The daring nun who hid and saved 83 Jewish children

By Niamh Hughes
BBC NewsPublished1 day agoRelated Topics

Denise Bergon

Two Jewish girls from Alsace found themselves in great danger when Germany invaded France 80 years ago. But while their parents and younger sister were caught and murdered, they survived – with dozens of other Jewish children – thanks to the bravery of a nun in a convent near Toulouse.Twelve-year-old Hélène Bach was playing in the garden with her younger sister, Ida, when they saw a military truck approaching and rushed inside.The two girls and their mother had left their home in Lorraine, north-eastern France, after the German invasion in May 1940 and started travelling towards the “free zone” in the south of the country.To reduce the risk of the whole family being caught, it had been decided that the father, Aron, and oldest daughter, Annie, would make the journey separately. But when Aron and Annie were arrested in 1941 and taken to a detention camp near Tours, Hélène’s mother rented a house nearby. And they were still there a year later, when the German soldiers came driving up the road.Hélène and eight-year-old Ida ran into the kitchen to warn their mother.”My mother told us to run – to hide in the woods,” Hélène says. “I was holding my little sister by the hand but she did not want to come with me. She wanted to go back to my mother. I could hear the Germans. I let her hand go and she ran back.”

Annie and Helene's mother
image captionHelene and Anne’s mother, Cecile Bach

Isolated in the woods, Hélène hid until she felt the coast was clear.Then she crept back to the house and found some money her mother had left on the table.”She knew I would come back,” she says.Hélène went to stay with a friend she’d made in the area. She never saw her mother or younger sister again.

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