of the orphanage La Maison d'Izieu
number of children killed by Hitler
and his Nazis is not fathomable and full statistics for the tragic fate
of the children will never be known. Estimates range as high as 1.5
million murdered children during the Holocaust. This figure includes
more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy
children and thousands of institutionalized handicapped children.
Plucked from their homes and stripped of their childhoods, the children
had witnessed the murder of parents, siblings, and relatives. They faced
starvation, illness and brutal labor, until they were consigned to the
In April 1944 the Nazis in France decided to exterminate the children of
an orphanage La Maison d'Izieu. 44 little children were
deported to Auschwitz and murdered immediately upon arrival.
Eleven-year-old Liliane Gerenstein was sent to her death a few
days after she wrote this letter to God:
"God? How good You are, how kind and if one had to count the number
of goodnesses and kindnesses You have done, one would never finish.
God? It is You who command. It is You who are justice, it is You who
reward the good and punish the evil.
God? It is thanks to You that I had a beautiful life before, that I was
spoiled, that I had lovely things that others do not have.
God? After that, I ask You one thing only: Make my parents come
back, my poor parents protect them (even more than You protect me) so
that I can see them again as soon as possible.
Make them come back again. Ah! I had such a good mother and such a good
father! I have such faith in You and I thank You in advance."
The letter was found in April 1944 in the abandoned home in Izieu.
Liliane's mother had been deported and was already murdered. Her father,
Chapse, miraculously survived the horrors of the Holocaust and emigrated
to the United States after the war. He died in 1979, never knowing the
fate of his children.
The sleepy village of Izieu lay overlooking the Rhone River
between Lyon and Chambery in central France. The children, aged between
3 and 18, felt safe and secure, supervised by seven adults. The
Children's Home was a perfect idyll and the Jewish children led a happy
life with plenty of time for playing, drawing and painting.
However, on the morning of April 6, 1944 - a warm day, no clouds, bright
sun - as they all settled down in the refectory to drink hot chocolate,
three vehicles, two of which were lorries, pulled up in front of the
home. The Gestapo, led by the Butcher of Lyon Klaus Barbie,
entered the home and forcibly removed the children and their
supervisors, throwing the crying and terrified children on to the trucks
like sacks of potatoes.
Then the SS men ransacked the house and several more children were
discovered hiding under a table in the attic classroom. In the confusion
one small boy began racing across the courtyard, but the SS men grabbed
him and beat him with rifle butts. Blood streamed from his nose as he
was thrown into the truck. The last child, a blond boy of 3, too
terrified to walk, was carried into the truck.
Following the raid on their home in Izieu, the children were taken
directly to the cellar of the Fort Montluc Prison in Lyons. The very
next morning Klaus Barbie arranged for the cattle cars that would take
the children to the 'collection center' in Drancy. Then they were put on
the first available train towards the death camps in the East.
Forty-two children and five adults were gassed in the extermination camp
of Auschwitz. Two of the oldest children and Miron Zlatin, the
superintendent, ended up in Tallin in Estonia and were put to death by a
Of the forty-four children kidnapped by the Nazis in Izieu, not a single
one survived. Of the supervisors there was one sole survivor,
twenty-seven year old Lea Feldblum. When the children from Izieu arrived
in Auschwitz on April 15, 1944, Léa led the column of children to the
selection point. When she informed the SS that these children were from
a home, she was ruthlessly separated from them and sent to the
the later trial of Klaus Barbie a witness, Edith Klebinder, testified
that the children were put to death immediately upon arrival at
Auschwitz. She was an Austrian-born Jew and was deported from France to
Auschwitz April, 1944, and arrived at the death camp on April 15 aboard
the same train as the Izieu children. The Nazi guards ordered Klebinder,
who was fluent in French and German, to translate as they ordered
children and pregnant women onto trucks and told the other arrivals to
walk to the camp.
Edith Klebinder - in a voice choked with emotion - told she at first
thought the children and pregnant women were given rides to the camp out
of compassion. Later, she said, she asked what had become of the
asked myself where were the children who arrived with us? In the camp
there wasn't a single child to be seen. Then those who had been there
for a while informed us of the reality. "You see that chimney, the
one smoke never stops coming out of .. you smell that odor
of burned flesh ..."
and Serge Klarsfeld, who brought Klaus Barbie to justice in 1983, later
wrote: "Forty-four children deported - no mere statistic, but
rather forty-four tragedies which continue to cause us pain ..."
Hans Ament, 10
Nina Aronowicz, 12
Max-Marcel Balsam, 12
Jean-Paul Balsam, 10
Esther Benassayag, 12
Elie Benassayag, 10
Jacob Benassayag, 8
Jacques Benguigui, 12
Richard Benguigui, 7
Jean-Claude Benguigui, 5
Barouk-Raoul Bentitou, 12
Majer Bulka, -
Albert Bulka, 4
Lucienne Friedler, 5
Egon Gamiel, 9
Maurice Gerenstein, 13
Liliane Gerenstein, 11
Henri-Chaïm Goldberg, 13
Joseph Goldberg, 12
Mina Halaunbrenner, -
Claudine Halaunbrenner, 5
Arnold Hirsch, 17
Isidore Kargeman, 10
Renate Krochmal, 8
Liane Krochmal, 6
Max Leiner, 8
Claude Levan-Reifman, 10
Fritz Loebmann, 15
Alice-Jacqueline Luzgart, 10
Paula Mermelstein, 10
Marcel Mermelstein, 7
Theodor Reis, 16
Gilles Sadowski, 8
Martha Spiegel, 10
Senta Spiegel, 9
Sigmund Springer, 8
Sarah Szulklaper, -
Max Tetelbaum, 12
Herman Tetelbaum, 10
Charles Weltner, 9
Otto Wertheimer, -
Emile Zuckerberg, 5
- Louis Bülow
Beate and Serge Klarsfeld
Musee Memorial des Enfants d’Izieu (Memorial Museum of the Children of
French Children of the Holocaust A Memorial by Serge Klarsfeld
Children of Izieu: A Human Tragedy, by Serge Klarsfeld. New York,
Bolivia Web "The Outsiders"
Philippe Brunet-Lecomte, "Les trois traîtres français d'Izieu,"
Lyon Figaro 2 June, 1987
Pierre Bois, "D'Izieu à Auschwitz, le martyre de 44 enfants,"
Le Figaro 28 May, 1987
Letter from Izieu By Raphael Rothstein
The Consortium by Martin A. Lee
The History of Espionage www.theoffice.net/1spy
The Macedonian News Service
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Simon Wiesenthal Center www.wiesenthal.com/