Fanny Ben-Ami

“I was born in 1930 in Baden-Baden, Germany and When Hitler rose to power, my family fled to Paris. With the outbreak of WWII, and the German occupation of France in May 1940, I was sent with my sisters, Erica and Georgette to an orphanage at the Château de Chaumont with the Help of the OSE (an organization that supported Jewish children). For me and my sisters, it was a safe haven that protected us from the atrocities across Europe.

In 1942 the orphanage was scattered because of an informer who told the Nazis about our whereabouts so I and my sister had to flee. I knew that my mother was in Lyon so it was only reasonable that we will reunite with her.

When we arrived in Lyon, I found out that My mother had been imprisoned. I didn’t think twice and went to the jailhouse and told the wardens: “‘Let my mother out. She didn’t steal anything or murder anyone. There’s no reason for her to be here.’ The wardens threatened to imprison me to But I didn’t back off: “Go ahead, you can imprison me too if you like. My parents are anyway in jail. You’re not real Frenchmen, your traitors and you know what happens to traitors!’ The wardens were astounded by my courage and decided to release my mother.

In Lyon, I was reconnected to the OSE who organized rescue missions for groups of Jewish children across Europe. The group that I was assigned to was supposed to be smuggled to Switzerland. Before departing the bus to the swiss border my mother who came to say goodbye told me: ‘Who knows if we’ll see each other again?’ Sadly, it was the last time I saw her.

Our team leader was eighteen years old, and when we reached the border zone she panicked because of the massive German presence in the area. She refused to go on so we found ourselves in hostile territory without a leader who will take us to safe haven.

At the moment, with the lack of alternatives, I decided to take command of the group. I told all the other children the simple and harsh truth that if they won’t come with me, they will definitely die.

On our way to the border, the French police arrested us and imprisoned us at a cabin of the Red cross for further investigation. I saw two trucks with Swastika symbols parking outside of the cabin and I realized that if we won’t escape it will be the end of us.

Luckily enough there was a small window at the toilet in the back of the cabin and from there I managed to smuggle all the 15 children to the woods.

While we were walking in the woods, I order the children to march and sing so people will think we are on vacation so we won’t draw any suspicion.

After a few days, with the help of the OSE, we managed to get close to the border. The instructions were that when the Germans guards will leave their posts we have to run as fast as we can to Switzerland and Freedom.

It was the longest Five Kilometers (about 3 miles) of my life. When we reached the Swiss border, we managed to get all the kids through the fence but to my astonishment, one girl named Margalit was left behind in the heart of the dematerialized zone. I didn’t think twice and went back to get her. while we were running back to the Swiss border there was a barge of bullets that were fired at us but we managed to escape them and to pass the border. once I knew I was on swiss soil I fainted.  At desperate times, you take desperate measures.

I’m proud of my role in bringing those kids to freedom.”

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