In late June, 1940 a nine year-old girl and her parents fled Paris on the eve of the German invasion. The NAZI ideology aimed to rid first Europe, and then the world of a deemed threat of social plague held largely by the Jewish people at this time. Not only were Jews targeted, but anyone who went against the “Aryan” perfection were to be exterminated; Blacks, Homosexuals, Gypsies and any other political indifference.
Many French Jews fled to the south, where it was known that some refuge could be found. With nothing but the clothes on their back and a bicycle each, the family would sleep during the day and travel at night to avoid being spotted. Finally, after about two weeks, they came to a clearing in the forest where smoke was seen coming from a chimney up ahead.
Not knowing what the family who lived there would do, the father took a chance and knocked on their door. The look of desperation on his face was enough for the farmer to take them in and risk the lives of his own family to save another. The LaRoche family hid them for the duration of the war (five years). A true act of humanity; this story remains relevant to me today because that young girl was my grandmother.
Visiting Le Breuil was an important part of this trip, not only for me, but for my mom as well. She is writing a memoir of her family and their life during and after WWII. Meeting the sons and daughters of the La Roche family was an extraordinary experience for me. These people were so honored by our homage that they offered us their very own beds to sleep. Even though we are a few generations removed now, I will serve as the last connected blood line to the event. Hearing the stories from the past really put into perspective the fact that without this family’s sense of true morality, I could not be sitting here today…