French Jew Who Saved Hundreds of Children in Holocaust Dies at 108

Resistance fighter Georges Loinger, honored in France and Germany, used creative misdirection in his rescue work

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Georges Loinger after he was awarded Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur (commander of the Legion of Honor), Paris, September 19, 2015.
Georges Loinger after he was awarded Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur (commander of the Legion of Honor), Paris, September 19, 2015. Credit: Jacques Demarthon/AFP
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Georges Loinger, a French Jewish underground fighter who saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust, died Friday in Paris at the age of 108.

Loinger was born in 1910 in Strasbourg, to Solomon Loinger and Mina Werzberg. In 1940, while serving in the French army, he was taken prisoner by the Germans. The blond-haired, blue-eyed Loinger, however, managed to hide the fact that he was Jewish and he succeeded in escaping from the prison camp.

Subsequently in France he joined the Jewish humanitarian group OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants), which according to its records saved 5,000 Jewish children whose parents had been murdered or sent to concentration camps.

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Loinger helped save hundreds of children using creative methods, like kicking a soccer ball across the border between France and Switzerland and sending the children after it. Another way was to send them to cemeteries along the French-Swiss border dressed as grave-diggers carrying a ladder that grave-diggers used in their work. With this disguise they were able to escape to freedom. Some 350 Jewish children were saved through this ruse. After the war he helped some of the children he’d saved emigrate to Israel. He later worked for Zim Shipping in France.

Over the years he received medals and citations of merit for his Holocaust-era activities, including from France and Germany. His cousin, who was his partner in helping save Jews, was the famous mime artist Marcel Marceau. Singer Yardena Arazi is Loinger’s niece.

In a post on Facebook Sunday Arazi eulogized him. “My heroic uncle […] risked his life in the effort to save thousands of Jews and smuggle them over the border to Switzerland. Many family members worked with him, including his cousin and the youngest sister of the seven Loinger siblings, a little girl who pretended to be a local to deceive the German soldiers – my mother, Yvette.”

Arazi added, “Germany and France acknowledged and recognized the heroism of the underground. There is no medal he didn’t receive. He was a knight of both the French and German Legions of Honor.” However, she added, “In Israel to this day there is little talk about the acts of heroism by Jews who saved Jews and about the French front and underground resistance altogether. Perhaps the time has come. There are very few people left to tell about it. And Uncle Georges had a lot to tell. Rest in peace.”

The French Holocaust museum, which announced his death Friday, described him as “an extraordinary man.”

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