Elizabeth Kaufmann Koenig
Born: 1924, Vienna, Austria
Describes the children who were sheltered in La Guespy, a children's home in Le Chambon [Interview: 1990]
The children were very disturbed and they were treated as a bunch and not as individuals. They were not...they were "the children that came from Gurs," but that wasn't so. Each child had a different individual story, and nobody listened to them. So what I really did is I...I helped them tell me their stories. I mean I allowed them to...to...to tell their stories, their griefs, their...their unhappiness. They cried at night. They had nightmares. One of the children wet herself every night. But that wasn't known in the village. That wasn't known at all. We kept that to ourselves. We were very very close. We were like sisters, and brothers with the boys too. The boys...I...I am speaking now about the girls because I was in the girls' room, but I felt for the boys like if they were my brothers, just as much. Especially for the teenage boys. They were so hungry. They...they were howling like wolves, and people didn't understand why. They were hungry. They were lonesome. And...uh...I...I especially remember some of the boys...uh...well, you would call it "stole" a potato, and he was punished for it. And I was devastated because he was...he was not responsible. His body needed it.
Elizabeth and her family were in Paris when war began. As the Germans advanced in 1940, she and her mother fled southward. Elizabeth eventually reached Le Chambon, where she helped care for children sheltered by the town's pastor, Andre Trocme, and his wife. In late 1941 her father was among 1,000 intellectuals who received special U.S. visas from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The family escaped from France in 1942 on one of the last passenger ships to cross the Atlantic during the war.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum - Collections