The French-Jewish Athlete Who Saved Thousands of Children from the Nazis

Jan. 10 2018

Now living in Paris at the age of one hundred and seven, Georges Loinger was an accomplished runner whose blond hair and blue eyes disguised his Jewish origins. In 1941 he began teaching physical education at a home for Jewish refugee children in southern France, then ruled by the pro-Germany Vichy regime. After it became clear that it would be only a matter of time before the children were deported to the death camps in Poland, Loinger was given the task of getting them to Switzerland. Robert Rockaway and Maya Guez tell his story:

From his home in the 16th arrondissement, Loinger, related one of the methods he used to rescue children and get them over the Swiss border. “I used to play with the children in the residences where they lived in France and trained them to run. One day, . . . I took the children to the border of France with Switzerland, next to Geneva, and told them we are going to play with a ball like we used to do. I threw the ball a hundred meters toward the Swiss border and told the children to run and get the ball. They ran after the ball and this is how they crossed the border. This is how their lives were saved. . . . .

Until 1943, when Italy withdrew from France, the border with Switzerland was guarded “lightly” by Italian troops, who turned a blind eye to the . . . smuggling operation. Loinger also knew the mayor of the [nearby] town of Annemasse on the border with Switzerland, five miles from Geneva. The mayor, Jean Deffaugt, owned a men’s clothing store. Loinger met with him and told him . . . of his plan to save Jewish children. The mayor told Loinger that what he planned to do was extremely dangerous, but he agreed to help him. He allowed Loinger to bring the children to his village and housed them there until it was time for them to go. . . . Loinger alone save more than 400 children. . . .

Once Loinger had secured his own family’s safety in Switzerland, he continued his rescue work until the liberation. After the war, he opened an accommodation center for war prisoners and deportees. In 1947, he worked for Aliyah Bet (illegal immigration) to help Holocaust survivors immigrate to Palestine. He also played a major role in preparing the ship Exodus for sailing when it stopped in France. In 1949, he became the French director of ZIM, the Israeli national shipping company.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: French Jewry, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Switzerland, Vichy France

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem