A Jewish Holocaust survivor from Austria has left around €2 million (around £1.7 million) to a small village in southern France which hid him and his family during the Holocaust.
Eric Schwam, who arrived in Chambon-sur-Lignon with his parents and maternal grandmother in February 1943, expressed in his will that he wanted “to thank them [the village residents] for the welcome many extended me in the field of education.” He asked for the money to be used to fund scholarships and schools in the village.
Large contributions will also be made to three foundations supporting health workers, children with leukemia and animal rights, according to a press release from the town hall.
“We are extremely honored and we will use the sum according to Mr. Schwam’s will,” the town’s deputy mayor, Denise Vallat, told CNN on Saturday.
According to ABC, Le Chambon and nearby villages welcomed Jewish refugees, mostly children, after 1940, according to the town hall website. Barack Obama mentioned the village in his remarks at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance Ceremony in April 2009 and Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, awarded the commune the title of Righteous in 1990.
Schwam’s father was a doctor and his mother helped establish a library at the Rivesaltes camp, one of many set up by the Vichy regime to imprison Jews. Thousands were transported from there to Auschwitz, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
Friedel Reiter, a young Swiss social worker who voluntarily helped refugees at the time, recorded the family’s information and it is likely she helped move them to Le Chambon when the Rivesaltes camp shut down in 1942, said the town hall.