"The Children of Chabannes — who 'were happy by day and ... cried at night' — does not skirt the issue of what led these children to France in the first place, but it also sheds light on hope in the dark days of war." from a review by Andrea Carla Michaels in JWeekly.com on 7/22/2005
This documentary, made by the daughter of one of the former children of Chabannes, consists of interviews conducted around the time of a reunion in 1996. There are interviews with some of the surviving children and also with several surviving townspeople and former teachers. We are shown around the abandoned chateau as they reminisce. In the interviews the conversations circle around several topics. They discuss the stress they all felt at having been separated from their parents and their fears about their own safety. But they are happy to remember the positive environment created for them at the chateau by the staff and the welcoming support they got from the people in the town despite increasing hardships like scarce food and fuel supplies.
Their safety was in jeopardy once Germany invaded the “unoccupied” zone in late 1942, and Chevrier put his own life in danger many times to protect the lives of the children. As danger crept closer and closer, members of the resistance worked to smuggle the children over the border to neutral countries such as Switzerland and from there many came to the United States. Some of the older children joined the resistance. Others were hidden by members of the community.
In the interviews we can sense the pain the adults still feel fifty years later at having been torn from their families. Most did not ever see their parents again. Their gratitude to the people of Chabonnes is boundless. Two of their outstanding teachers, the Paillassou sisters, Renee and Reine, went to Israel to accept the honor of being designated as the Righteous among Nations at Yad Vashem. Felix Chevrier, who died in 1962, received the same honor posthumously. He donated his papers to the Centre de Juivre Contemporaine in Paris which includes a book of over 170 pages made by the children and the staff in 1942. It includes children’s artwork, essays by the staff and over one hundred black and white photos.
To learn about another such school with a far different outcome, the Maison D'Izieu, now a French national memorial to the murdered Jewish children, click here.
Norbert Bikales – married Gerda
Ruth Keller – married Paul Keller
Werner Gossels – son of Charlotte; married Elaine
Peter Gossels – son of Charlotte; married Nancy
Lucy Gossels – daughter of Peter; director
Ernest Rosner – married Edith
Jerry Gerard – married Betty
Wolfgang Blumenreich – married Miriam
This documentary is also available as a free download from Amazon for Amazon Prime members.