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To the Other Side

Pierre Piton (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Pierre Piton

Life: 1925-2000

Pierre Piton was born to a ship captain in the town of Le Havre, France. But Pierre's father was not a kind parent, and the boy ran away at the age of 16 to escape the violent abuse. Little did Pierre know that he would soon help others escape violence, as well.

Without a loving home, Pierre soon came to see the Protestant Scout movement as his family. Pastor Edouard Theis, who would also be named a Righteous Gentile, hired Pierre as a dormitory counselor. And in August 1942, the church leader's also tasked the young man with escorting Jewish families into the town so that they could be hidden from the Nazis.

Wearing his scout uniform, Pierre soon began leading Jewish refugees to safety in Switzerland. The young man would lead them by train and by bus to the border. There, a Catholic priest named Marius Jolivet, also a Righteous Gentile, would monitor the border guards. When the coast was clear, Pierre would lift the barbed-wire fence so that the Jews could crawl to the other side to safety.

Pierre carried out 20 successful smuggling missions before he and the three Jews who were with him were caught by the border patrol. The four were imprisoned for three months before a French policeman released them, telling Pierre, "I know everything you did. I congratulate you and am releasing you. But I am asking you to stop this work!"

But the work that Pierre did, with the help of other caring Christians, saved the lives of Jews who the Nazis surely would have murdered. And for this work, Pierre Piton was named Righteous Among the Nations on May 16, 1989.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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