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 The Izieu Children

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  Victims of Alois Brunner  

In 1944 the Nazis from Lyon sent two vans to the French village of Izieu. Their Mission: to exterminate the children of an orphanage known as La Maison d'Izieu.

The sleepy village of Izieu lay overlooking the Rhone river between Lyon and Chambery in central France. Refugees from Herault were the first arrivals at the Children's home and their Jewish identity was kept secret by the staff. The children, aged between four and seventeen, felt safe and secure, supervised by seven adults. Often one of the young boys entertained his companions by making movies, paintings on transparent paper and scrolled past a lighted box.

The Children's Home was a perfect idyll and the Jewish children led a happy life with plenty of time for playing, drawing and painting, as these sketches show, made by the Izieu children.

However, on the morning of April 6, 1944, as they all settled down in the refectory to drink hot chocolate, three vehicles, two of which were lorries, pulled up in front of the home. The Gestapo, led by the 'Butcher of Lyon' 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.

As a witness later recalled: 'I was on my way down the stairs when my sister shouted to me: it's the Germans, save yourself! I jumped out the window. I hid myself in a bush in the garden. I heard the cries of the children that were being kidnapped and I heard the shouts of the Nazis who were carrying them away...'

Following the raid on their home in Izieu, the children were shipped directly to the 'collection center' in Drancy, then put on the first available train towards the deathcamps in the East. Alois Brunner transported the children to Auschwitz and forty-two children and five adults were gassed in the extermination camp. Two of the oldest children and Miron Zlatin, the superintendent, ended up in Tallin in Estonia and were put to death by a firing squad.

Of the forty-four children kidnapped by the Nazis in Izieu, not a single one survived. Of the supervisors there was one sole survivor, twenty-seven year old Lea Feldblum. When the children from Izieu arrived in Auschwitz on April 15, 1944, Léa led the column of children to the selection point. When she informed the SS that these children were from a home, she was ruthlessly separated from them and sent to the prisoners' camp.

One survivor of Auschwitz revealed during Klaus Barbie's trial what happened to the children: 'I asked myself where were the children who arrived with us? In the camp there wasn't a single child to be seen. Then those who had been there for a while informed us of the reality. 'You see that chimney, the one smoke never stops coming out of  ..  you smell that odor of burned flesh ...'

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