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

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam