New Exhibit: “Saving the Children, 1938–1945”
OSE and the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum
present the exhibition:
“Saving the Children, 1938–1945”
The exhibition “Saving the Children, 1938–1945” was planned by OSE – Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (“Children’s Aid Society”) and is presented in conjunction with the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. It describes the paths of ten Jewish children who were hidden in France and rescued during the Second World War. The period of occupation and the Vichy French government’s collaboration with the Nazi regime, is disgracefully infamous.
The stories of Jewish children hidden and rescued by underground organizations remain largely unknown. This is the saga that the OSE Society and the GFH Museum have chosen to tell, and in so doing give voice to those rescued children, orphans of the Holocaust.
In describing the routes of these children who were offered protection by OSE in its residential-educational homes and then were hidden by other institutions or private individuals until the war’s end, the exhibition “Saving the Children, 1938–1945” also highlights the activities of the rescuers, who belonged to several resistance organizations.
These hidden Holocaust orphans, the children whose stories are brought to you here, are grandparents today. They survived the Holocaust and built their lives anew after the war. They re-learned how to live and raised families throughout the world: in France and all of Europe, but also in Israel, the U.S.A. and even Australia. The story of their survival and building new lives bears a message of hope.
An Abbreviated History of OSE
The Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population (Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniya Evreyev; OZE) was established by Jewish physicians in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1912, to aid their people who suffered discrimination. OZE set up medical clinics, maternal/child wellness clinics, and hospitals, as well as conducting public health campaigns in the majority of Eastern European countries. This became the basis of a modern health care system.
Following the October Revolution of 1917, OZE operated only a short while further in Russia and by 1923 had relocated its offices to Berlin. Here its name was changed to the Union of OZE Societies and it undertook the care of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Albert Einstein was appointed its honorary chairman, a distinction he held until his death in 1953.
In 1933, upon the rise of the Nazis to power, the society had to leave Germany. Its center of activity moved to Paris, France, where it again changed its name, to the “Children’s Aid Society” (Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants; OSE). In 1939 OSE opened four residential facilities in the town of Montmorency as shelters for refugee children from Germany and Austria who came to France after the Kristallnacht pogroms of November 1938.
During the Second World War OSE opened health care clinics in most large French cities, where professionals came to the aid of Jewish refugees. In addition, OSE personnel endeavored to extract children from detention camps and transfer them to its 14 shelter "homes." Starting in 1942, youngsters were taken to various locations and hidden with the aid of the Garel underground network for rescuing children. Three thousand children were hidden and saved from deportation and extermination.
OSE's Activities Today
In our day, OSE is the largest Jewish organization in France dealing with matters of education, society, and health. Its activities encompass many fields, from assisting at-risk children to providing health care and social welfare to senior citizens and people with functional disabilities. OSE also sees to the social welfare, psychological and health care of Holocaust survivors, including those who had been hidden as children.
For this OSE has created and supports institutions and services such as sheltered residential facilities, socio-educational centers, day programs for the health and social needs of individuals with disabilities, health care centers, and geriatric services.
An organization founded early in the tormented previous century, OSE today honors its initial mission and maintains its strong tradition. This organization, with goals and a moral code likewise, has known and knows how to act according to the needs of different times, dedicating its efforts to aiding refugees, underground activity, supporting abandoned children, and rehabilitating families.
Creators of the Exhibition “Saving the Children, 1938 – 1945”
Jean-François Guthmann, OSE President
Patricia Sitruk, OSE Director-General
Katy Hazan, exhibition curator
Atelier Sacha Kleinberg, designer and producer
Dominique Rotermund, text and images coordinator
Isabelle Fiheul de Brohy, films producer
Avidia, audiovisual mixing