Jewish youth who are living at the La Guespy refugee home in Le Chambon, pose in the snow.
- Photo Designation
RESCUE MISSIONS -- Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Elizabeth Kaufmann Koenig
Jewish youth who are living at the La Guespy refugee home in Le Chambon, pose in the snow.
This is one photo from an album presented to Elizabeth Kaufmann prior to her departure from the La Guespy refugee home in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
Founded in 1941 by the Secours Suisse aux enfants and run by Juliette Usach, the La Guespy children's home provided shelter to a number of Jewish and non-Jewish refugee children who were living in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during the Nazi occupation.
- 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.]
- Elizabeth Koenig (born Elizabeth Kaufmann) is the daughter of Fritz and Helen (Berggruen) Kaufmann. She was born March 7, 1924 in Vienna, where her father was a journalist and biographer and her mother, a nurse and dietician. Elizabeth had one brother, Peter (b. 1921). When Hitler came to power in January 1933 Fritz was on assignment in Berlin. He soon fell afoul of the Nazi government, and in June was put on trial for his opposition to the regime. The following day he fled to Vienna. Early in 1938, convinced of the inevitability of the German annexation of Austria, Fritz left the country. He traveled first to Prague and then to Paris, where he hoped to meet the rest of his family. Helen and the children, however, met with great difficulty in their attempt to get to France. Initially they boarded a tour bus for a one-day excursion to France, but were stopped at the border when guards became suspicious about the luggage they were carrying. They were sent back to Austria with a notation in their passports indicating they had illegally attempted to cross the border. A second attempt also failed and resulted in their being beaten by SS guards on their return. Fritz then arranged for visas to be made available to them at the French consulate in Cologne. When Helen arrived, however, there were no visas. A chance encounter with a consulate employee outside the building resulted in an illegal exchange. In return for some of her jewelry, Helen obtained the coveted French visas. The Kaufmanns then flew to Paris, arriving in November 1938. For the next year the family lived together in Paris, and Elizabeth attended art school. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, Fritz and Peter were interned as enemy aliens. In June 1940 as the German army advanced towards Paris, Helen and Elizabeth joined the flood of refugees heading south. Helen hitched rides while Elizabeth traveled by bicycle. It was difficult for them to meet up as they planned during their flight, and for periods of time they lost track of one another. They also did not know where to find Fritz and Peter. Eventually, Elizabeth found her brother in Toulouse, discovered that her father was in a camp near Limoges and learned that her mother was working in Pau. After reuniting with her mother, the two women joined Fritz near Limoges. Peter was arrested soon after his meeting with Elizabeth and sent to another internment camp. While Fritz explored avenues of escape for the family, he received a letter from a Viennese friend (and former teacher of Elizabeth's), Hilde Hoefert, who had lived with the family briefly in Paris before taking a job teaching German in the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. She offered to find work for Elizabeth in the village. The family accepted her offer, and Elizabeth moved to Le Chambon. She was given a job caring for the children of Pastor André Trocmé and lived with the family during the summer of 1941. At the end of the summer Pastor Trocmé asked Elizabeth to move to the Secours Suisse aux enfants children's home in Le Chambon, called La Guespy, to help take care of a group of German Jewish refugee children who were being transferred from the Gurs internment camp. Throughout the fall Elizabeth assisted the director, Dr. Juliette Usach, in caring for approximately thirty children between the ages of 6 and 17. While Elizabeth was living in Le Chambon, her father was contacted by Varian Fry of the Emergency Rescue Committee, who offered him a non-quota American visa as one of the endangered, anti-Nazi European refugee intellectuals caught in Vichy France. Visas also were arranged for the rest of the family. Elizabeth was then contacted and instructed to meet the family in Lyon. The Kaufmanns were issued their visas just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. From Lyon they traveled to Marseilles, crossed the border into Spain and then into Portugal. They sailed from Lisbon to the U.S. in February 1942 aboard the SS Nyassa. Soon after their arrival, Peter was inducted into the American army and sent to Europe. He was killed in France in 1945.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Elizabeth Kaufmann Koenig
Record last modified: 2004-11-02 00:00:00
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