older children into Spain or Switzerland. A few were caught and arrested by the border police, but most escaped. Of the original 100 plus children about 90 survived, but twelve teenagers and one adult were deported to Auschwitz and Majdanek. One, Werner Epstein, survived Auschwitz and a death march. During the final year of the war, a number of French and Spanish refugee children also came to live at the La Hille home. Yad Vashem later recognized both Maurice Dubois and Roesli Naef as Righteous Among the Nations: Dubois in 1985 and Naef in 1989.
- Ruth Goldschmidt (born Ruth Herz) is the daughter of Eugene Herz and Lilly Weinberg Herz. She was born in Holzheim in 1922 where her father taught math and science in high school. Of the approximately 1000 inhabitants of the town, only six or seven families were Jewish. Despite that, the Herz's maintained a religiously observant life and attended a small synagogue, albeit with neither a rabbi nor a cantor. Ruth attended a German public school, and prior to Hitler's rise to power, had many non-Jewish friends. After Ruth's father passed away from disease in 1932, and Ruth and her mother moved in with Lilly's father who ran a small grocery. Once the Nuremberg laws were passed, housewives no longer wanted a Jewish man bringing deliveries to their homes, so Ruth began delivering groceries for her grandfather. By 1938 her grandfather only sold to Jewish customers. Ruth was the only Jewish child in her school, and the other children, who belonged to the Hitler Youth, harassed her constantly. Ruth managed to complete 8th grade with the assistance of a teacher who risked his own career to help her. However, since it became impossible for Jewish children to continue their education, Ruth moved to an orthodox Jewish orphanage in Dinskalen in May 1938. She studied many subjects including cooking, child psychology, English and Hebrew in preparation for her immigration to either Palestine or the United States. Ruth only stayed there for half a year, because the orphanage was destroyed in November 1938 during Kristallnacht. Her grandfather's home was also destroyed, but some Christian neighbors helped him repair part of it to make it temporarily livable. Soon thereafter, Ruth left for Brussels on a Kindertransport. For the next few years her only contact with her mother and grandfather came through censored letters. In 1939 her mother and grandfather had to sell their house in Holzheim and move to Mainz. Lilly was deported to concentration camp in March 1942, where she perished. Ruth's grandfather died soon thereafter from old age, disease and starvation. Ruth stayed in Brussels until 1940 where she worked as a mother's helper for a Christian family. She had to work from dawn until late at night doing the family's housework, yard-work and childcare. After the German invasion of Belgium, the family escaped Brussels leaving Ruth behind. She joined a group of Jewish children and teenagers with German or Austrian background and fled by cattle car to Southern France. Local farmers provided the children with food and shelter, but French authorities registered everyone of German origin and interned those over 18 years of age in camps. Ruth was deported to Gurs. The American Friends and the Swiss Red Cross supported children under the age of 18 and maintained several children's homes in France. They arranged for Ruth's release in October 1940. Following her release from camp, Ruth worked under the auspices of the Swiss Red Cross in various children's homes, including Chateau La Hille. After the Italians surrender to the Allies in September 1943, the Germans seized control of the Italian zone and began a manhunt for Jews in the region. The mayor of a small village in the French Alps provided Ruth with fake identity papers, and Swiss nurses and teachers in a children's home hid her until after France was liberated in August 1944. After the war, the home where she worked employed German Prisoners of War to do heavy labor. By chance, one of the POWs happened to be son of the Protestant minister from Holzheim. Ruth agreed to send letters to his widowed mother in Germany who put her in touch with her former teacher. She helped get him reinstated in the school system. Eventually Ruth got in touch with her mother's cousins in Scotland who contacted other relatives in the United States. Ruth immigrated to the States in November 1947 and worked as a nurse. In 1950 married Arthur Goldschmidt, another immigrant from Germany.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Ruth Herz Goldschmidt
Record last modified: 2009-08-11 00:00:00
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