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A Symbol of the Unforgettable Imprint of Suffering and Fear

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Sister Joséphine

Life: April 27, 1913 - October 8, 2010

Why you should know her: Sister Joséphine was a French nun, social worker, and nurse who saved countless Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Born in France in 1913 as Denise Paulin-Aguadich, Sister Joséphine took her vows in 1940 and was sent to Grenoble.

At the time, Grenoble was a free zone in France, which allowed it to be a refuge for Jews and others fleeing the Nazis from occupied zones. To help refugees, Sister Joséphine and her fellow nuns in the community provided false identification cards and food, hid Jewish girls among their students, found hiding places for other children on nearby farms, and helped people escape to neutral Switzerland. Sister Joséphine had much help from the community, including her own parents. She also belonged to the resistance, helping them combat the occupying Nazis.

When children would arrive at the nuns' home, they would be placed in the infirmary, where they were said to have contagious diseases, keeping the Nazis away. The children were also said to be Protestants, which explained why they didn't join the school's children in the chapel for Catholic services. Sister Joséphine did all she could to shelter and protect the children. In her diary, she tells of one Jewish girl whose Nazi-required yellow star had been removed, though the star's shape remained on her clothing: “That mark was like a symbol of the unforgettable imprint of suffering and fear that remained for ever in the soul of each one of them.”

But it was because of brave and selfless people like Sister Joséphine that many Jews were saved from the suffering intended by the murderous Nazis. And because of this, she was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1989.

Tags: Stories , Partnerships and People , Advocacy , IFCJ

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