How One French Couple Saved 527 Children from the Holocaust
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Review by Gerhard L. Weinberg
In the face of unspeakable evil, what can an individual do? This balanced and thought-provoking account offers the answer found by a Jewish French woman born in Paris and a Jewish Frenchman born in Damascus who had moved to Paris. They joined and found ways to rescue a substantial number of Jewish children from deportation and death at the hands of the Germans during World War II. Their efforts were greatly facilitated by the Catholic bishop in the city of Nice in southern France who played a key role in helping them place children in Catholic institutions, a critical role that many more bishops in German-occupied Europe might have played had there been a push in that direction from the top. The two main actors, Moussa Abadi (under the cover name of Marcel) and Odette Rosenstock, also found Protestant ministers who helped them place children with Protestant families. In each case the children had to be separated from their parents and to learn by constant repetition to voice a new name and identity for themselves.
There are thrilling fiction stories about World War II, but here an American journalist living in France has located a thriller that engages reality. Whether it is close calls as the Germans and the local police search for further victims, smuggling children into neutral Switzerland, or the lives of Jewish children in Christian surroundings, the highly unlikely story happens to be true.
The postwar lives of the children are often made difficult by their learning that their parents have been killed, and they do not reunite with their rescuers for decades. Of these, Odette was arrested and suffered in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen while Moussa did what he could to continue with the project of saving children. The reader, therefore, also obtains a realistic account of one woman’s experiences in two of the most notorious camps that disfigured the Europe of the time.
An obvious question that one might ask about the events described in this book is: why have we had to wait so long to hear about this fascinating episode? As the author makes clear, those involved remained quiet about the events for decades after the war. It was only in the 1990s that rescuers and rescued were prepared to talk about their experiences and to meet once more. Human beings have different ways of coping with disturbing events in their lives, and silence about them is frequently one. It is both enlightening and in a way reassuring that after half a century, the veil over this episode has been lifted. The story raises another obvious question, but this time of the reader: what would you do when faced by an analogous challenge?
Hardcover Book : 240 pages
Publisher: Potomac Books Inc ( October 30, 2012 )
Item #: 13-688976
Product Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.0 x 0.6inches
Product Weight: 14.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)