“You’ll find peace here”
In these words, the Deputy Prefect in Belley, Pierre-Marcel Wiltzer, approved Sabine Zlatin’s decision to open a home in Izieu early in the spring of 1943.
Izieu is a Bugey hill-village in the Ain Department. There are no busy roads and the panoramic view of the mountains of the Chartreuse and the Northern Vercors is simply stunning. At that time, the village was situated in the Italian Occupied Zone and was therefore temporarily a haven from anti-Semitic persecutions.
The children’s home was set up on a legal basis with the support of the Sub-Prefecture in Belley, the nearest administrative centre. It was neither hidden nor clandestine. Daily life was gradually organised and its occupants settled into this rural environment. Relationships developed with local inhabitants and institutions.
The location appeared to be a true haven of peace, far from conflicts and persecutions. Whilst the smallest children suffered the brutal separation from their parents, from whom they were frequently without news, the teenagers and adults felt safe.
“We arrived in lorries, not in coaches, and I still remember Reifman, you know, the one who jumped down from the lorry saying,
‘What a paradise!’ “
Sabine Zlatin, Izieu home director