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154 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 with greater importance as we attempt to understand day-to-dayactivities and organization in the midst of destruction. Stephen C. Feinstein History Department University of Wisconsin-River Falls LaFillere: En France Occu.,ee 1942-1944, byAnne-Marie 1m Hof-Piguet. Yverdon-Ies-Bains, Switzerland: Parcours Editions de la Thiele, 1985. 166 pp. ( Die Kinder von Schloss LaHille, by Sebastian Steiger. Basel: Switzerland: Brunnen Verlag, 1992. 379 pp. During World War II, the Swiss Red Cross's Aid to Children (CroixRouge Suisse, Secours aux Enfants) provided services for destitute children in Vichy France where refugees from the Spanish Civil War and Jews escaping the German army found themselves trapped. 1m Hof-Piguet and Steiger, two Swiss Red Cross volunteers who had offered to work with these stranded children, write about their experiences and actions under the most trying conditions as they struggle to support, teach, and protect the youth in their care. They reflect also on the reluctant support of some of their superiors and are critical of the Swiss Red Cross bureaucracy and the Cantonal governments which allowed themselves to be intimidated by the Nazis and their antisemitic, genocidal poliCies, ostensibly to protect Swiss neutrality. One of the authors, 1m Hof-Piguet, had the courage of her convictions to engage in dangerous illegal border crossings in order to saveJewish youth from deportation to extermination camps. Indeed, those few caught entering Switzerland through mountainous terrain to find asylum, without her help, terminated in their being handed back to the S.S. for the inevitable trip to their destruction. It is to the credit of1m HofPiguet and Stieger to tell the story of a few committed adults whose moral beliefs did not fail them in saving children despite the callousness of the various German, French, and Swiss authorities. In the wake of Kristallnacht, roughly one hundred Jewish children ranging in age between 4 and 16 years came to Belgium through the combined efforts of the Belgian Red Cross and a "Committee" of Belgian Jews. These fugitive children from Germany and Austria were gathered in children's homes in hopes of keeping them safe. When the German invasion occurred, these boys and girls were evacuated in two cattle cars Book Reviews 155 which were attached to a train in Brussels heading south on May 14,1940. Eventually the children were brought to Seyre, a hamlet in Southern France, where they were abandoned in the company of their two chaperons to exist in a ramshackle house under the most primitive liVing conditions. Over the next five months the group barely managed to survive before Alexander Frank, the man who had accompanied the children on the journey from Belgium, was able to attract the attention of the Swiss Red Cross. However, the children had to remain in Seyre through a bitter winter until they were translocated in June of 1941 to Chateau de LaHille in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Although the level of comfort improved somewhat, the Chateau had long been deserted and neglected so that it could hardly be considered a children's home. However, some one hundred Spanish, German-Jewish, and French children found an uncertain refuge there under the auspices of the Swiss Red Cross. LaFiliere and Die Kinder von Schloss LaHille depict the vicissitudes ofexistence under the Vichy regime and the later total German occupation ofFrance. The older teenage Jewish boys and girls were in constant danger of arrest and deportation. Placing some with local farmers as farmhands in order to keep them out of sight and hiding others in the environs of the Chateau did not always succeed in avoiding the inevitable discovery. Several boys joined the Maquis, resulting in the death ofone, Egon Berlin, and in injury to others. A few escaped to Spain over the Pyrenees Mountains. The highlight of these two memoirs, which also contain touching diaries and recollections by some of the youth, are the exploits of 1m HofPiguet in circumventing the vigil of German, French, and Swiss border guards as she shepherded several Jewish young people over Alpine paths of her homeland. Steiger's contribution to the life of LaHille was as a young educator...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 154-156
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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