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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, officially named Settlement for Refugee Children from Herault, and their Jewish identity was kept secret by the staff. The children, aged between 3 and 18, felt safe and secure, supervised by seven adults.

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. Often one of the young boys entertained his companions by making movies, paintings on transparent paper and scrolled past a lighted box.


Sketches made by children of Izieu

In his unforgettable book The Children Of Izieu: A Human Tragedy the author Serge Klarsfeld, who devoted much of his adult life to hunting Nazis and bringing them to justice, tells how the newspaper Les Allobroges, upon the inauguration of the memorial at Izieu on April 7, 1946, wrote:

"They faced the future with a smile. It took only a handful of brutes to reduce their hopes to nought ..."

In his heartbreaking book Serge Klarsfeld, who brought the Butcher Of Lyons Klaus Barbie to justice in 1983, gives us a picture of daily life at the Children's Home of Izieu: After the war a letter from eight-year-old Georges Halpern was found - it tells how the children get up at seven, have cocoa with bread and jam at breakfast, for lunch sometimes soup, vegetables, dessert, and for afternoon snacks milk with bread and chocolate; how they take a nap every afternoon; how they go for hikes on Thursdays and Sundays; how they pick mulberries and blackberries; that they have a dog ..

However, on the morning of April 6, 1944 - a warm day, no clouds, bright sun - 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 children and their supervisors, throwing the crying and terrified children on to the trucks like sacks of potatoes.

Then the SS men ransacked the house and several more children were discovered hiding under a table in the attic classroom. In the confusion one small boy began racing across the courtyard, but the SS men grabbed him and beat him with rifle butts. Blood streamed from his nose as he was thrown into the truck. The last child, a blond boy of 3, too terrified to walk, was carried into the truck.


As a witness, Leon Reifman, 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 taken directly to the cellar of the Fort Montluc Prison in Lyons. The very next morning Klaus Barbie arranged for the cattle cars that would take the children to the 'collection center' in Drancy. Then they were put on the first available train towards the death camps in the East.



Auschwitz-Birkenau

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.


Holocaust Children

At the trial of Klaus Barbie a witness, Edith Klebinder, testified that the children were put to death immediately upon arrival at Auschwitz. She was an Austrian-born Jew and was deported from France to Auschwitz April, 1944, and arrived at the death camp on April 15 aboard the same train as the Izieu children. The Nazi guards ordered Klebinder, who was fluent in French and German, to translate as they ordered children and pregnant women onto trucks and told the other arrivals to walk to the camp.

Edith Klebinder - in a voice choked with emotion - told she at first thought the children and pregnant women were given rides to the camp out of compassion. Later, she said, she asked what had become of 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 flesh ...'

 


Jean-Claude, Richard,
and Jacques Benguigui

Jacques 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 of Izieu.

While in Izieu Jacques wrote a letter to his mother:

"O 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"



Georges Halpern

Another child of Izieu was eight-year-old Georges Halpern, born October 30, 1935 in Vienna. After the war a letter to his parents was found - the little boy wrote: 

"Chere 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."

 


Alice-Jacqueline Luzgart

Alice-Jacqueline Luzgart was born October 8, 1933, in Paris. The ten-year-old girl wrote this letter to her mother Sarah a few months before the Nazi raid at the Children's Home at Izieu. She was deported to Auschwitz and murdered immediately upon arrival:

"Dearest Mommy,

It made me very happy to get your letter of the 18th. I hope you have gotten the letter I sent you a few days ago at la Tagnière.

I am in good health, and I hope the same goes for you as well for Mr. and Mrs. Barbier.

Thank you for picking up clogs for me and I'll be nice and warm, won't I, Mommy.

The snow is melting here, and the sun is peeking through, we can see that spring is sure to be here soon. What luck, spring is so pretty, with its trees and flowers, also its buds. I imagine you have gotten the letter in which I asked you to take some photos of where you are, because I no longer remember what the country is like, but you mustn't forget that I was really little when I was there.

Like you told me, I'm sending kind regards to Mrs. Bouvresse.

I will be very happy to write her a little note one day. I'm convinced that it would make her happy, don't you think so, my dear little Mommy, as well as Aunt Henriette. 

I am going to get a package from Fanny with the blue checked shirt.

Since I can't find anything else to tell you, I will say good-bye, hugging you with all my might. Do give my regards to Mr. and Mrs. Barbier.

Your little daughter, who is thinking of you.

Jacqueline"

On April 1, 1944, Alice-Jacqueline writes to her sister Fanny:

"... I chose accountant, but, you know, my girlfriend chose a nicer profession than I did, she wants to be a student-midwife in the maternity ward when she grows up. She told me she’d like to operate on the mothers to bring little children into the world because she likes little babies. Don’t you think that’s a fine profession? Maybe I’ll change my mind and copy her.

Tell me what you wanted to do when you were little, Fanny ..."


 


Klaus Barbie

After 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:

"This 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."


 

Sami Adelsheimer, 5 
Hans Ament, 10 
Nina Aronowicz, 11 
Max-Marcel Balsam, 12 
Jean-Paul Balsam, 10 
Esther Benassayag, 12 
Elie Benassayag, 10 
Jacob Benassayag, 8 
Jacques Benguigui, 12 
Richard Benguigui, 7 
Jean-Claude Benguigui, 5 
Barouk-Raoul Bentitou, 12 
Majer Bulka, 13 
Albert Bulka, 4 
Lucienne Friedler, 5 
Egon Gamiel, 9 
Maurice Gerenstein, 13 
Liliane Gerenstein, 11 
Henri-Chaïm Goldberg, 13 
Joseph Goldberg, 12 
Mina Halaunbrenner, 8
Claudine Halaunbrenner, 5
Georges Halpern, 8 
Arnold Hirsch, 17 
Isidore Kargeman, 10 
Renate Krochmal, 8 
Liane Krochmal, 6 
Max Leiner, 8 
Claude Levan-Reifman, 10
Fritz Loebmann, 15 
Alice-Jacqueline Luzgart, 10 
Paula Mermelstein, 10 
Marcel Mermelstein, 7 
Theodor Reis, 16 
Gilles Sadowski, 8 
Martha Spiegel, 10 
Senta Spiegel, 9 
Sigmund Springer, 8 
Sarah Szulklaper, 11 
Max Tetelbaum, 12 
Herman Tetelbaum, 10 
Charles Weltner, 9 
Otto Wertheimer, 12 
Emile Zuckerberg, 5

 

 

 

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