A nun and a deceased priest were honored as “Righteous Gentiles” Tuesday for saving three Jewish children in France during the Holocaust.
The children did not know how they were saved until one of them began investigating their background in the 1990s, more than 45 years after the fall of the Nazi regime.
Sister Marie Emilienne received the medal and certificate of honor as did the nephew of the late Father Joseph Caupert at a ceremony at the French embassy and in the presence of Gabrielle Hochman, who survived the Holocaust in hiding at a Catholic orphanage.
Her family’s story of began in 1923, when David and Hella-Zyssa Hochman emigrated from Poland to France and settled in the city of Metz. They bore two children, Annie and René, and after the German invasion in 1940, they moved to Nice, where Gabrielle was born.
Three years later, Italian forces ruled the region after the Nazi occupation, and the Hochmans turned over their three children to the French Jewish humanitarian organization, Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE). The OSE saved approximately 5,000 children, including non-Jews, during the war.
The Hochman parents went into hiding elsewhere, but the mother was sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis after the Gestapo caught her on her way to visit her children. She was murdered by the Nazis on November 2, 1942.
The father, with the help of his Catholic brother-in-law, hid the children elsewhere, in a convent in Mende under the supervision of Father Joseph Caupert and Mother Superior Marie Rose Brugeron.
They and Sister Marie-Emilienne kept the girls’ Jewish identity secret, and the nun took it upon herself to protect Gabrielle whenever there was danger from the Nazis. She did not even disclose the girl’s Jewish identity to the nun who was taking care of her.
After the war, the father and his two girls were reunited but never discussed their experiences of the Holocaust. The fate of her brother Rene remains unknown.
Gabi began to ask questions in the 1990s and turned to the Association of Jewish Children Hidden during the Holocaust.
The OSE found her name on a list of children who were secretly hidden. She traveled to France in 1994 to meet Sister Marie-Emilienne, who was honored three years later in Mende.
Last year, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad VaShem decided to award Father Joseph Caupert, Sister Marie-Emilienne and Mother Marie-Rose Brugeron the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
The ceremony recognizing Mother Marie-Rose Brugeron will take place in France.