By Amy Snyder – originally posted at the NaplesNews.com
The honor of Righteous Among Nations was recently bestowed upon a family in southern France thanks to the efforts of Holocaust Survivor Renée Beddouk.
In the spring of 1940, the German military invaded France and the country was quickly divided into two sections: the “Occupied Zone” was in the north and included Paris; the “Free Zone” was in central and south France. Renée was about 7 ½ years old at the time and her parents, Guélia and Bernard Krasnobroda decided it was safest to leave Paris. They settled in Clermont-Ferrand and placed Renée in the farming village of Estandeuil, about 25 kilometers away.
The family of Marc and Marceline Chassaing already included six children and they graciously accepted Renée as their seventh! For the next several years, Renée attended the local school, learned how to knit socks, and became a regular little farm girl. She received periodic visits from her parents until the summer of 1943.
In July of 1943, Guélia and Bernard were arrested and sent to the transit camp outside Paris called Drancy. In October, they were deported to Auschwitz and did not return after the war ended. Renée was collected from the Chassaing’s farm by her aunt and uncle, who raised both Renée and her cousin.
Coming to the United States as a budding teenager, Renée did what she needed to do in order to put the tragedy behind and create a new life. In so doing, she blocked out most of her memories of the family that took her in during WWII. It was not until 2010, after she had been volunteering at The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida, that Renée decided it was time to find the people that had been so gracious to her as a child.
After several months of searching and many disappointing phone calls from friends in France, Renée was thrilled to learn that the family had been located and some of the Chassaing children were still living. In the summer of 2011, Renée was reunited with two of those children, Henri Chassaing and Fernande Chassaing Reynard, whom she referred to as her “big sister.” With over 20 Chassaing family members in attendance, Renée returned to the farm where she was “hidden” during the Holocaust.
Renée contacted Yad Vashem France in Paris to begin the process of having the family recognized as Righteous Among Nations and the request was approved in July 2012. In a ceremony held in Saint Julie de Coppel, Puy de Dome on March 3, 2013, Fernande and Henri received the medal and diploma from the Assistant Public Relations Ambassador of the Israeli Embassy. Over 40 members of the Chassaing family joined Renée and her son for this wonderful celebration.
The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida invites you to visit the Museum and hear first-hand from Renée about this journey of remembrance and rejoicing on Sunday, May 26th at 4:00 pm. Reservations are requested at 239-263-9200.