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'Christianity Has Dominated and Oriented My Entire Life'

Marie-Rose Gineste and her bicycle (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Marie-Rose Gineste

Life: August 9, 1911 - August 30, 2010

As World War II raged and Europe fell to Hitler's regime, there were those who stood up to the Nazis' hatred. In August of 1942, the Nazi deportation and murder of French Jews was at its worst. But as French authorities allowed it to happen, there were those who spoke out against the ongoing Holocaust. One of these members of the Christian resistance was the Bishop of Montauban, who wrote a letter to distribute to French churches that included this:

I hereby give voice to the outraged protest of Christian conscience, and I proclaim that all men, Aryans or non-Aryans, are brothers, being created by the same God. [I further assert] that all men whatever their race or religion, have the right to be respected by individuals and by states. Hence, the recent anti-Semitic measures are an affront to human dignity and a violation of the most sacred rights of the individual and the family.

This letter was to be read from the pulpits of area churches that Sunday, but delivering it threatened to be a dangerous duty. But the Bishop had one perishioner who was not afraid of the risks posed by the letter. Marie-Rose Gineste carried copies of the Bishop's letter from church to church on her trusty bicycle. The letter was read that Sunday from every pulpit (save one, from which preached a Nazi sympathizer), and to this day historians say it was instrumental in galvinizing the French people against the Nazis and with their Jewish neighbors.

Marie-Rose also did much to help those Jewish neighbors. Though her house was only a hundred meters from the Gestapo headquarters, the brave Frenchwoman did not let that stop her. She was sick from watching the suffering of the local Jewish people, of watching Jewish children being ripped from their parents' arms. And so she helped in any way she could, sheltering them in her home, finding them hiding places in local monastaries, and providing fake identity cards to Jewish refugees. Marie-Rose was especially helpful with the latter activity, finding paper for the ID cards, printing the documents, forging signatures, and delivering the identification to those who needed it.

The local authorities suspected Marie-Rose of helping the resistance, and arrested her. Questioned harshly, Marie-Rose kept her cool and was released when the Gestapo could provide no evidence of her "wrong-doing."

One local Jewish woman, Emilie Braun, was about to lose her hiding place. Marie-Rose provided her with forged ID papers and directions on how to flee the Nazis. Emilie found a new hiding place on a nearby farm, where she stayed until the end of the war. Forty years later, when Marie-Rose Gineste was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, she traveled to Israel for the ceremony and was re-acquainted with Emilie Braun, the woman she had saved.

When asked why she did what she did, despite the dangers it posed, Marie-Rose Gineste cited her Christian faith:

Since my childhood Christianity has dominated and oriented my entire life—before the war, during the war, during the occupation, and afterwards until this day...in my various and numerous deeds, and all the days of my life.

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