LYON (Oct. 26)
Fifteen-thousand Jewish children – half of those living in France before the war – were killed or deported during the German occupation, officials of the OSE, Jewish Health Society, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent today. About 13,000 were killed in or deported from the occupied zone, while 2,000 met a similar fate in the so-called Vichy area.
At least 7,000 children, they said, were deported with their parents from the Paris area after the gigantic round-up in July, 1942, which resulted in the deportation of 50,000 men, women and children. Many children were also deported from the southern zone, together with their families, in August, 1942, when Vichy complied with the Nazi demand to deliver 14,000 Jews for deportation.
Throughout the occupation the OSE cared for 6,000 children, 5,000 in the free zone and 1,000 in the north, and lost only 80 of these to the Gestapo, but 28 OSE workers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, were captured by the Gestapo and either shot or deported. The OSE, the officials said, also sent 1,500 children to Switzerland.
Aroused French public opinion, as manifested by the courageous denunciations of the deportation of children by Cardinal Gerlier, Archbishop Salieges of Toulouse and Pastor Boegner, head of the French Protestant Church, was directly responsible for saving about 1,400 children in 1942. As a result of protests by these religious leaders, 600 children at the Rivesalte camp, who were awaiting deportation with their parents, 400 at the Gurs camp, and about 400 at the Les Milles camp near Marseille, were released. The parents were deported.
OSE leaders also told how Cardinal Gerlier and a Father Chaillet defied the Gestapo and saved 40 Jewish children of Lyon. Jewish welfare workers brought the children to Gerlier, who told them to tell the police that he had them. Father Chaillet concealed them in Catholic institutions. When the police demanded the children, the priest refused to surrender them and was arrested, but was subsequently released after the Cardinal intervened.
CONFERENCE CONSIDERS CHILD-CARE PROGRAM FOR SURVIVORS
The OSE spokesmen bitterly denounced the attitude of the Vichy authorities who, they said, acted with utmost brutality. When Jews were arrested, they made vigorous searches for concealed children on the pretext of uniting families, so that the children would be deported with their parents.
Of the 15,000 children who remain, at least half lost their parents through death or deportation. An OSE conference, which opened here this week, with OSE representatives from all over France in attendance, is discussing ways and means of transforming their work from clandestine activity to legal operations. They are working out a program of providing, maintenance, education and social welfare for these orphans, and of providing medical care and general assistance for other Jewish children. They also hope to establish machinery for reuniting families.
Lazar Gurevich, general secretary of the OSE council, who arrived here from Genova together with Joseph Weil, another OSE leader, are participating in the conference. Mr. Gurevich said that funds to finance their activities will be furnished by the Joint Distribution Committee. He stated OSE headquarters would remain in Switzerland.