The story of the Izieu children is a European story.
These Jewish children’s families were of various origins: German, Polish, Austrian, Belgian or French – from Metropolitan France or Algeria.
Many crossed Europe at different times, fleeing pogroms and anti-Semitic acts or misery, hoping to find refuge in France.
In September and October 1940, the Vichy regime enacted the first anti-Semitic laws.
These families found themselves entrapped by wartime Europe and anti-Semitic politics. Persecuted, hunted, arrested and interned in France, 76,000 Jewish people, including 11,400 children, would be handed over to the German authorities, then deported and murdered.
Humanitarian organisations set up escape networks and tried to shield children from these persecutions.
In May 1943, Sabine and Miron Zlatin, in conjunction with the “Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants” (OSE) [French humanitarian organisation for Jewish children], took in some fifteen children at Izieu in the Italian Occupied Zone at that time, sheltering them temporarily from anti-Semitic manhunts.
Up to January 1944, the month of the last list in the attendance register kept by Miron Zlatin, 105 children, mostly Jewish, had stayed at the Izieu home.
The home was frequently a transit location within a much wider escape network integrating other houses, host families or transfer channels in Switzerland.
On 6th April 1944, 45 children and 8 adults were present at the home. All were Jewish except for one boy, René-Michel Wucher. Under the orders of Klaus Barbie, Gestapo agents and Wehrmacht soldiers were sent to arrest all those present. One adult, Léon Reifman, managed to escape and hide at the time of the raid. Little René-Michel Wucher was released when the lorries stopped at Brégnier-Cordon, a village below Izieu.
The raid on the Izieu home led to the arrest and deportation of 44 Jewish children (aged 5 to 17 years) and 7 adults.
Miron Zlatin and 2 teenagers were shot at Reval (Tallin today) in Estonia.
42 children and 5 adults were assassinated at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Léa Feldblum, a helper at the home, was the only survivor.