FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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Most of the Jewish children arrived in the spring of 1943 after their parents were arrested or deported. Many of the children had been arrested themselves but then released to the care of OSE. Many of the villagers suspect and some local officials know that these children are Jewish; many are protective. The local sub-prefect has arranged for a teacher to visit the home, and area farmers supply milk and food and employ some of the older children. Three children too young to be cared for at the home are taken in by villagers and, hidden during the raid, survive. It seems, however, that at least one villager is an informant.

A Gestapo team, assembled on Barbie's orders, arrives in Izieu at 9 A.M. and seizes everyone in the house (an adult visitor is able to escape). They arrest the 44 Jewish children and 7 staff members, including the co-director, Myron Zlatin. The one non-Jewish child in the home is not taken. The 51 prisoners are taken to Fort Montluc Prison in Lyons and are sent to Drancy the next day. All of the children and adults are deported to Auschwitz. None of the children and only one adult will survive.

(The murders of the Izieu children played an important part in the campaign, years later, to bring Klaus Barbie to trial for crimes against humanity. As Gestapo chief in Lyons, he also had been involved personally in the torture death of Jean Moulin, General de Gaulle's representative to the French Resistance. Barbie, who worked for U.S. intelligence in the American Zone of Germany after the war and was smuggled out of Europe, was tracked down in La Paz, Bolivia, in 1971 by Beate Klarsfeld but was protected from extradition for more than ten years by the Bolivian dictator, Hugo Banzer. The campaign persisted, however, and after a new Bolivian government came to power, Barbie was extradited to France. He was tried and convicted in Lyons in 1987 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in 1991.)

The Izieu episode remains an isolated one in rural areas because OSE directors acted in time, at the end of 1943 and early in 1944, to disperse nearly all the children under their care, to close OSE homes, and to cease official activities. Apart from the 28 children of the Verdière home in Marseilles, arrested October 20, 1943, and 18 religious Jewish children arrested March 23, 1944, in a home in Voiron, near Saint-Etienne-de-Crossey, Isère Department, the Izieu home was the only one the Gestapo was able to seize in the Southern Zone.

OSE was often aided in its struggle by officials in prefectures, sub-prefectures, and city halls, by representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches, and by many French people. In the end, hundreds of the children cared for by OSE were thus saved. (See section headed The Rescue of Children by OSE, following History and Chronology.)

June 6, 1944. Allied armies land in France, fighting their way ashore on the beaches of Normandy. The huge Allied invasion armada, assembled for months in Britain's Channel ports, is supported by a massive naval bombardment and thousands of air strikes. Despite fierce resistance by German forces manning their Westwall defenses, a substantial army is landed in the first few days of fighting. It is pinned down in Normandy for a few weeks but then breaks out and begins a drive across France that will bring the liberation of Paris in August and of nearly all French territory by the end of the year.
    
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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