Oral History

Elizabeth Kaufmann Koenig describes helping refugee children in Le Chambon

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 US 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.


One day, however, Magda Trocme told me that they intended to have children come from the camp de Gurs and that when they are in Le Chambon, they would want me to go there in the...into the same house to help with the children because the children would not know French a lot. A lot of the children would not know French, and they wanted me to help with the children. Would I do that? And I said, "Of course." And then, also, at...at...one thing happened that made...did...it was very strange. They did not treat me like a refugee child. They treated me more like a French child...youngster. Right? I don't...I mean I wasn't...they did not realize so much my...my background, I don't think. Until one day, I received a letter from my grandfather saying that they were going to go to Cuba and I was terribly upset. I thought that I would never see my grandparents again, and I cried very much. And then they realized that I had the similar background to the children that they were helping and I think they were very glad I could be [a] bridge between the people of the village and the people...and the children.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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