The sleepy French village of Izieu lies overlooking the Rhone river between Lyon and Chambery in central France. A number of refugee Jewish children, most of them orphans, were being sheltered in a home in the hope that the Nazi Gestapo would not find them.
Supervised by seven adults, they felt safe and secure. However, on the morning of April 6, 1944, as they settled down to breakfast, a car and two military trucks drove up in front of the home. The Gestapo, led by the regional head, Klaus Barbie, entered the home and forcibly removed the forty four children and their seven supervisors, throwing the crying and terrified children on to the trucks like sacks of potatoes. All were transported to the collection centre at Drancy outside Paris where they were put on the first available train to 'points east'.
One carer, Miron Zlatin, and two of the oldest children ended up in Tallin in Estonia where they were all shot. The others found themselves in the notorious concentration camp of Auschwitz. Of the forty-four children, aged between five and seventeen kidnapped from Izieu, not a single one survived the war. Of the supervisors there was one sole survivor, twenty-seven year old Lea Feldblum. It is a tragic fact that patriotic French citizens willingly helped the Gestapo in their search for these Jewish children.
On July 3, 1987, Klaus Barbie, known as the Butcher of Lyon, was finally arrested, tried in a French court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of cancer in prison on September 25, 1991. (In Lyon, the number of hostages arrested and shot by the Germans in revenge for attacks on its forces numbered 3,674. In the whole of France, including Paris, the total amounted to a staggering 29,660)
(The former children's home in Izieu is now a memorial-museum, opened on April 4, 1994 by the then President of the French Republic, Francios Mitterrand.)
Thanks to George Duncan’s research