Category Archive: RESCUE

Where 500 children ‘disappeared’ from Nazi clutches, a new Dutch Shoah museum emerges

Taking shape in the heart of Amsterdam’s old Jewish district, a former teachers college to be a testament to the 102,000 Dutch Jews murdered in the Holocaust

20170115_110328-e1485948365264AMSTERDAM — A former teachers’ college where more than 500 Jewish children were saved during the Holocaust is being transformed into the Netherlands’ first full-fledged Shoah museum.

Already operating since last May without a website or much publicity, the emerging National Holocaust Museum will fill a three-story brick building in Amsterdam’s former Jewish neighborhood, close to other sites tied to the Shoah. For now, only parts of the ground-level are open, including a small auditorium and reading room. According to plans, the museum will be completed by 2020 at a cost of $24 million.

“We aim to forge connections between people from different backgrounds by presenting our collective history as a pillar of today’s democratic society and our sense of justice,” according to a statement posted inside the entrance.

More than 102,000 Dutch Jews were killed by the Nazis, with 30,000 Jews living in the Netherlands today. The ease with which Dutch Jews were isolated and deported during the war continues to haunt witnesses, and the Dutch lost a larger percentage of their Jewish population than any country apart from Poland.

“In the years ahead, a permanent exhibition will be developed that tells the story of the persecution and genocide of the Jews by the Nazis, the events leading up to it, and the complex consequences,” according to the museum.

Those “complex consequences” could include the treatment of Jews who returned from Nazi camps. Notoriously, government and church authorities were often unwilling to reunite hidden Jewish children with their parents. In those early post-war years, the first edifice that survivors felt compelled to build in Amsterdam was a literal expression of “gratitude” toward Dutch society, as opposed to a memorial for murdered loved ones.

So far, the Holocaust museum steers clear of politics by focusing on personal stories. In one room, photographs of children are paired with objects they once enjoyed, including a violin, diary and table games. The floor and podiums are made of unfinished wood, evoking young lives cut short.

Few artifacts tell as compelling a story as the ordinary-looking building itself, where Dutch and Jewish resisters operated a bold rescue scheme beneath the gaze of their oppressors.

When 500 children ‘disappeared’

The location of the teacher training college made the rescue operation possible. Now home to the National Holocaust Museum, the college was directly across the street from the Hollandsche Schouwburg, once a popular Yiddish theater. Two years into their occupation of Amsterdam, the Nazis converted the theater into a holding pen for Jews en route to deportation.

Beginning in July of 1942, thousands of Dutch Jews were incarcerated in the gutted theater on their way to the transit camp Westerbork. Because the Nazis could not tolerate the crying of infants and children, the decision was made to house young ones across the street in a creche, or nursery, that — fortuitously — shared a courtyard with the teacher training college.

The covert operation was directed by Walter Süskind, a German Jew appointed by the Jewish Council to run operations at the facility. As the list master, Süskind recorded the name of every Jew brought into the theater, including the deportees’ children taken across the street.

After confirming that a particular child’s parents were willing to send him or her into hiding, Süskind eliminated that child’s name from Nazi records. Next, staff of the nursery took these “disappeared” children through a courtyard and into the Reformed Teacher Training College. Inside the school, heroic director Johan van Hulst and student volunteers smuggled the children into hiding with Dutch families.

According to survivors, the “forgotten hero” Süskind managed to befriend the SS officer in charge of deportations, whom Süskind kept supplied with schnapps and cigars. Also known as “the Dutch Schindler,” Süskind was eventually deported along with his family, and he perished during a death march in Poland. However, the rescue operation he led — through which 500 adults were also sent into hiding — was never uncovered by the Nazis.

In addition to the courtyard route, older escapees made clever use of the street tram as it stopped between the theater and college. With trolley cars blocking their view, German sentries at the theater were unable to see the college entrance, allowing people to exit and follow alongside the tram.

The former Jewish district will also soon witness ground-breaking on a long-anticipated Memorial of Names. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, the edifice will include the names of 102,000 Dutch Jews murdered in the Shoah, as well as 220 Roma and Sinti victims. Names will be laser-etched onto bricks along with dates of birth and death. From above, the structure will spell the Hebrew word Lizkor, “in memory of.”

Both the National Holocaust Museum and planned Memorial of Names are part of the 2013-inaugurated Jewish Cultural Quarter, where visitors can purchase one ticket to tour sites including the Jewish Historical Museum, Portuguese Synagogue, and Hollandsche Schouwburg, now a memorial with a small but impressive exhibit on the fate of Amsterdam’s Jews.

Whereas the Jewish cultural quarter’s restored synagogues shed light on the heyday of Jewish Amsterdam, the beta-version Holocaust museum and adjacent Hollandsche Schouwburg recall the near-elimination of Dutch Jewry, still a polarizing topic in the Netherlands.

“The two locations together represent the story of the Holocaust: the [former theater] is a place of deportation, collaboration and remembrance of the dead, [and] the college is a place where authentic human courage and selflessness were reflected,” according to the museum, which hopes to be “a beacon for the future.”


Long-Lost Plea to FDR Revives Question: How could Europe’s Jews have been Saved?

A ‘60 Minutes’ segment, an archivist, and the enduring legacy of assumptions that there was no way to skirt the law

winton82038Last month, 60 Minutes aired an interview with Sir Nicholas Winton, the London-born son of German Jews who has become known in England as “the British Schindler” for his efforts to rescue hundreds of Czech children, most of them Jews.

In the course of the segment, Winton mentioned that in 1939, he wrote a letter to President Roosevelt, asking the United States to accept some of the children. “But the Americans wouldn’t take any, which was a pity,” Winton told Bob Simon. “We could’ve got a lot more out.”

Neither family members nor scholars who have researched Winton’s story have ever been able to locate a copy of that letter—but after the 60 Minutes segment, a National Archives staff member named David Langbart began digging through the files until he found it. Earlier this week, on the occasion of Winton’s 105th birthday, Langbart presented him with both the original missive and the Roosevelt Administration’s response.

“Perhaps people in America do not realize how little is being done and has been done for refugee children in Czechoslovakia,” Winton wrote. “[T]here are thousands of children, some homeless and starving, mostly without nationality, but they certainly all have one thing in common: there is no future, if they are forced to remain where they are.” Winton went on to describe their destitution, and closed with the question, “Is it possible for anything to be done to help us with this problem in America?”

The answer was a firm “no.” The White House handed the letter off to the State Department, which in turn instructed the U.S. Embassy in London to inform Winton that “the United States Government is unable…to permit immigration in excess of that provided for by existing immigration laws.”

Indeed, 1939 was the one year out of Roosevelt’s 12 in office that he permitted the full use of the immigration quotas for Germany and other European countries with large Jewish populations. But the law was the law; there was no more room. “The United States opened its doors to the extent that the law allowed at the time,” Langbart, the National Archives staffer, told CBS. “I wish it could have been more—but it wasn’t.”

But the truth is, it could easily have been.


The very same week that Winton wrote to Roosevelt, the refugee ship St. Louis was making its way across the Atlantic with its 937 German Jewish passengers all dreaming of freedom. Soon they would be refused admission to Cuba and the United States, and forced to return to Europe, where many would later be murdered by the Nazis.

But in 1938, after the Kristallnacht pogroms, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lawrence Cramer, backed by the territory’s legislative assembly, publicly offered to accept Jewish refugees fleeing the Third Reich. “The U.S. immigration quotas did not apply to our territory,” Rep. Donna Christensen, a Democrat who currently represents the Virgin Islands, told me last month. “So refugees could have been admitted on a temporary basis, on tourist visas, for as long as they were in danger.”

Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes supported the proposal, but the State Department strongly opposed it. Roosevelt sided with State, vetoing the plan on the grounds that Nazi spies might disguise themselves as Jewish refugees and sneak into the mainland U.S. via the islands. In fact, no cases of Nazis posing as refugees to get into America were ever discovered.

But there were other ways that Jews could have been admitted despite the rigorous quotas. Henry Feingold, a professor emeritus of history at Baruch College and one of the leading experts on the 1930s refugee crisis, noted that the law permitted the non-quota immigration of an unrestricted number of “ministers, their wives, and unmarried children.” The term “ministers” included rabbis. “In other words, quite a few rabbis and their families could have been admitted in 1939 despite the quota being filled that year with regular immigration from Germany and other European countries,” Feingold said.

As it happens, Feingold—then a child—was among the lucky handful who qualified under the immigration quotas and were able to reach the United States. He left Germany with his family just days before Kristallnacht. Most of his extended family stayed behind in Europe, and nearly all of his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were killed in the Holocaust.

Stephen Norwood, a professor at the University of Oklahoma who has researched relations between American and German universities in the 1930s, points to two additional categories that could have been used to admit Jews outside the quota system. “A small number of college professors and students were admitted on a non-quota basis, provided an American college hired the professors and contributors, usually from the Jewish community, covered the students’ expenses,” he explained. “But many others could have immigrated to the U.S. within the law, if the administration hadn’t been looking for every possible way to keep immigrants out.”

In his recent book The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, Norwood noted at least 50 instances in which American colleges offered scholarships to European Jewish refugee students, but the Roosevelt administration blocked their entry. U.S. officials claimed the students could not prove they had a safe address in Europe to which they could later return–and thus constituted a “risk” to become “financially dependent” on the federal government.

Another option for Jewish refugees was British Mandatory Palestine. Ironically, Winton’s letter to FDR was written just day after the British announced their new White Paper policy, shutting off the Holy Land to all but a trickle of Jewish immigration. Could FDR have dissuaded London from taking that step? “England desperately needed American support because it knew war with Germany was likely,” noted Monty Penkower, a professor emeritus of Jewish history at the Machon Lander Graduate Center of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and the author of the new book Palestine in Turmoil: The Struggle for Sovereignty, 1933-1939. “Had FDR put a little behind-the-scenes pressure on the British to keep Palestine more widely open to Jewish refugees, they might have listened.”

Which brings us back to Winton, whose parents had changed their name from Wertheim and converted to Christianity after arriving in London. A stockbroker by profession, he got into refugee work after the Kristallnacht pogrom, spurred on by friends who shared his outrage over events in Germany. Eventually, he managed to arrange for the transport of 669 Czech children, finding families to take them in. One final group of 250 children were scheduled to depart from Prague on Sept. 1, 1939—but they were trapped when the Germans invaded Poland that day, and all of them were eventually murdered in the Holocaust.

His letter to the president of the United States, written six months earlier, in May 1939, remains a tragic reminder of the desperation not just of Jews trying to flee Hitler, but of those working so hard to save them. And the Roosevelt Administration’s response remains a symbol of a government that looked for every reason to say “no” to Jewish refugees, even when the law itself offered numerous options to save lives by opening the doors just a little.



Risking Everything to Defy the Nazis

The tale of Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp, who lied and deceived their way to saving more than 100 Czech Jews during the Holocaust.

ShowImage (2)They bullied and bluffed, bamboozled and bedeviled bureaucrats, politicians and soldiers.

They climbed mountains and traversed other treacherous terrain. They fed the hungry and clothed the nearly naked. They smuggled refugees out of countries in which they were in mortal danger, into other lands, some of whose borders were supposed to be closed and most that were unenthusiastic about accepting the fugitives. They regularly risked their lives.

Leaving their two young children with friends, Rev. Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha did all that and more in their efforts in 1939 and 1940 to rescue Jews and others fleeing or hiding from the Nazis.

Their remarkable story is told by their grandson Artemis Joukowsky in Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, which complements the documentary of the same name, co-directed by him and the wellknown American filmmaker Ken Burns.

Both works are based on a thorough study of the Sharps’ papers and interviews with those whose lives intersected with the couple.

It is difficult to quantify the Sharps’ efforts, their grandson writes. However, in the few months they were in Czechoslovakia and later for a short time in Vichy France, they apparently helped about 125 people flee to freedom from an almost- certain death at the hands of the Nazis. The two also provided money for transportation and clothes for other people to get to ports where their visas would allow them to escape.

In addition, the Sharps set up a feeding program in Prague that kept 264 people alive long enough to get out and provided milk for 800 starving French children for a month.

Even more amazing than the “what” is the “how.” Neither had much experience or training in deception, covering their trails or money laundering. But because the Nazis were stealing money sent by legal means, Waitstill Sharp set up bank accounts in neighboring countries by which he would receive money from donors and disburse funds to refugees from those bank accounts.

He also illegally exchanged dollars for Czech currency, because people allowed to leave were forbidden to take out any hard currency. Operating as an illegal money changer left Sharp with suitcases of local currency. With that money, he donated funds to the Salvation Army in Prague, which was feeding thousands of Social Democrats who were living on the streets or underground to avoid being captured by the Germans. He also gave large sums to the YMCA to expand its summer-camp program and for the reconstruction of a refugee orphans’ home.

Helping those that the Nazis wished to kill or capture was extremely dangerous.

A day or two before leaving Prague, an informant told Martha she was on a list of people the Nazis intended to imprison.

What motivated these two to undertake such a dangerous assignment – so risky that 17 other Unitarian ministers had turned down the offer of going to Europe before the Sharps finally accepted? On a ship back to America, German- Jewish writer and anti-fascist activist Lion Feuchtwanger, who had been rescued from his hiding place in southern France by Waitstill Sharp, asked his rescuer what motivated him to do what he was doing.

He received no money for saving people, the Unitarian minister assured the writer, and he was a sinner and no saint.

“But I believe the will of God is to be interpreted by the liberty of the human spirit,” Sharp continued. “So I do what I do without any piety at all but ad magna gloria libertatis humani spiriti [to the greater glory, freedom of the human spirit].

“As my friend Dick Ball said, ‘I don’t like to see guys pushed around.’” Upon her return to America, Martha Sharp, among other activities, helped in fund-raising with Youth Aliya, the Hadassah program that rescued European children and brought them to Palestine. In 1947, Hadassah sent her to pre-state Israel to see firsthand and learn about programs she had been supporting.

Later, she wrote of what she had seen during her six-week stay: “A great powerful stream of sacrifice and idealism is bringing about the birth of a nation. We are witnessing an epic like that of America. The pioneers are giving their lives and are challenging us to help in time.”

In 2006, Martha and Waitstill Sharp were named “Righteous Among the Nations.”

It was an honor duly earned.


‘British Schindler’ Honored by Royal Mail Commemorative Stamp

Sir Nicholas Winton rescued 669 Jewish children from Europe in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Holocaust.

ShowImage (2)The British Royal Mail postal service has issued a stamp honoring Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 Jewish children from Europe in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Winton arranged for eight trains carrying the children to travel from Prague to the UK, utilizing Britain’s Kindertransport program allowing for refugees under 17 from the continent to gain asylum if they had a hosting family.

Winton bribed Nazi officials, arranged for forged travel documents and found families to take the children in and pay a £50 deposit for their eventual return travel fees.

The families of most of the children rescued were murdered during the Holocaust Winton, who died last year aged 106, is one of six humanitarians honored in the Royal Mail’s presentation pack issued on Tuesday, including Sue Ryder, John Boyd Orr, Eglantyne Jebb, Joseph Rowntree, and Josephine Butler.

“Sir Nicholas Winton was a true hero of our time and it is fantastic that Royal Mail is recognizing this remarkable man in such a special way,” said Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust in the UK.

“The Holocaust Educational Trust is thrilled that this commemorative stamp is now available for everyone to purchase and spread the story of Sir Nicholas’s extraordinary selflessness far and wide.”


Around Auschwitz, Holocaust items rescued from oblivion

Poles dedicated to preserving history are finding and saving thousands of artifacts that originated in Nazi death camp

aushwitz-copyBRZEZINKA, Poland (AFP) — When the war ended, returning, destitute residents had nothing, so they scavenged what they could from the camp that the Nazis had built where their village once stood.

In doing so, tens of thousands of items from Auschwitz-Birkenau — from a roller used by prisoners to build roads, to plates from a SS dining hall — escaped destruction, and now, more than 70 years later a group of Poles dedicated to preserving history, are rescuing these artifacts from oblivion.

Several members of the group, called the Foundation of Memory Sites Near Auschwitz-Birkenau (FPMP), are sifting through a small wooden cabin located near the barbed wire fence surrounding the former Nazi German death camp.

“This metal container must have been a washbasin for the camp’s inmates,” explains 43-year-old Dag Kopijasz, a diving instructor who devotes himself to local history in his free time.

“There’s also a stool, hangers, an ammunition box and dishes.”

There are also dishes embossed with two lightening bolts, the insignia of the SS, the notorious armed wing of the Nazi party.

“These here are plates from a set of dishes from the SS dining hall,” he says.

“The SS dining hall wasn’t far from here, and behind us, 200 meters (650 feet) away, there was the Birkenau camp.”

One million European Jews died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which Nazi Germany set up in occupied Poland in 1940 and which became Europe’s biggest death camp.

More than 100,000 others including non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and anti-Nazi resistance fighters also died there.

In order to build the camp, the Nazis cleared all the residents out of the village of Birkenau and razed most of its houses.

“When the previous residents returned after the war, they had absolutely nothing so they took items they found at the site,” Kopijasz adds.

Three years ago, Kopijasz set up the Foundation of Memory Sites Near Auschwitz-Birkenau, whose goal is to collect items related to the death camp and save them from oblivion.

“No one was interested even though there are still tons of objects at homes in the region… Often people don’t know what to do with them,” he says.

Such was the case with 55-year-old Zbigniew Gierlicki, who agreed to hand over the cabin to the foundation after his parents died.

“From what I was told, it seems my grandfather built it out of planks from a dismantled camp barracks. There was a ton of stuff — German uniforms, soap, army stretchers — but it’s all lost now,” he told AFP.

“My grandparents took it all from the camp, like everyone else here. At the time we had nothing, not even building material,” Gierlicki says.

“But my grandmother never used these plates. Ever.”

Inside the hut, the number C652 can be seen through the peeling white paint, suggesting the planks were scavenged from what was once the camp’s clinic, Kopijasz says.

Andrzej Kacorzyk, a historian and deputy director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum, is not surprised that so many objects are still being found.

“You mustn’t forget that some 100,000 men — inmates, the SS — lived here, so there was an enormous amount of all sorts of goods, which still resurface today,” he told AFP.

Efforts to preserve the site and objects found there began two years after the end of the war when Poland set up the museum in the southern city of Oswiecim.

“We’re delighted that history buffs also manage to find items,” Kacorzyk adds. “What’s most important is for these items to be preserved.”

Once empty, the cabin will be dismantled, plank-by-plank, and taken to a warehouse belonging to the foundation, which has already dismantled 15 others and filled up three small exhibition halls with the objects found.

At the foundation’s headquarters in the nearby village of Budy-Brzeszcze, visitors can see a wide range of artifacts.

Among the items on display is a large concrete roller used by inmates to pave roads which had been used for years by a nearby football club to level its pitch.

There is also a porcelain Mickey Mouse figurine that once belonged to a child killed at the camp, as well as a tiny wooden clog charm which was hidden between bricks in an attic where prisoners once slept.

“We don’t know who made it or to whom it was given,” says Kopijasz.

“We’ll probably never know.”


The German officer who saved 13 Jewish ‘spies’ from the Nazis

Seeing the Nazi treatment of the Jews played a key part in Hans von Dohnanyi’s growing opposition to Hitler.

hans-von-dohnanyiIn the middle of the World War II, German jurist and military intelligence officer Hans von Dohnanyi conceived of a daring idea to help some of his Jewish friends escape the Nazis.

Abwehr Chief Admiral Wilhelm Canaris encouraged the members of his German military intelligence unit to help save as many Jews as possible, and along with General Hans Oster, von Dohnanyi came up with Operation U-7, a clandestine plan to smuggle 13 Jews out of the Nazi Reich.

Seeing the Nazi treatment of the Jews played a key part in Dohnanyi’s growing opposition to Hitler, and he was more than willing to lead the humanitarian action.

In the fall of 1941, they devised a plan to disguise 13 Jewish refugees as Abwehr agents who were being disguised as Jewish refugees in order to smuggle them into the US in order to spy for the German government.

It took over a year to plan and to execute, including obtaining the permission of SS commander Heinrich Himmler, and on September 29, 1942, the Jewish “spies,” with special identity cards and passes traveled from the Berlin Zoo Train Station, arriving in Switzerland shortly after paying them an amount totaling about $100,000 drawn from secret military intelligence funds.

Von Dohnanyi, who had seen the work of the Nazis ever since their rise to power in the early 1930s, reached the conclusion by himself to help Jews and to try to cause the downfall of the Nazis, but he was also blessed to have an outspoken brother-in-law who was on the same the ideological path to martyrdom as he was.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian who was an outspoken dissident of the Nazi regime, left Germany in 1938 to save himself from having to fight in Hitler’s army. He said that he must live through the war, otherwise he will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if he doesn’t share the trials with his people.

“Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization,” Bonhoeffer wrote.

During the war, the pastor spoke out against the persecution of the Jews and his Bethel Confession adamantly refuted the Nazis’ Deutsche Christen (German Christian Protestant group) doctrine, saying Israel’s spot in history can not be usurped and that no nation is obligated to avenge the Jews’ role in the killing of Jesus.

Dohnanyi wasn’t only interested in the present, however, and during his time in the Bavarian Justice Ministry he also tried to ensure that the Nazis would be brought to justice after the war would end.

“With cool-headed efficiency and rising outrage Dohnanyi began to keep a chronological record, along with supporting evidence and an index, of the regime’s illegal acts,” authors Elisabeth Sifton and Fritz Stern wrote in “No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State.“ “These documents were meant to facilitate the prosecution of Nazi criminals after the end of the regime.”

On April 5, 1943, the Gestapo arrested von Dohnanyi, but he was soon after released, however, as the Nazis had a lack of evidence against him in the role he played in Operation U-7.

The experience didn’t deter him, and von Dohnanyi continued in his attempt to overthrow the Nazi regime. His efforts would culminate in the failure of the July 20, 1944 bomb plot – also known as Operation Valkyrie – an attempted coup d’etat led by Claus von Stauffenberg to assassinate Adolf Hitler and make peace with the West.

The Gestapo found von Dohnanyi’s records on the Nazis’ misdeeds, and a month before the Allied victory, in April 1945, he was hanged with piano wire.

What made Dohnanyi’s efforts even more remarkable was that he had a Jewish grandfather. While this fact was not able to discredit him from his positions, it did not help to relieve the suspicion of the Gestapo.

“In accordance with his racial composition – which indeed you cannot tell by his external looks – he has no understanding for the racial legislation of the Third Reich, to which he is internally opposed,” said Friedrich Arnold, a Jewish lawyer saved by Dohnanyi said of his beliefs. “Thus he expressed the view that the racist position of National Socialism is impossible because it contradicts the Christian view of the Protestant Church.”

In a ceremony in Berlin on October 26, 2003, Yad Vashem posthumously recognized von Dohnanyi as a Righteous Among the Nations for saving the lives of 13 Jews.

Prior to his death, Dohnanyi said that he did what he did because he was “on the path that a decent person inevitably takes.”


The Catholic, French count who saved a Jewish family from the Nazis

In his castle in rural France, Count Henri de Menthon discreetly and humbly saved Jewish children in during World War II.


showimage-ashxBy the time she was only eight years old, Claire Farhi, a young Jewish resident of Paris, had already been separated from her parents and four of her siblings.

In 1943, at the height of World War II, she once again faced being separated from the rest of her family, as Secours National welfare workers tried to put her under the guardianship of a family in eastern France.

Farhi was more than distraught from the fact that she may not see her two brothers again. But she was also in despair knowing that she wouldn’t be able to keep the promise she made to her father the last time she saw him before the family parted in Paris during the Bombing of France.

“The bus came [to take us to the countryside] and my two brothers got on, and all of a sudden my father stopped me,” she wrote in a survivor’s account from Yad Vashem. “He [kneeled down], hugged me and said ‘promise me two things: ‘One that you will never forget that you are Jewish, and to stay together [with your brothers].”

As the bus escaped the bombings in Paris, stopping at French towns along the countryside, Farhi would cry each time the welfare workers tried to remove her. But after reaching a remote village with only four children remaining on the bus, it was practically impossible for her to remain with her brothers.

So as the Secours National rescue agents physically tried to have her taken to a family in the village, she began to cry again, and once she began to cry, one of her brothers, seeing the panic on her face, began to scream.

In the eastern French village of Saint Loup les Gray, Mayor Count Henri de Menthon just happened to be passing by and heard all the noise. He went into the bus and saw the look on the poor children. The count made a gesture with hand, saying he would take all three of them to his castle.

“I cried so much that the count who was walking in the park came to ask what was happening. He made a hand gesture that today I have not forgotten, and he said: ‘I’m taking all three,” Farhi, who now goes by the name Dina Godschalk, said at a ceremony for de Menthon several years ago.

In Saint Loup les Gray, Claire and her brothers went to school, church and completely blended in to save themselves from the Nazis, said Godschalk.
The then-78-year-old De Menthon, who came from a long Catholic tradition, and was a World War I hero decorated with the Legion of Honour and the Cross of War, never thought twice about the heroic act that he was performing – which was even more heroic knowing that the chateau’s staff and everyone in the village knew that the three children were Jewish.

In fact he probably never thought what he was doing was heroic. “What would he have thought about this distinction? He probably would have been embarrassed,” wrote the “L’est Republicain” daily’s Sebastien Michaux in an op-ed.

Olivier de Menthon said in 2012 during the ceremony naming de Menthon as Righteous Among the Nations, that his grandfather, who died in 1952, hadn’t told anybody about saving the Jewish children.

“My grandfather was very discreet and we knew nothing of this story before Dina contacted us two years ago. Today, we are one family with hers,” Olivier de Menthon said.

Godschalk’s parents and three of her siblings perished in the war, and de Menthon remains the hero who saved her and her brothers.

“He gave us the greatest gift. Thanks to him, life won.”

De Menthon wasn’t the only one in his family who believed in justice for all. His son, François de Menthon, who fought alongside Charles de Gaulle in the Resistance, became justice minister in the first government after the war and was the chief French prosecutor at the Nuremberg Holocaust and war crimes trial.

On September 5, 2012, Yad Vashem honored Count Henri de Menthon as a Righteous Among the Nations.


AmeriCorps launches recruitment drive for volunteers for Holocaust survivors

WASHINGTON (JTA) –AmeriCorps-VISTA, the federal anti-poverty volunteer program, launched its recruitment drive for volunteers who will assist Holocaust survivors.
The program is seeking volunteers for 14 agencies operating in seven states, according to a release Thursday from the Jewish Federations of North America, one of the partner agencies.
The states are: California, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and New York and the year-long volunteer stints are expected to begin in the fall.
Vice President Joe Biden announced the partnership with AmeriCorps in December in outlining plans to assist impoverished Holocaust survivors.
According to JFNA, there are about 113,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States, of which about 25 percent live below the poverty line.
“In order to remain in their homes and communities, Holocaust survivors need home health care, assistance with transportation, help paying medical and dental bills, and rental assistance or affordable housing,” the JFNA said in its release.
Other partnering agencies include the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies; Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles; Jewish Child and Family Services and CJE Senior Life in Chicago; the Alpert Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Palm Beach County; the Ruth and Norman Rales Jewish Family Services of Boca Raton, Fla.; Jewish Family Service of Broward County; Jewish Community Services of South Florida; Jewish Family Services of Metropolitan Detroit; the Jewish Social Service Agency in Greater Washington; Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern New Jersey; Selfhelp Community Services in New York and UJA-Federation of New York.