Hidden on the Mountain:
Stories of Children Sheltered from the Nazis in Le Chambon
by Deborah Durland DeSaix and Karen Gray Ruelle.

Here are some brief excerpts from six of the true-life stories of young Jewish refugees told in Hidden on the Mountain.

Hidden children in Le Chambon From the private collection of Rudy Appel

When JAKOB was ten years old, the Nazis had already been in power in Germany for three years.
Iím sick and tired of being bullied, just because Iím Jewish. Before I started school, I was a happy kid. But now all the Nazi kids call me "Dirty Jew," and I come home from school bloody almost every day. I might not be the biggest, strongest kid in Germany, but Iím tough, and I know how to stick up for myself. My brother, Martin, is eleven, a year older than I am, but Iím even tougher than he is. Martin and I used to do everything together, but last year my parents sent him to Berlin to stay with our aunt. Before they sent me to school in Frankfurt, Mutter (Mother) was worried about my fighting back. She said, "Look at you! Youíre going to get us all into jail yet." And I told her, "I donít care, Iíll defend myself. This is my right!"

...Yesterday, this guy took me out and beat the living hell out of me, and I went to school crying all the way. This morning, he was after another kid, but there were four of us together, and we threw him through a drugstore window. And then we ran! So far, today, no one else has bothered us.

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RUDI was born in Germany, but when he was thirteen, his mother sent him to the Netherlands, where she hoped he would be safe from the Nazis. At this point in his story, he was living in an orphanage there.
The city is in flames! The Germans invaded Holland [the Netherlands] four days ago. This morning we all had to run down into the basement when the bombs began to fall. We were down there for hours, and we could hear all the explosions. Any second, a bomb could have hit our building.

Finally the bombing stopped and we came upstairs. Everyone is saying that lots of German soldiers have parachuted in and theyíve taken over the city -- or whatís left of it.

I canít believe our building is still standing. All around us, buildings have been flattened. Lots of people must have died. Everythingís on fire, and thereís smoke everywhere.

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ELISABETH was born in Austria, but she and her mother had been living in Paris when the Nazis invaded France. They fled south.
I canít sleep. This bench is so hard and Iím so angry. Mutti [Mother] and I were arrested. They think weíre German spies! The police looked through my bag and found my book of German poetry, my diary, my sketchbook, and Ernestís passport and identity papers. This is so stupid! If I really were a spy, I wouldnít have had those things with me.

The police questioned us for hours, and all they gave us to eat was a hard-boiled egg. Finally, they turned out the light and told us we had to sleep here. When we asked if they would let us go in the morning, they wouldnít answer. Even though Iím exhausted, Iím too frustrated and angry to fall asleep on this hard wooden bench.
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Itís five oí clock in the morning. Someone opens the door. "Run, run, the Germans are coming," he shouts. I grab Muttiís hand, and we go.

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NATHALIEís parents sent her to stay at a childrenís home in Le Chambon for the summer break. However, she received only one letter from her parents that summer, and her stay in Le Chambon went on and on.
I still look for a letter from Mama and Papa every day. Some kids get lots of mail, but I donít get any. I think my parents have forgotten me.

Iíve been here a whole year. Other kids come and go. Sometimes they leave in the middle of the night. No one tells us where theyíve gone, but we hear things. We know that some kids have been secretly sent to Switzerland. Some of the kids will go back home. Others donít have any family to go back to. My friend HťlŤne came here after her mother and father were arrested.

In Le Chambon it hardly feels like thereís a war going on. But there are kids here who have come from all over and have been horribly affected by the war. One night, they brought in a very young Greek girl. She was sitting in the kitchen. She was very pale and didnít say a word. Someone handed her a glass of milk, and she reacted as though he were going to hit her. Later I found out that both of her parents had been shot right in front of her. She was so terrified, she slept with her eyes wide open every night. She didnít stay here very long.

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Born in Germany, HANNE was lucky to end up in Le Chambon during the war. After less than two years there, however, she left for the safety of Switzerland.
I have my false identity card. It says I was born in Paris. I have a visa for Switzerland from my aunt who lives there. But I have no exit visa to leave the country, so I will have to sneak out of France.

I have my briefcase with a toothbrush, a nightgown, and a towel. Iím also bringing a couple of pieces of cheese and some bread, because I have no ration card and wonít be able to buy any food. Iím wearing two skirts, two blouses, a sweater and a cardigan under my coat. This is all Iím taking to Switzerland. Iím ready to go.

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Originally from Germany, PETER spent time in Le Chambon as well as at boarding schools elsewhere in France after his parents were arrested. When he was fifteen, he attempted the dangerous crossing into Switzerland.
Now we can see the border -- two rows of barbed-wire fences -- and the Swiss buildings beyond. But we canít cross over yet. We have to wait until the changing of the guards. The passeurs [people smugglers] tell us to lie down in the grass. Itís been raining, and now the grass is soaking wet. We wait.

We get the signal to go. We stand up, and then we see that there are other people waiting here to cross the border, too. Maybe twenty of us in all. Everyone runs toward the barbed-wire fences. I throw my backpack over the first fence, and then I cross. Iím running for the second fence, a hundred yards ahead, when a young girl yells, "Weíre heading the wrong way!" She turns around and starts running back. She had seen what she thought was a German soldier on the other side of the second fence. Some others turn back, too. Then, someone starts shooting and I hear screams.

Copyright, 2007, by Deborah Durland DeSaix and Karen Gray Ruelle. All rights reserved. For permissions please contact Karen and Deb at karenanddeb@​gmail.com.