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
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
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 ...'