Jewish World War II refugee leaves fortune to French village that saved him

According to Yad Vashem, the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon protected 3,000 to 5,000 Jews from the Nazis between 1941 and 1944.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Eric Schwam, a Jew who fled Austria during World War II, has left his fortune to the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose residents hid Schwam and his family from persecution, AFP reported Friday.

Schwam passed away on Dec. 25 at the age of 90, bequeathing an undisclosed amount of money to the remote community in southeast France.

“It’s a large amount for the village,” Mayor Jean-Michel Eyraud told AFP.

He said Schwam asked that the money be used for educational and youth initiatives, particularly scholarships.

Eyraud declined to specify the amount since the will was still being sorted out, but the previous mayor, who had met with Schwam and his wife twice to discuss the gift, said it was around 2 million euros ($2.4 million).

Schwam and his family arrived in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in 1943. They were hidden in a school throughout the war, and remained in the village until 1950.

According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center, the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon protected 3,000 to 5,000 Jews from the Nazis between 1941 and 1944.

The rescue activities were initiated and led by the town’s Protestant pastor, Andre Trocme, and his wife Magda.

The villagers hid Jews in their homes and public institutions, provided them with forged ID and ration cards, and even helped some over the border to safety in Switzerland.

According to Yad Vashem, the villagers rejected any labeling of their behavior as heroic, saying, “Things had to be done, and we happened to be there to do them. It was the most natural thing in the world to help these people.”

After the round-up and deportation of Jews in Paris in 1942, Trocme said, “The Christian Church should drop to its knees and beg pardon of God for its present incapacity and cowardice.”

Daniel Trocme, the pastor’s cousin, operated a children’s home in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon where he rescued many Jewish children until he was captured. He died in a Nazi concentration camp.

The Trocmes were among about 40 residents of the village to be designated as Righteous Among The Nations by Yad Vashem.