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