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The American Friends of the Le Chambon Memorial (AFCM) mourns the loss of Rudy Appel, 91, who was hidden in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during the Holocaust. He died on September 18, 2016.

Rudi Appel was born on May 13, 1925, in Mannheim, Germany. His older brother and father made it to the US before the War, but he and his mother attempted to flee later. Rudi fled to the Netherlands, while his mother went to Belgium.  Rudi was enrolled in the Gymnasium in Rotterdam, but when the situation became more dire, he was smuggled to Belgium by Geertruida “Truus” Wijsmuller and was reunited with his mother.

From Belgium, Rudi and his mother fled to northern France, which was fully occupied by the Nazis. Their ultimate goal was to get to Marseille where boats were still leaving to the United States. When they attempted to cross the demarcation line, they were arrested and put in the camp at Rivesaltes. He was then separated from his mother and brought to Les Milles, France.

Every day at Les Milles, there was a roll call and groups were formed. It was never easy to tell in which group it was better to be. On one occasion, he noted that his name had not been called, but those whose names were called were being assembled across the yard.  Looking around, he also saw a blind boy whose name had also not been called. Rudi decided to go to the group in which he was not supposed to be and he walked across the yard. The group in which he was supposed to be was sent to Auschwitz on convoy number 30.  The group Rudi ended up joining was sent back to Rivesaltes from where he was taken to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon by Friedel Reiter. Friedel was the girlfriend of August Bohny, who ran the Secours Suisse homes in Le Chambon. Rudi remained in Le Chambon in the La Guespy home until the end of the War.

After the War, Rudi was reunited with his mother who survived in Grenoble, and then came to America. He changed the spelling of his name to Rudy to make it look more American.

At the end of the Soviet era, Rudy worked hard to get Soviet Jews released from the USSR.  Many of the Jews he helped free attended his 90th birthday party in 2015. Rudy leaves behind a wife, two children and three grandchildren.

Remembering Elie Wiesel’s legacy for the sake of today’s refugees and the role of the Righteous.

Peter Grose interviewed some of the central figures to the events that occurred in Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon.

Peter Grose pays tribute to key individuals from the region of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, including a determined pastor whose “inflexible” pacifism led to hiding almost 5,000 refugees during the German invasion.

Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon received recognition very early on for its heroism during WWII. The International Herald Tribune wrote an article about us as early as 1979, followed by the New York Times in 1983 and TIME Magazine in 1990.

Patrick Henry was the Cushing Eells Professor of Philosophy and Literature at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where he had been a professor of French since 1976. Now officially retired, he continues to teach courses on “The Literature of Peace” and “The Literature and Film of the Holocaust in France.”  He has just completed a book on the rescuers of Jews in France in the area of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.

President Obama spoke about the brave saviors of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon in 2009 at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance Ceremony. He refers to the people of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon as, “those who would do extraordinary good at extraordinary risk not for affirmation or acclaim or to advance their own interests, but because it is what must be done”.

Making History our Story, The example of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon

Could we be part of the Resistance today? Faced with the challenges of History, can examples from our shared past help us to make good choices, to become citizens of tomorrow active and responsible? The panel focuses on the example of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, a small village where 5000 jews were sheltered in Nazi-occupied France. Among the participants will be Denise Vallat, who is in charge of the cultural department for the township of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon and president of the historical site of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon.

Children of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon received gifts from the students of the SAR Academy, a Jewish school in New York, to thanks the commitment of their grandfathers. Some of the children of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon are descendants of Righteous among the Nations. The children of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon’s school sent back drawings and letters in English encouraging the children of New York to come to visit the Plateau.

Testimonials

In this clip, Jewish Survivor Peter Feigl gives his testimony about his experiences as a child during the Holocaust. At a recent conference for educators, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education used Feigl’s testimony as an adult and his diaries written as a youth to demonstrate how to teach about the Holocaust using first-person narratives. This testimony is from the archive of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.

Watch the BBC’s video of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon’s museum and the reveal of our wartime secret during WWII.

A tribute to the survivors of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon.
Credit: Harold Klein

Awards

The Roger E. Joseph Prize is an international award, and since 1978, it has been presented to exceptional individuals or organizations that have made lasting contributions to the causes of human rights and Jewish survival, and whose conduct or work enhances or encourages the values and ideals of Judaism.

The first recipient was Victor Kugler, who gave refuge to Anne Frank and her family. Other Joseph Prize honorees have included, The people of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, a Huguenot village in France, who rescued thousands of Jewish children during the Holocaust.

The Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity honors “those who risked all to protect others of a different faith or ethnic origin.”

The 2003 Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity was awarded to the villagers of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon. 2003 Service Volunteers of World War II: Elizabeth Wall Strohfus – the Women Service Volunteers; Henry C. Scholberg – the Non-combatant Service Volunteers, Villagers of the Region of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, France. Using “weapons of the spirit”, they defied Nazi occupation by sheltering 5,000 refugees (mostly Jewish) and preventing their deportation and extermination from 1940-45.

On April 23, 1987, the Anti-Defamation League created a unique award called “Courage to Care” to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era.

The award is a plaque with miniature bas-reliefs that depicts the horrifying context – the Nazis’ persecution, deportation and murder of millions of Jews – that served as a backdrop for the rescuers’ exceptional deeds. It is a replica of the plaques that constitute the Holocaust Memorial Wall created by noted sculptor Arbit Blatas, who also created the Holocaust Memorial in Paris and the display in the old ghetto of Venice, Italy.

1989 Courage to Care Honorees: Anna and Jan Pulchalski, Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon and Chiune Sugihara