Holocaust Remembrance Day: Remembering the Children of Izieu

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Holocaust Remembrance Day: Remembering the Children of Izieu
As Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, I find myself remembering again the haunting exhibition called “You will remember me,” which I saw last year at the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in the 3rd arrondissement. It told the story of 105 Jewish children who found refuge at the Maison d’Izieu, about an hour’s drive from Lyon, in 1943 and 1944. Among the photos and documents were displays of writings and drawings, many of them left behind by children who were later murdered in the concentration camps.    One of the photos showed Georges Halpern, known as Georgy, aged 8, in dungaree shorts and over-large Wellington boots, staring confidently at the camera with his hands on his hips. He seemed to have paused from his gardening tasks, perhaps in the vegetable garden at Izieu, where the children were encouraged to help. Many of them had lost contact with their parents, but Georgy was able to correspond with his mother. In one letter he thanked her for the little parcel she’d sent, containing socks, a coloring book, apples and some honey, asked her to send him a copy of his favorite magazine and signed off with the words “I kiss you with all my heart.” One letter at least came back marked “Return to Sender.”   Georges Halpern, “You will remember me” exhibit. Photo Credit: Marian Jones Georgy wrote this letter from the Villa Anne-Marie, a remote house on the edge of the little village of Izieu, where a remarkable Jewish couple with Russian/Polish heritage provided sanctuary for children who’d been separated from their parents, some of them rescued from nearby internment camps. Marin and Sabine Zlatin had resolved, despite the enormous dangers they faced in Nazi occupied France, to provide as normal a life as possible for the children. They varied in age from 3 to 16 and it was hoped that they would eventually be placed in families or returned to their relatives.    On April 6th, 1944, came horror. On the orders of Klaus Barbie, two lorries were sent to the Maison d’Izieu at 8 o’clock in the morning and SS officers rounded up everyone they found. The 44 children and 7 adults taken were deported to Auschwitz and other camps. Only one – one of the helpers – survived. Sabine Zlatin, who understood what danger they were all in, was away that day, trying to organize dispersing the children and sending them elsewhere in the hope of saving them. Her intention had been for that to happen later that same month.  Maison des enfants d’Izieu, today a museum and memorial dedicated to the Jewish children deported to Nazi concentration camps. Photo credit: Chabe01 / Wikimedia commons Much of what we know about life at Izieu shows how well the children were looked after. Conditions were difficult – the only water came from an outside fountain, for example – but a routine was established to keep life as normal as possible. There were lessons every day – math and writing in the mornings, grammar and reading in the afternoons – the children helped a little with domestic tasks and went on walks and bike rides along the River Rhône where Georgy told his mother he was learning to swim.

Lead photo credit : "You will remember me" exhibition poster. Photo Credit: Marian Jones

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.


  • Nancy Russell
    2024-01-25 06:32:58
    Nancy Russell
    Thank you for this heartrending article. We cannot let this happen again.