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You won’t get the children

As she flicked through the entry-and-exit records of children taken into a chateau in the Drôme region of France during the Second World War, Valérie Portheret’s attention was seized by a detail: little “V”s added in lead pencil after a dozen names.  What did it mean?  She was told that the names were probably those of Jewish children hidden in the chateau under a false identity after being rescued from a camp situated at Vénissieux in the suburbs of Lyon.  “V” for Vénissieux. That was where 1,016 foreign Jews, rounded up on 26 August 1942, were held awaiting “sorting”. 

26 August 1942. In response to Nazi demands, the French Vichy government ordered the rounding up of foreign Jews in the region of Lyon. Early that morning, 1,016 were arrested and assembled in a “sorting” camp in Vénisseux.

Night of 28 to 29 August 1942. Members of welfare organisations present in the camp managed to convince parents to sign papers abandoning their own children to the care of a Christian charity, the only way to save them from deportation.

Despite the mothers’ shouting, weeping and suicide attempts, 108 children are separated from their parents and surreptitiously removed from the camp. At the same time, gendarmes take 545 adults by coach to the station of St Priest – direction Drancy and then Auschzwitz, where the great majority of them will be gassed. In the following hours, the police launch a search for these children hidden in a former convent. In leaflets, the Resistance declares: “You won’t get the children”.

This is the untold story of the greatest rescue of Jewish children, destined for death, undertaken in France during the Second World War by an incredible chain of men and women working together.

An exceptional historical document accompanied by photos of the camp of Vénissieux.

A voice of remembrance and a homage to the virtuous.


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