A French resistance fighter whose bravery and ingenuity saved hundreds of Jewish children from Nazi concentration camps in World War Two has died aged 108.
Georges Loinger’s passing was announced by the Holocaust Memorial Foundation in France.
The organisation said he was an ‘exceptional man’ whose ‘battles will remain in our memories’:
#Hommage Ancien résistant durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Georges Loinger a sauvé plus de 350 enfants juifs en les faisant passer en Suisse. Un homme d'exception s'est éteint hier à l’âge de 108 ans. Ses combats resteront dans nos mémoires. https://t.co/KZGHprpZxy
— Fondation Shoah (@Fondation_Shoah) December 29, 2018
Loinger will be remembered as the brave resistance fighter who saved more than 350 children living in Nazi occupied France from deportation to concentration camps and likely death during Adolf Hitler’s programme of ethnic cleansing in WW2.
He was born to a Jewish family in Strasbourg, a northeastern French city which sits near the German border, in 1910. He later went on to join the French army and became a resistance fighter against Nazi occupation.
In 1940, Loinger was captured by the Nazis but his blonde hair and blue eyes apparently concealed the fact he was Jewish from his German captors. This enabled his escape from a prisoner of war camp, he has since claimed.
Upon his escape he returned to occupied France where he joined an aid agency, the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE), and was able to help countless children to escape over the border into neutral territory.
This frontier was guarded by the Italian army until September 1943; Loinger remembered an Italian senior officer privately approving of his heroic actions.
It is thought he helped over 350 children, many of them orphans of war, between April 1943 and June 1944.
Following negotiations with the Swiss authorities for the arrival of unaccompanied children, those who made it over the border thanks to Loinger and the aid organisation were sent to new homes.
One of the methods he used to help children cross the borders was to orchestrate football games in which he would kick a football over the frontier and get them to chase it, reports the BBC.
Speaking to Tablet magazine earlier this year, Loinger recalled:
I threw the ball 100 metres towards the Swiss border and told the children to run and get the ball. They ran after the ball and this is how they crossed.
After that, the Italians left France and the Germans came in. It became too dangerous to play ball with the children like this. With the Germans we didn’t play these games.
Another method he used involved dressing children as mourners and taking them to a cemetery on the French-Swiss border, where they would climb up a gravedigger’s ladder to neutral territory.
According to the OSE, Loinger trained a team of monitors, organised intra-house sporting competitions and then inter-house competitions to prepare children for the future and prevent them from developing disorders caused by confinement.
As a result of his heroics he was awarded the Resistance Medal, the Military Cross and the Legion of Honour.
#GeorgesLoinger Loinger dies at 108, member of Hatikvah movement fought against Nazi, was captured in 1940, escaped from his camp, went on to rescue hundreds of Jewish children over the next years, and organized the Exodus boat saving 4500 escaping the Shoah. pic.twitter.com/CxWouNvxr4
— Michele Emdin (@MicheleEmdin) December 29, 2018
He turned 100 in August 2010 and was appointed chairman of the Association of the Jewish Resistance of France (ARJF) before his death, in Paris, on 28 December 2018.
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