Hidden Children in France

Introduction By Peter Landé and Rosanne Leeson

· Background
· Database
· Acknowledgements
· Searching the Database



After the German invasion of France and the establishment of camps and deportations via Drancy, efforts were made by various groups to hide Jewish children.  Wherever possible, efforts were made to send them on to safety in other countries such as Switzerland and the United States.  One of the most active organizations in this effort was Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE), a French Jewish humanitarian organization that saved hundreds of refugee children during WW II.  OSE is a worldwide Jewish organization for health care and children's welfare.  They were founded in Russia in 1912 and transferred to France in 1933.

OSE gave assistance to children and adults in as many as fifteen towns and the internment camps in southern France.  Care was given to about 1,300 children, some orphans and some whose families had placed them in these facilities.  About 350 of these children were sent by ship to the United States from May 1941 to May 1942.  After the German movement into southern France, OSE went underground but continued to hide children and transfer them to Switzerland when that was possible.  Overall, it was possible for OSE to rescue more than 5,000 children.

OSE ran dozens of orphanages, for children from infants to teens, whose parents had been murdered, or were imprisoned in camps.  Beginning in March 1939, several transports brought children from Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt and other places in Germany to France.  Some were brought by family trying to insure their safety.  They were housed temporarily in Rothschild facilities, before being sent to the first OSE home in Montmorency, north of Paris.

By June of 1939 the number of children had grown greatly, and a second home was opened about 2 miles away from Montmorency, in Baubonne.  A number of orthodox children were moved there from Montmorency.  All stayed there until June 1940 when the Germans moved in on Paris.  About 35 children who had been on the ship St. Louis were also housed nearby, when the OSE agreed to take them in.

The children were schooled and trained according to their ages, and were given special training in physical education and survivor skills to better prepare them for possible dangers ahead.  With the German approach in 1940 all three homes near Paris were closed, and the children were taken to OSE homes in the south of France.  A list of these is given here:

List of OSE children's homes in France during World War II:

From June through September 1941, three transports managed to bring about 200 children from the OSE homes to the U.S.  They were sponsored by the United States Committee for the Care of European Children, The Jewish Children's Aid, and assisted by the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) in Marseilles.  In 1942, the police began roundups and deportations from the orphanages to Nazi concentration and extermination camps, and the OSE organized an underground network in order to smuggle the children to neutral countries.  Some children were saved by French rescuers, and some joined the French Resistance movement.

Source Documents

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) holds a large collection of OSE documents which describes OSE's efforts in numerous French locations (Collection 1998 A-0045).  The children themselves had various nationalities, some French but many from Germany, Belgium, Austria, Poland and other European countries.  In some cases the documents in this collection show that children escaped to a safe haven.  I other cases their fate is not established, though it is known that some were later captured and sent to Auschwitz.  The information on each child varies from simply name and age, as well as location, to detailed information on family members.

This index to the names which appear in a small part of this collection, parts of reels 2 and 3, includes over 4,000 names - probably about 1,500 hidden children, since many names appear more than once as they moved from one place to another.  Names were entered as they appeared on the lists, often with contradictory spellings and different information.

This is only the beginning of the effort to identify children, most of whom are not identified in other public sources and to allow the children and their families to obtain additional information on their lives in France.  JewishGen volunteers plan to index further parts of the collection and this will be made available when it is completed.


This database includes 4,080 records.  Due to transfers between homes, the number of unique individuals is less than this total number.  As mentioned above, this is only a partial list of children which we intend to add to as the material becomes available.  The fields for this database are as follows:

The collection itself often includes considerably more information, such as location of parents, emigration sponsors and dates of departure, etc.  (Please see the Acknowledgments for the link to find additional information from the USHMM.)


The information contained in this database was indexed from the files of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Collection 1998 A-0045 RG 43.059M).  This data is part of a 25 roll collection that includes records for the period described above and the immediate postwar period.  Complete information on individuals in this database, including other information if available, (such as the fate of parents or other relatives) may be provided on a case by case basis in response to inquiries sent to the Survivors Registry at the USHMM.

This project was made possible through the efforts of a French volunteer working at the USHMM, Virginie Gessie.  Virginia went through over 200 pages of this collection and developed an index to the names of the children identified therein.

In addition, thanks to JewishGen Inc. for providing the website and database expertise to make this database accessible.  Special thanks to Warren Blatt and Michael Tobias for their continued contributions to Jewish genealogy.  Particular thanks to the Research Division headed by Joyce Field and to Nolan Altman, coordinator of Holocaust files.

Nolan Altman
August 2008

Searching the Database

This database is searchable via JewishGen's Holocaust Database.

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Last Update: 07 Sept 2008 by MFK