1944 the Nazis from Lyon sent two vans to the French village of Izieu.
Their Mission: to exterminate the children of an orphanage known as La
The sleepy village of Izieu lay overlooking the Rhone river between Lyon
and Chambery in central France. Refugees from Herault were the first
arrivals at the Children's home and their Jewish identity was kept secret
by the staff. The children, aged between four and seventeen, felt safe and
secure, supervised by seven adults. Often one of the young boys
entertained his companions by making movies, paintings on
transparent paper and scrolled past a lighted box.
The Children's Home was a perfect idyll and the Jewish children led a
happy life with plenty of time for playing, drawing and painting, as these
sketches show, made by the Izieu children.
However, on the morning of April 6, 1944, as they all settled down in the
refectory to drink hot chocolate, three vehicles, two of which were
lorries, pulled up in front of the home. The Gestapo, led by the 'Butcher
of Lyon' Klaus Barbie, entered the home and forcibly removed the forty
four children and their seven supervisors, throwing the crying and
terrified children on to the trucks like sacks of potatoes.
As a witness later recalled: 'I was on my way down the stairs when my
sister shouted to me: it's the Germans, save yourself! I jumped out the
window. I hid myself in a bush in the garden. I heard the cries of the
children that were being kidnapped and I heard the shouts of the Nazis who
were carrying them away...'
Following the raid on their home in Izieu, the children were shipped
directly to the 'collection center' in Drancy, then put on the first
available train towards the death camps in the East. Forty-two children
and five adults were gassed in the extermination camp of Auschwitz. Two of
the oldest children and Miron Zlatin, the superintendent, ended up in
Tallin in Estonia and were put to death by a firing squad.
Of the forty-four children kidnapped by the Nazis in Izieu, not a single
one survived. Of the supervisors there was one sole survivor, twenty-seven
year old Lea Feldblum. When the children from Izieu arrived in Auschwitz
on April 15, 1944, Léa led the column of children to the selection point.
When she informed the SS that these children were from a home, she was
ruthlessly separated from them and sent to the prisoners' camp.
One survivor of Auschwitz
revealed during Klaus Barbie's trial what happened to the children: 'I
asked myself where were the children who arrived with us? In the camp
there wasn't a single child to be seen. Then those who had been there for
a while informed us of the reality. 'You see that chimney, the one smoke
never stops coming out of .. you smell that odor of burned
of the children of La Maison d'Izieu was eleven-year-old Liliane
Gerenstein. Lilliane and her brother were sent to their deaths a few days
after she wrote this letter to God:
How good You are, how kind and if one had to count the number of
goodnesses and kindnesses You have done, one would never finish.
God? It is You who command. It is You who are justice, it is You who
reward the good and punish the evil.
God? It is thanks to You that I had a beautiful life before, that I was
spoiled, that I had lovely things that others do not have.
God? After that, I ask You one thing only: Make my parents come back,
my poor parents protect them (even more than You protect me) so that I can
see them again as soon as possible.
Make them come back again. Ah! I had such a good mother and such a good
father! I have such faith in You and I thank You in advance.
The children's father, Chapse, miraculously survived the Holocaust and
emigrated to the United States.
child of Izieu was eight-year-old Georges Halpern, born Oct. 30,
1935 in Vienna. After the war a letter to his parents was found - the
little boy wrote:
Maman, I send you 10000000000 kisses your son who loves you very much.
There are big mountains and the village is very pretty. There are a lot of
farms and we look for blackberries and raspberries and white mulberries. I
hug you with all my heart. Georgy.
Jacques and his brothers
Benguigui was born on April 13, 1931, in Oran, Algeria, but the family
moved to Marseilles, France, shortly before WW2. His mother was deported
to Auschwitz in Poland on July 31, 1943, and Jacques and his two younger
brothers, Richard, six years old, and Jean-Claude, who was five,
were sent to be sheltered in the Children's home in Izieu.
in Izieu Jacques wrote a letter to his mother:
Maman, my dear Maman, I know how much you've suffered on my account and on
this happy occasion of Mother's Day I send you from afar my best wishes
from the bottom of my little heart. So far from you, darling Maman, I've
done everything I could to make you happy: when you've sent packages, I've
shared them with the children who have no parents. Maman, my dear Maman, I
leave you with hugs and kisses. Your son who adores you. Jacques
the Nazi raid Klaus Barbie sent a telex to Gestapo headquarters in Paris
declaring that the children's colony at Izieu had been removed and
arrangements made for the deportation of its residents. The full text,
which contains mistakes about the children's ages and apparently counted
three of the oldest children among the adults arrested, reads:
morning, the Jewish children's home, Children's Colony, at Izieu has been
removed. 41 children in all, aged 3 to 13, have been captured. Beyond
that, the arrest of all the Jewish personnel has taken place, namely 10
individuals, among them 5 women. It was not possible to secure any money
or other valuables. Transportation to Drancy will take place on 4/7/44.
Signed Klaus Barbie."