Corsica shock over discovery of its only Holocaust victim

A Corsican history teacher has shattered a local myth by showing that one single Jew was indeed deported from the island during the Second World War and sent to his death.

For more than 60 years, the people of Corsica have prided themselves on the fact that no Jews were deported during Corsica's occupation by German and Italian forces. This extraordinary record is usually attributed to vigilance of the island's wartime prefect, Paul Balley, who protected Jews on the island from being sent to the camps.

But now Louis Luciani, a teacher working on research for the legendary Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld, has discovered that, in fact, a German Jew was deported from the Corsican capital Ajaccio in September 1942.

Ignace Schreter, who had fled to France from Germany in 1938, was sent to the French camps of Rivesaltes and Drancy and on to Sobibor, where he was killed.

He was arrested during a short period in the autumn of 1942 when Prefect Balley was absent from the island on business in Marseille. While he was away, an underling took the opportunity to report the presence on the island of the German Jew, who was also thought to be a communist.

Mr Luciani began his research into the case after interviewing an elderly Corsican official who remembered Paul Balley being furious on his return to Ajaccio from the French mainland. The prefect believed that allowing a single Jew to be deported would severely weaken his position in protecting other Jews on the island.

Mr Klarsfeld told Corse Matin newspaper: "The role of Prefect Paul Balley was to minimise this drama. When he discovered this affair there was nothing he could do. He still merits the title of Righteous Among the Nations for all the other Jews in Corsica he protected at risk of his own life."

Mr Luciani said he wept when he discovered the relevant documents in the police archives proving that Ignace Schreter had been arrested in Corsica.

"I felt like I had touched terror with my own hands," he said.

    Last updated: 4:02pm, June 17 2010