Woman who smuggled Jewish children from Nazi-occupied France dies of coronavirus

Frida Wattenberg, who died on Friday, joined the French resistance aged 16



A woman who helped smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied France into Switzerland has died of coronavirus, days before her 96th birthday.

Frida Wattenberg was born in 1924 in Paris to Jewish parents who had emigrated from Lodz, Poland.

An activist in the Jewish youth movement there, within months of the Germans invading France in 1940 she had been recruited into the French resistance, aged only 16.

In 1942, Ms Wattenberg secured her mother’s release from Vel d’Hiv – the internment point for Parisian Jews – by obtaining documents suggesting her mother was a factory employee and therefore vital to the German war effort.

A year later, she was in southern France, in Grenoble, risking her life driving Jewish children out of the country and into neutral Switzerland, many of whom were orphans.

“We couldn’t save the adults always. But we tried to do what we could for the children,” she said in testimony given in 2014.

Following the end of the war, she continued to work with refugee children, becoming a case workers for OPEJ, a Jewish community group that took care of war orphans.

Ms Wattenberg, who was described by the Memorial for the Shoah as “a courageous woman and an indefatigable fighter”, died in Paris on April 3 from the coronavirus. She was 95.

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