Quotes: French Rescue and Relief


Visas and Emigration

“Visas!  We began to live visas day and night.  When we were awake, we were obsessed by visas.  We talked about them all the time.  Exit visas.  Transit visas.  Entrance visas.  Where could we go?  During the day we tried to get the proper documents, approvals, stamps.  At night, in bed, we tossed about and dreamed about long lines, officials, visas.  Visas.”

Austrian visa recipient

“…these miserable people seeking to leave who run around checking at every consulate, collecting the most exotic visas in order to be considered as individuals on the verge of departure.  The awful situation in which many of them found themselves was simply unimaginable.  More rumors about such and such possibility for leaving the country were being spread every morning, and every evening these mirages would vanish.”

- A Jewish refugee describes getting papers to leave France

“In the apocalyptic atmosphere of 1940 Marseille, there were new stories every day about absurd escape attempts; plans involving fantasy boats and fictitious captains, visas for countries not found on any map, and passports issued by nations that no longer existed.  One got used to hearing via the grapevine which sure-fire plan had fallen apart like a house of cards that day.”

- Hans and Lisa Fittko, Austrian refugees

“France had just made an agreement with Mexico to let the Spanish republican refugees out, and Mexico was going to give them asylum and provide the boats to transport them.”

- Varian Fry, Emergency Rescue Committee

“My husband, Hans, had scant confidence in all the plans about mysterious ships and ocean voyages; up until now every one of them had fallen through, one after the other.  Hans felt more secure on solid land.  And these crackpot ideas involving consulates and transit visas, foreign exchange permits, and choosing between North or South America—they all sounded as if they came from some fantasy-world a man clutches at when he can’t cope with the improbably reality.  People like us, people without connections, papers, or money, where could we go?  All of the neutral countries shunned us like the plague.”

Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 93

 “There was a lot of discussion among the refugees about Portugal.  Portugal was neutral and would probably remain so.  A few emigrés who had American visas were able to obtain Portuguese transit visas.  At once a variety of ideas were hatched along the lines of managing to get a transit visa without first having the American visa.
          “In order to get a transit visa one had, of course, to have an entry visa for some other country.  For that, first of all, one needed a passport.  The Portuguese required in addition a paid transatlantic fare, to make certain that a person would be off their hands.  The fare had to be paid in dollars, which for most émigrés was absurd: they had hardly any money at all, and for sure none of them had a dollar permit.
          “To travel from France to Portugal one also needed a Spanish transit visa.  That, however, one could only apply for when one had the Portuguese document; every country was afraid that the emigrés would settle in with them like bedbugs.
          “And, then again, one needed money, the money to pay for complying with all these formalities.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 93-94

          “Franz Pfemfert came in from Perpignan, where he and Anja had settled down temporarily.  ‘The Czech consul in Marseille, an old friend, has promised me a passport,’ he said.  ‘Maybe he can also do something for the two of you.’  The next morning we went with him to the consulate, where we met some dozen other emigrés; the word had already gotten around.
          “The passports that the consul gave to German anti-Fascists who had been recommended to him had a pink cover instead of gray-green like the official Czech passport.  But in Marseille only the consul and people like us, who had lived in Czechoslovakia as emigrés, knew that these were ‘interim’ passports, issued to stateless emigrés for identification.  After the consulate was closed, the consul continued to issue passports through the good offices of the Centre Américain de Secours.
          ”Now the Pfemferts, Hans and I, Paulette and her father, my brother and his family, all had beautiful new passports bearing beautiful new names.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 94-95

“There were rumors about honorary consuls who sold ‘final-destination’ visas.  Indeed, at this time it wasn’t important whether or not they were valid; one could at least get to Portugal with them.  In the rue St. Feréol there was a Chinese Bureau that issued Chinese visas for a hundred francs.  Most of the emigrés could afford that amount, and lines stood in front of the bureau.  We, too, got a Chinese stamp in our Czech passports.  Much later, a Chinese friend translated the ‘visa’ for us.  It read something like this: ‘It is strictly forbidden for the bearer of this document, under any circumstances and at any time, to set foot on Chinese soil.’  That made no difference, for the Portuguese in Marseille couldn’t understand Chinese—or perhaps they didn’t want to understand it?”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 95

“It was simple to obtain a paid ship passage, for there was always someone who knew how to make a profit from human desperation.  Still, it was astounding that even the venerable old English travel agency Cook sold false transatlantic tickets.  Soon every émigré in Marseille knew about it, and we also went to the big, elegant agency in the city center.  We paid two hundred francs, and the genteel, rather supercilious official with the British accent sold us the fake tickets without turning a hair.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 95

          “To procure a transit visa from the Portuguese consulate one had to line up the evening before.  I well remember how cold it was on the street during the night and how hungry we were, but the next morning our turn came at last.  We actually had Portuguese transit visas.  Unbelievable!
          “The line in front of the Spanish consulate was so long that we had to stand there three evenings in a row before our turn finally came.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 95-96

“Now we and several of our friends had all our papers together, and shortly others would also be that far along.  Until then I hadn’t even mentioned the visas de sortie, the French exit visas one needed to leave the country, because it hadn’t even occurred to us to apply for them.  Why?  Because the visas were issued in Vichy, obviously under German supervision.  Therefore we would have to cross the border illegally.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 96

          “We’d heard about people who in the meantime had gotten across to Spain; in Banyuls, the last town before the border, there was a mayor, Monsieur Azéma.  He was a Socialist, and was able and willing to help the emigrés.
          “So first of all I had to make cautious contact with him and, if possible, with other local residents favorably inclined toward the emigrés.  Everything clicked surprisingly fast, although conditions had recently become more difficult; the usual route via the border town Cerbère was now closely watched and must be avoided.  But Monsieur Azéma revealed a safe and secret smuggler’s route to me; he called it
la route Lister.  General Lister of the Republican army had used it for his troops during the Spanish Civil War.
          “Maire Azéma insisted that the emigrés themselves should organize the border crossing, thus making sure that the new route would also be known to and used by those who came after.  ‘Perhaps one day I will no longer be here,’ he said.  Also it was quite imprudent for so many refugees to be reporting to him at the
mairie.  Not until later did I understand just why he’d figured on disappearing some day: he was known to the authorities for his activities during the Civil War.  It would be best (he said) if someone could remain here in Banyuls for a time, to help the refugees over the Pyrenees.
          “’I can provide you with housing and food-ration cards temporarily.’ He said, and took a few cans of milk and vegetables from a crate under his desk.  ‘
Pour le bébé,’ he added.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 101

          “First I’d gone down to the harbor and gotten into conversation with several dock workers.  One of them took me to the union shop steward.  Without asking many questions, he seemed to understand what it was all about.  He had advised me to look up the mayor in Banyuls-sur-Mer, Monsieur Azéma.  He was the man, as I had already been told in Maresille, who would help me to find a safe route for my family and friends who wanted to cross the border.
          “’He’s a wonderful man, this Mayor Azéma,’ I continued telling Benjamin.  ‘He spent hours with me working out every detail.’”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 104

“The only really safe route that still remained, declared the mayor, was la route Lister.  That meant that we had to cross the Pyrenees farther west, where the mountain crests were higher and thus the climb more strenuous.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 104

“In the apocalyptic atmosphere of 1940 Marseille, there were new stories every day about absurd escape attempts; plans involving fantasy boats and fictitious captains, visas for countries not found on any map, and passports issued by nations that no longer existed.  One got used to hearing via the grapevine which sure-fire plan had fallen apart like a house of cards that day.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 105

“Governments of all countries seemed to be involved in this ‘era of new decrees,’ issuing commands and instructions, revoking them, first enforcing and then lifting them again.  In order to get through, one had to learn to slip through the cracks and loopholes, using every trick and stratagem to slither out of this labyrinth, which was continually taking on new configurations.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 113

Faut se débrouiller: one must know how to help oneself, to clear a way out of the debacle—that’s the way one lived and survived in France back then.  Faut se débrouiller meant: buy counterfeit food stamps, scrounge milk for the children, obtain some—any—kind, of permit—in short, manage to do or obtain what didn’t officially exist.  For many that also meant to do or obtain such things by means of going along with officialdom, by collaborating.  But for us, the apatrides, everything we did revolved around avoiding the concentration camps, not falling into the hands of the Gestapo.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 113-114

          “Fry came right to the point (we learned later that Bohn didn’t understand French): Yes, it had to do with the border crossing.  They knew that now it was difficult and that I had guided Benjamin over a new route.  There were still many emigrés waiting whom the Centre had supplied with papers.  Would I help these people, or better, would both of us help them?
          “’Yes, certainly,’ I answered.  ‘I can sketch and describe the route to you.’  Indeed, that was precisely our intention, that the information be passed on to those who came after.
          “Fry said that he and his friend Bohn had actually thought differently about it.  In order to rescue hundreds of the imperiled it was vital to have the border crossing organized, with a take-off point and guides who knew the mountains; someone must be there who had experience in this border project.
          “Really, it was almost too good to be true.  Then the new committee would help us with our border plans?  Did they have capable coworkers?  Whatever the case, they wanted to come up with the money needed to keep people there for a time.
          “Fry and Bohn whispered a few words in English.  Then Fry cleared his throat like someone who was about to make a speech: ‘That’s exactly what we want to talk to you about.  The money is no problem; this all centers around finding the right person with border experience, someone who is prepared to do the job and on whom we can depend.’  He hawked again.  ‘We’ve been told that both of you have brought people and anti-Nazi literature across the German border.  Would you, for a few months--?’
          “’We?’ said Hans.  ‘No, that’s impossible.’
          “’No,’ I echoed Hans, ‘we can’t afford to do that.  Now that we finally have our papers, we must see if we ourselves can get across the mountains and out of France.’
          “’Or, if that’s not feasible, we’ll hole up somewhere before the rest of the country is occupied.’  Hans paused.  ‘Oh, maybe for a short time we can break someone in there.’  He looked at me.  ‘What do you think?’
          “I nodded.  ‘The best thing would be if a Frenchman could be found…’
          “’I promise you,’ Fry said, ‘that if you remain here during the border project, we will help you get out.’

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 118-119

          “Fry believed it would be best if the committee let the new border project have a free hand in supplying the refugees with funds for the journey, each according to need.  ‘When you have the new crossing route organized,’ he said, ‘what did you call it?  La route—from now on let’s call it The F-Route.  We can and will come up with financial support.”
          “That all sounds reasonable, I thought, but what does he mean by
‘F-Route’?  He was acting as if we’d already consented.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 120

“Here in Banyuls-sur-Mer we’re lodged in an unbelievable house directly on the Mediterranean.  Mayor Azéma, Monsieur le Maire, had without hesitation requisitioned the house in the name of the municipality and made it the Centre d’Hébergement de Banyuls pour les Réfugiés.  The réfugiés—that’s us.  We can lodge our future ‘visitors’ there quite comfortably.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 122

“14 October
          “Today we became ‘legalized,’ under our real names.  The bogus French
cartes d’identité from the Centre in Marseille, which named us residents of the zone interdite in the northeast of France, were to be used only in case of emergency vis-à-vis the Germans.  As such, it was forbidden for us to return there.  Monsieur Azéma gave us a hand-written statement on the mayor’s letterhead certifying that we are residents of Banyuls; that is now our identification.  Then he had the secretary enter us in the Banyuls Residents’ Register, and we were thereupon issued food-ration cards.  Azéma can manage to get extra food stamps for the refugees should they have to wait here for a few days.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 121

“Azéma will help us get the refugees’ baggage over the border legally.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 126

“1 November
          “This week we brought people across three times, and twice the week before.  Hans wrote to Fry in Marseille: ‘it’s going well with us, our friends have had no trouble…we take delight in mountain-climbing but we don’t want to overdo it, and possibly go on outings not more than twice weekly…the people around here will think we’re crazy if we continually go scrambling around in the mountains.’
          “Each evening before, we sit down with the refugees and go over all the details: don’t speak until we’re in a safe area; carry nothing, don’t attract attention; how to talk your way out of it if something goes wrong.  We describe the crossover to them in order to allay their fear of the unknown.  We repeat with them what they have to do on the Spanish side: descent, customs post, entry stamp (take note: it’s called
entrada), train to Portugal.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 126

          “The mayor of Cerbère (the French border town), Monsieur Cruzet, is a Socialist and ready to help; besides, he owns a transport firm.  His business partner is the mayor of Port-Bou, the Spanish border town.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 127-128

“Hans has ridden to Cerbère to work things out with Cruzet.  He really shouldn’t do it without valid papers, for there’s a train inspection between Banyuls and Cerbère, and sometimes the Armistice Commission comes sniffing around.  But, plainly, one of us must go, so Hans is off with the new assistant he’s meanwhile annexed, young Meyerhof, the eighteen-year-old son of the physiologist.  His parents crossed the border some time ago but he’s lacking some papers, so he sits around here looking lonesome and forlorn.  Monsieur Azéma related the story with great relish, how he, Monsieur le Maire de Banyuls, carried the youngster’s mother, the wife of the Nobel Prize-winner Meyerhof, from France to Spain piggyback because the path along the cemetery wall was too difficult for her.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 128

“We brought the Groetzsches from Sopade across okay, it just went rather slowly; they’re not so young anymore.  They relayed greetings from Fritz Heine—a succession of his friends are now arriving with United States visas.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 130

          “Monsieur Azéma, our elected mayor, has been quietly removed from office and replaced by a man from the Pétain government.  The new mayor is some collaborationist official who isn’t even from this region.  They’re being replaced everywhere, Socialist mayors especially, not to mention Communist ones.
          “Azéma hasn’t been seen since.  He’s no longer on the beach nor at the harbor as before, where he used to greet and converse with people now and then like an ordinary citizen.
          “Now I remember how he’d said at the beginning: ‘Perhaps one day I’ll no longer be here.’”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 133

          “Now, what was meant by ‘Panama visas’ in my brother’s telegram?  And what’s this about ‘salami’—is that a key word?
          “‘We have a connection with the honorary consul of Panama in Marseille,’ explained my brother.  ‘He’s already sold visas to many people, to us too; you must check in with him right away.  Of course he’s not authorized to issue visas, and the Panamanian government mustn’t find out about it.  He takes salami in payment instead of money.  I’ve found a shop in the Old Port that carries every kind of delicacy including salami…’
          “’But what do you do with a Panamanian visa when you can’t go to Panama?’
          “’You can try to get to Portugal with it.  Some have already succeeded in doing so.’”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 165

“So we obtained the au lieu certificates and a medium-sized salami and, with them in hand, visited the honorary consul, a fat Frenchman.  First off he made us swear an oath that we’d never set foot on Panamanian soil.  We swore with a clear conscience.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 165

          “Some possessors of Panamanian visas had already obtained American transit visas; they cost four hundred francs each.  That wasn’t much, but we had no money.  I went to the Centre Américain de Secours and Varian Fry let me have the eight hundred francs.  But he was angry that the Panama loophole had become common knowledge.  ‘That’s my resource,’ he said.  ‘We discovered it.  It’s always the same—as soon as a new possibility appears, the news gets around and everybody pounces on it?’
          “’What else can you expect,’ I asked, ‘when everybody wants to save his own neck?’”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 166

          “Paul Westheim came trotting up a little later, wearing his old uniform, and showed us a paper: a visa for Mexico.  For him, the well-known critic, the polemicist against the “Kunstpolitik” of the Nazis, it had surely been easy to procure an entry permit.  Another person rescued!”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 176

          “’Our assorted transit visas must be renewed,’ said Hans, ‘and we need travel IDs for the Cuban visas.  Then we must see about boat tickets, but for them we have first to get an exchange permit, so you’ll have to—.’
          “I interrupted him.  ‘Where is Cuba, anyway?’
          “’I don’t know exactly, somewhere between North and Central America.  Why do you have to know that now?’
          “’Because it doesn’t sound to me like a real country: Cuba.  Just like those visas for China or Panama, pieces of paper—but no
place one can go to.  Do you know what kind of language they speak there?’
          “’It doesn’t matter—Spanish probably.”

- Lisa Fittko, Escape through the Pyrenees, p. 177

“…these miserable people seeking to leave who run around checking at every consulate, collecting the most exotic visas in order to be considered as individuals on the verge of departure.  The awful situation in which many of them found themselves was simply unimaginable.  More rumors about such and such possibility for leaving the country were being spread every morning, and every evening these mirages would vanish.  Some people were spending their very last resources and awaiting the future with anxiety.”

- Nahum Hermann, CZA, Jerusalem, KH 4B 2378, cited in Renée Poznanski, Jews in France during World War II, (2001) p. 168

“It is evident from Laval’s attitude that he had never interest nor sympathy in the fate of the Jews who he callously remarked were already too numerous in France.”

- H. Pinkney Tuck, US Chargé d’Affaires in a letter to the US Secretary of State



The train…stopped at the station of Oloron and the fathers and mothers interned at the Gurs camp were brought to the station under police escort and given a last three minutes with their children… these kiddies…refused to eat their breakfasts on the train that morning but wrapped up bread and rolls and bits of sugar and handed them to their parents when they met.  There is one tot in the group, a wan, undersized girl of seven whom we haven’t been able to make smile.  She had been separated from her mother for over a year.  When they met at Oloron, for the last time, for it is most unlikely that they will ever meet again, they were unable to converse, for the child had forgotten her native German in the effort of learning French and English, and they had no common language except tears.”

- Letter to Eleanor Roosevelt from Morris Troper, of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, regarding rescue of 130 Jewish children by Quakers and OSE in Southern France, May 1941


French Concentration Camps

“In the first four months which these homeless people and their fellow sufferers, who had already emigrated to Belgium, Holland, and France and had now been brought to Gurs, had to pass in the damp, cold, drafty, and gloomy barracks, without light and air, with insufficient clothing and without any comforts, no fewer than 1,055 died out of an average camp population of 13,500.”

- Dr. Alfred Wolff, former camp physician at Gurs

“Driven by thirst, we collected the rainwater which dripped from the cover of the wagon, and took turns at drinking it… The Spaniards called this camp the hell of Perpignan. … The sanitary conditions defy description… dysentery and diarrhoea, etc. are the results… All kinds of diseases and death… Typhus broke out in consequence of the contaminated water.  Despite prophylactic inoculations by emigrant physicians, the mortality continues… Food: in the morning, two cups of coffee; at noon, soup which sometimes contains scraps of meat, and in the evening soup again; also, half a liter of red wine a day, and about 300 grams (less than 11 ounces) of bread.  Those who cannot afford to buy additional food starve by degrees…”

- A report on the French concentration camp at St. Cyprien

“You know that I have been through four concentration camps.  The three others were nothing compared to the fourth, Camp Le Vernet (Ariège), which is between Toulouse and the Spanish frontier.  That is where I was interned for 16 months, from October, 1939 to January, 1941.  Among ourselves we called this camp the French Dachau.  Lack of food, the horrible misery, the cold, the lack of clothing and medical supplies, the complete absence of hygiene, and the restrictions, prohibitions and punishments… There were the persecutions, the physical punishments and the shootings.  Inmates were constantly hit and beaten by the guards…”

- Report published in the New Republic on November 11, 1940

“Caught in the concentration camps of southern France, or congregated in the larger cities,…[including] Marseilles, the refugees lived in an agony of fear and apprehension.  For weeks and months they believed that every ringing of the doorbell, every step on the stair, every knock on the door might be the police come to get them and take them to the Gestapo.  They sought hysterically for some means of escape from the net which had suddenly been dropped over their heads.  They were the prey of every sort of swindler and blackmailer.  Their already badly frayed nerves sometimes gave way altogether under the incessant pounding of fantastic horror-stories and wild rumors….

- Varian Fry, Emergency Rescue Committee

“Under the strain of these alarms, many refugees committed suicide.  …Many less known men, and some women, died in concentrations camps, cheap hotel bedrooms, and dark, narrow streets, preferring escape through death to the unbearable strain of the terror which the defeat of France seemed likely to unleash upon them at any moment.

- Varian Fry, Emergency Rescue Committee

The sufferings that we who were confined in French concentration camps underwent sprang not so much from personal privation as from bitter disappointment.  France, for which most of us had conceived so deep a love; France, which had received us with such broad-minded hospitality; France, whose highest ideals seemed to be liberty and justice—this France suddenly revealed a totally different face to us, a grimace that inspired us with horror, for we had seen it once before, when we had fled before Hitler.”

- Heinz Pol, 1940, internee in French camp

The declarations have led to the creation of special file cards, which were centralized at National Police headquarters.  Every French and foreign Jew living in France is thus known to the police… Intelligent exploitation [of the 1941 census] by the central offices of the National Police, assisted by the prefectural and municipal administrations, had permitted us to achieve in one single step an operation that the German military authorities accomplished only in two attempts.  In a single move, the French administration has enumerated both Jewish persons and Jewish property.”

- Henri Baudry and Joanneès Ambre, 1942, Condition Publique

Now foreigners have to leave the coastal departments.  They [my fiancée’s family] obeyed this order.  But no department is obliged to receive them.  They have now been on the road for two weeks.  Everywhere the same answer: impossible to receive foreigners.  But they can’t just evaporate.  And I am afraid that at the end of these wanderings the camp awaits them.”

- Simon Hertz, January 4, 1942

I refused to visit the camps, for I didn’t want my presence there to be interpreted by the internees as a sign of acquiescence to measures that were solely the fault of the invader.”

- Xavier Vallat, 1957

Laval…stated flatly that these foreign Jews had always been a problem in France and that the French government was glad that a change in German attitude towards them gave France an opportunity to get rid of them.”

- U.S. diplomat in France Tyler Thompson, August 1942

In conclusion, we found no difficulty with the Vichy government in implementing Jewish policy.

- Helmut Knochen, 1947

In the summer and autumn of 1942, when the French police and administration lent their hands to the task, some 42,500 Jews were deported from France to their deaths—perhaps one third of them at Vichy’s initiative from the Unoccupied Zone.  When Vichy began to drag its feet in 1943, the number declined to 22,000 sent east in the year 1943.  After the last use of French police in January 1944, and despite feverish last-minute German efforts, the number deported up to August 1944 was 12,500.  One can only speculate on how many fewer would have perished if the Nazis had been obliged to identify, arrest, and transport without any French assistance every Jew in France whom they wanted to slaughter.”

- Marrus and Paxton, 1981, p. 372



“…Disgust and indignation that one could practice such a human hunt on our soil…If need be, we must have the courage to prevent the delivery to the Gestapo of the victims of these arbitrary measures.  Saving an innocent person is not a rebellious act, but obedience to the unwritten laws of justice and charity.”

- Témoignage Chrétien, Catholic newsletter

That children, women, fathers, and mothers should be treated like animals, that family members should be separated and sent off to an unknown destination, it has been reserved for our time to witness this sad spectacle… Jews are men.  Jewesses are women.  Foreigners are men and women.  All is not permitted against them, against these men, these women, these fathers and mothers.  They are part of the human race.  They are our brothers like so many others.  A Christian cannot forget it.”

- Monsignor Jules-Géraud Saliège, summer 1942, regarding deportation of Jews in France

Immense sadness at the decisions taken by the French government with regard to the foreign Jews… No Frenchman could remain indifferent to what has been happening since August 2nd in the sheltering [sic] and internment camps… Christian churches, whatever their confessional diversities, would be unfaithful to their main teachings if they did not raise their painful protests in the face of the violation of such teachings.”

- Pastor Marc Boegner, in June 27, 1942, letter to Marshall Pétain protesting deportations

Boegner: “Will you hunt down people?” Laval: “We will seek them wherever they’re hiding.” Boegner: “Do you agree that we save the children?” Laval: “Children must remain with their parents.” Boegner: “But don’t you know that they will be separated?” Laval: “No.” Boegner: “I tell you that yes.” Laval: “What do you want to do with the children?” Boegner: “French families will adopt them.” Laval: “I don’t want this; not one must remain in France!”  Boegner to Laval: “I am forced to impress upon you the gravity of the situation.  The churches cannot remain silent in the face of such facts.” Laval: “The churches? They have behaved quite differently!  I told this to the representative of the Nunciature who came to see me.  Besides, let them do what they wish; I will continue doing what I have to.”

- Conversation between Pastor Marc Boegner and French Prime Minister Pierre Laval, summer 1942

I talked to him about massacres, and he responded about gardening!

- Pastor Marc Boegner, regarding conversation with French Prime Minister Pierre Laval, summer 1942

Monsieur le Prefet the families have charged me with the guardianship of their children.  You are not going to force a father to deliver his children to the police.” [After hearing the Prefect’s response:]  “Well, Monsieur le Prefet, if you wish to come to the archdiocese, then come to the archdiocese! But you will not have the children”; and he hung up.  He then said to the assembled clerics: “Get lost, all of you.  I can no longer be seen with you; the prefect is on his way here to ask me to turn over the children, and I don’t especially want to know where they are.  Try to manage. Au Revoir.”

- Cardinal Gerlier refusing to hand over Jewish children he was protecting to the French police

Exert yourself, as I did with my weak strength, to protect and respect the dignity of every person, even at the risk of one’s own life… The house in St. Etienne, where I worked for many years, and through which I saved the lives of Jewish children, carried the name of ‘Peace and Joy.’  This title was the motto of my life.  I beg of you, exert yourself in the cause of peace!  Oppose injustice wherever you come across it.  Be a protagonist for life, whenever it is in danger.  Consider your life as a mission for peace and happiness.  Your life would then not be a waste.  The peace and joy that you grant others will flow back to you.  I thank my God, that he has shown me the way of peace and forgiveness.”

- Sister Barwitzky, farewell letter to Jewish children she sheltered in France, December 1944

We lived in total ignorance of the fate of the Jews in Europe, and we only learned of this accidentally during the great roundups in the southern zone.  We were at the time busy with a summer camp containing 100 children, when some parents told us to immediately return their two daughters to them.  They told me that they were Jewish and were about to be arrested.  This news was so upsetting to me that at first I did not believe it… A few days later, I learned that these people had indeed been deported.  I was in a state of shock, having discovered with one blow the situation of the Jews in Europe.  I then went to the only French Jews I knew and told them to spread the message to their co-religionists that I was placing myself at their disposal.  Within the next 48 hours, dozens of Jewish families came to see me.  I was overwhelmed to discover their distress, and felt completely incapable of helping them.  I started by opening my house to them and looked up contacts able to help them… I called a meeting of some parishioners on whom I could count and shared my concerns with them.  Their commitment was total from the first day; each according to his capacity and situation pledged to take part in our activities: struggle, information, false papers, social work.  We had the unbelievable luck to be able to carry out our work for three years without a single arrest!

- Pastor Albert DeLord, with his wife, protected and sheltered Jewish children in Southern France

One should obey God rather than men.”

- Pastor André Trocmé, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, quoting the parable of the Good Samaritan

The duty of Christians is to respond to the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences with the weapons of the spirit… We will resist whenever our adversaries demand of us compliance contrary to the orders of the Gospels.  We will do so without fear, as well as without pride and without hate.”

- Pastor André Trocmé, June 22, 1940, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon

This is a humiliation for Europe and for us French…  The Christian Church must get down on its knees and ask forgiveness of God for its impotence…  I can no longer keep silent.  I do not say this with a spirit of hate but of sadness and humiliation for the people of our country.” 

- Pastor André Trocmé, regarding arrest and deportation of Jews

We have learned of the terrible scenes that took place in Paris three weeks ago, when the French police on orders of the occupying power arrested in their homes all the Jewish families in Paris for their deportation.  Fathers were torn from their families and deported to Germany; children were torn from their mothers, who shared the fate as their fathers…  We wish to let you know that we have among us a number of Jews.  However, we make no distinction between Jews and non-Jews.  This is contrary to the teaching of the Gospels.  If our comrades were to receive an order to be deported or even to register, for the sole reason that they belong to another religion, they will disobey such orders, and for us, we will do our best to hide them among us.”

- Petition given to local French official by students from Collège Cévenol, in Southern France

We ignore what is a Jew.  We only know what are human beings.”

- Pastor André Trocmé, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon

I know nothing of these people.  But even if I possessed such a list, I would not furnish it to you.  These people came to seek aid and refuge among the Protestants in this region.  I am their pastor, in other words, their shepherd.  It is not the role of a shepherd to turn over the sheep placed in his care.”

- Pastor André Trocmé, responding to a request to hand over a list of Jews in his care, August 25, 1942

“...the Protestants in the Cevennes, as well as the Catholics, with a few exceptions, are the spiritual children of the camisards [Huguenots].  They do not agree with the iniquitous persecution of the Jews by the government, and they will oppose it with every means.”

- Pastor Marc Donadille, Cevennes region, France; most of the Jews in this region survived

Better a dead France than sold-out; defeated than thief.  A dead France—one could weep for her, but a France that has betrayed the hope that the persecuted ones placed in her, a France that had sold her soul and renounced her mission, would reduce us to tears.  She would no longer be France…”

- Pastor Roland de Pury, Lyon, July 14, 1940, in a sermon after Marshall Pétain’s appointment as the new French leader

After the French defeat, I lived in Marseilles, where I had been pastor since 1937 of an Evangelical community and a teacher of Bible.  I was always opposed to the ideas and activities of what was known as the government of the State of France, which I held, in principle and mostly on evidence, to be opposed to the ideas of a Christian and of the Gospels.  I was especially struck by the mounting persecution of Jews in general, which began with the pursuit of foreign Jews… I could not look on without actively aiding them—the hunted, whose numbers were on the increase… I contacted at the end of 1941 Joseph Bass [a Jewish rescuer]…and learned of the organization he had founded to help those who were hunted, whether children, of military age, or elderly.  This type of work I found to be just, and I decided to give it my full cooperation.  We had many contacts with Christian and Jewish organizations… We created in Marseilles, and throughout the southern Mediterranean region, an organization where Protestants, Catholics, and Jews of various shades of opinion worked fraternally… We helped many people avoid arrest and deportation, either by hiding them or arranging their passage into the Italian zone or abroad, or leading them to areas controlled by the Maquis [underground resistance], chiefly in the Chambon region.”

- Pastor Jean-Severin Lemaire, Marseilles

I do not regret what took place, nor the decision I took.  As a Christian and a pastor, I had to be a witness, irrespective of the consequences.”

- Pastor Jean-Severin Lemaire, who was arrested and sent to Mauthausen and Dachau

These people came to seek aid and refuge among the Protestants in this region.  I am their pastor, in other words, their shepherd.  It is not the role of a shepherd to turn over the sheep placed in his care.”

- Pastor André Trocmé, Le Chambon, to a French police chief

Do not forget that you are in the Camisard [Huguenot-Calvinist] countryside!  Like their forefathers, the inhabitants here are ready to take up arms if the state commits acts opposed to their beliefs.”

- Pastor Marc Donadille, to a French official, referring to persecution of the Protestant minority in the South of France

The whole world is about to celebrate the holiday of hope and peace, promised to men of good will.  Imagine what would have happened on the first Christmas if they had hunted Jews all the way to Bethlehem!  The Savior would not have been born in a cave but in a prison, behind bars and barbed wire.

- Father Camille Folliet, in Annecy, France, explaining why he was aiding Jews on Christmas Eve

The new measures of deportation taking place against the Jews are leading to such painful scenes that we have the imperious and painful duty of protesting.  We are seeing a cruel dispersion of families where nothing is spared, not age, not weakness, not illness.  The heart is wrenched at the thought of the treatment received by thousands of human beings…”

- Cardinal Gerlier in pastoral letter to be read on September 6, 1942

You will have to lie; lie then whenever necessary; I give you all my absolution in advance.”

- Monsignor Saliège to Sister Denise Bergon in Toulouse, regarding saving Jews



There is a political problem.  On one side there is Germany, which wants to exterminate them, on the other side there is Italy and the Vatican, who are in agreement to protect them.”

- Pierre Laval, May 1943

The chief of the camp at Les Mille…remarked that the Jewish emigration organization HICEM paid any price for passage on ships to permit Jews to emigrate.  This is a proof that the world Jewish community knows that the Jews in territories under German sovereignty are headed for their total destruction.”

- Report by SS officer Theodore Dannecker

I gave the general an overlook of the Jewish question and the policy concerning the Jews in France.  I was able to see his uncompromising anti-Semitism and his 100 percent approval of the Final Solution of the Jewish question, which has as its goal the total extermination of the adversary.  [Kohl declared:] ‘If you wish to evacuate ten thousand or twenty thousand Jews eastward, you can count on me to give you the necessary rolling stock.’  [Kohl added that] he considered the solution of the Jewish problem in France as a vital necessity for the occupation troops.  That is why, at the risk of being taken for a brute by certain people, he always adopted a radical attitude toward this question.”

- SS Officer Theodore Dannecker, describing visit to General Kohl, head of the Department of the Railroad in France, to solicit his cooperation in the deportation of Jews