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.
And when we came to the...uh...railroad station, there was an SS man and he said, "I know what you want. You want to go illegally to France. Uh, you won't make it." And my mother said, "Let us try it." And he said, "Okay, I'll let you try it, but if you come back you will be sent to Dachau." And so we went over without a visa to France, and of course we were caught. There were more police in France than ever. And we were caught and we were put into prison, and then we were put back on the train again and when we arrived the next day it was, I think, uh, at the station in Forbach...Uh no. Excuse me...at the station in Saarbruecken, the same SS man was there and he...it was like...he smiled like "I told you so." And then we were put into separate rooms and we were...I don't know what happened exactly to my mother and my brother. I know they were beaten. I know I was stripped completely and a little beaten. And, uh, then I was...we were released and we were thinking now we are on our way to Dachau. And I can't explain it but somehow they gave us an opportunity to escape, and we ran, and we escaped.