November 2, 2000
400 JEWISH CHILDREN RESCUED BY OSE AND FRENCH VILLAGERS FOCUS OF ‘THE CHILDREN OF CHABANNES’ DOCUMENTARY
Film presented by Holocaust Memorial Museum and Embassy of France - Chabannes Rescuers and Survivors, Filmmakers to Attend
WASHINGTON, D.C. — To mark the Washington, D.C. reunion and work of the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, Children’s Aid Society (OSE), a Paris-based Jewish organization dedicated to helping children, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Embassy of France are hosting a screening of the award-winning documentary, The Children of Chabannes (1999). The film will be shown on Thursday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum.
The documentary chronicles the little-known story of how the OSE, aided by the residents of Chabannes, a tiny village in unoccupied France, saved more than 400 Jewish children from deportation and almost certain death during World War II. Following the screening, several of the French rescuers and “children” interviewed in the film, as well as Lisa Gossels and Dean Wetherell, the filmmakers, will participate in a discussion with the audience.
Founded in Russia in 1912 and headquartered in Paris since 1933, the OSE is an 88-year-old Jewish organization for health care and children’s welfare. Beginning in 1938, Jewish children fleeing Nazism began arriving in France from Germany and Nazi-occupied nations. The organization, which ran a number of children’s homes and other facilities in France throughout World War II, helped more than 5,500 Jewish children during and after the war, including Nobel Laureate and Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Elie Wiesel.
In a Chabannes refugee home operated by the OSE, some 400 children were protected in or smuggled out of France between 1939 and 1943. Following the 1942 deportation of six Jewish teenagers, four of whom were murdered, the staff, led by the director Felix Chevrier, redoubled its efforts and enlisted the help of local townspeople to ensure the remaining children’s safety. No other deportations from Chabannes occurred during France’s occupation.
“In light of the more than one million Jewish children who were murdered, each of the 5,500 saved by the OSE is exceptionally precious,” states Sara J. Bloomfield, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “We’re proud to help tell the little-known story of the OSE whose efforts to help children ultimately had a very significant impact on the renewal of Jewish life.”
The screening is part of a tribute to the OSE organized at the initiative of the American Association of Friends and Alumni of OSE, that will include an extended visit to the Museum, a candle-lighting ceremony in the Museum’s Hall of Remembrance and a private recital at the Maison Française by the French pianist Georges Pludermacher, whose mother Rachel is among the rescuers to be honored.
For more information on the Children of Chabannes, please visit the film’s Web site, www.childrenofchabannes.org.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust. Since opening in April 1993, the Museum has welcomed almost 15 million visitors. The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.