FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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lists of foreign Jews residing in its department. The result was a panic and a new round of Jewish migration in France, this time to the zone of Italian occupation in the southeast.

OSE facilities in the south were reorganized to confront the new reality. The children's homes and social-medical centers were maintained, but some also organized clandestine border crossings, the production of false identity papers, and hideouts for fugitive children. Capitalizing on OSE's official status, social workers continued to go into assembly camps to observe conditions and screening procedures. They attempted to block or delay deportation of those whose cases could be pleaded and those who had a chance of escape. They succeeded in winning the release of a few groups of children, but in most cases no help was possible.

By the end of 1942, a firm decision had been made to transform OSE into a primarily clandestine organization in which "shadow" offices would mirror the legal organization but would use every means, however illegal, to protect and hide children. Despite its incorporation into the UGIF, OSE leaders more and more opposed the UGIF's insistence on legality. By 1943, most OSE personnel were working in secret and illegal operations.

Harsh French and German police actions struck in Marseilles and Rouen in January1943. The Rouen raids netted 220 Jews, among them 45 children; the Marseilles action resulted in 1,642 internments, 782 of them Jews who were transferred by the Germans to Compiègne for deportation. Following the Marseilles raids, which were carried out by French police under German control and in which the <<incorrigible>> neighborhood adjacent to the Old Port was dynamited on Himmler's orders, OSE began organizing rural escape routes and supply lines in the south. Adults by the hundreds were given false papers at the Marseilles OSE dispensary, where welfare and medical activities were now no more than a facade. At the same time, groups of children and adults began leaving for Switzerland, guided by OSE workers in liaison with the EIF and other groups; almost every week, children were accompanied from Marseilles, Nice, and Aix-en-Provence to the Swiss border.

OSE operations in Lyons suffered critical losses in a Gestapo raid on the city's UGIF offices on February 9, 1943. Ninety Jews were seized at the offices, among them two OSE medical workers, Dr. Pierre Lanzenberg and Marcelle Loeb; the other staff members went underground. Though reduced in number, the staff managed to maintain OSE's principal activities in Lyons, to expand programs in Grenoble, and to get work started in Chambéry, where from February 1943 the organization was headquartered. Grenoble and Chambéry were in the relatively protected Italian Zone and these OSE centers rapidly gained in importance.

As the Milice, the Vichy political police, became more active in central France in 1943, some older children were moved to the Italian Zone. Uneasy at keeping so many Jewish children together and vulnerable to arrest in the homes, OSE tried to thin out the most overcrowded. But no sooner would a few beds be freed than other children would be delivered by panicky families. Shutting down the homes, dispersing the children, and putting an end to OSE's official activities were all debated. Only the impossibility of making a thousand children disappear overnight com- […pelled]
    
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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