French police chief to be named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem

Rural town of Vabre's police chief Hubert Landes warned Jews before a mass roundup, so they could escape arrest and flee to safety.

Dan Verbin ,

Righteous Among the Nations exhibit in Yad Vashem
Righteous Among the Nations exhibit in Yad Vashem
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

A small town French police chief will be named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for saving Jews from the pro-Nazi Vichy regime during World War II, BBC News reported.

Vabre, a rural Protestant town in southern France whose population today is about 800, was a rare area of opposition to the Vichy regime and collaboration with the Nazis during World War II, and was an outpost of the Resistance. The hills surrounding the town were the base of a Jewish militia group.

The town’s industry was based on cloth weaving that it sold to Jewish tailors in Paris and after a mass arrest of Jews in that city in 1942, many fled with their families to Vabre for sanctuary.

Due to the Protestant Huguenots memory of being persecuted by the French government in the 1600s, and led by the town’s pastor Robert Cook, the residents there felt a kinship with Jews fleeing the Nazis and French collaborators, and Police Chief Hubert Landes made the decision to refuse to let his officers participate in the rounding up of Jews.

When a mass arrest of Jews was to take place in 1943, Landes warned the Jews beforehand, with many of them going into hiding or joining the Resistance, including the local Jewish militia group, the Compagnie Marc Haguenau.

Vabre was honored as a “Town of the Righteous” by Yad Vashem in 2015, and Cook was also named Righteous Among the Nations.

Now, Yad Vashem will be honoring Landes for his role in saving the lives of Jews during the Nazi-era.

Michel Cals, who runs a small museum in Vabre that features exhibits about the Resistance, told BBC News that Vabre’s story deserves to be more widely known.

"It is a lesson in morality and that you must help those in need," he said.