A commemorative plaque has been unveiled in Paris in honour of the hundreds of French citizens who hid Jews in their homes during World War Two. These are the 2,700 people who received medals and diplomas of honour from the Yad Vesham memorial centre in Israel.
The village of Chambon sur Lignon is the only one in France to have received a collective honour, with every resident receiving a medal. Thousands of Jewish children were hidden by families in the village. One elderly woman, who was 18 when her parents took in a three-year-old boy, said: “The child called my parents mum and dad, but he didn’t want my mother to give him a bath, to put him to bed. It had to be me.”
Residents say everyone made an effort to keep the presence of Jews secret, and it wasn’t even talked about in the decade following the war. Now though the village openly remembers its past with pride. A local pastor was one of those who helped organise the placement of Jewish children with local families.
They say there was no question about helping the Jews. One resident said: “When a Jew arrived here, people knew it was a Jew. It wasn’t simply someone from in the bible, but a man persecuted, hunted. It lay heavily on the conscience; they knew what it meant.” “Why did they give us the medals,” asked one woman. “We don’t deserve it. We always said that. It was just our duty”.