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From Village Grocers to Righteous Gentiles

Lives: André (1900 - 1980); Marie-Louise (1906-2004)Why you should know them: André and Marie-Louise Vallenot were French grocers who took in a Jewish girl during World War II, and whose selfless actions saved her from the Holocaust.The Vallenots owned a small grocery in the French village of Avrolles. When the Nazis overran France, occupying it, French Jews were in danger. But André and Marie-Louise, along with many of their fellow villagers, denounced the Nazis and decided to stand for what was good and right.Marjam Sznajder was a French Jewish woman on the run from the Nazis. Her husband had been arrested in Paris, then sent to the concentration camps, where he was murdered. Marjam and her daughter, four-year-old Colette, fled for their lives. When the mother and daughter arrived in Avrolles, Marjam began to support them by sewing. But soon, the Nazis took control of the small village, as well. It was unsafe for Marjam to stay, but she left her daughter in the care of André and Marie-Louise.The Vallenots treated young Colette as if she were their own, showering her with love and attention. They told the Nazis and the other villagers that the girl was their daughter. Many of the villagers knew the truth, but kept it a secret from the occupying Germans. In order to keep up the charade, André and Marie-Louise took the young Jewish girl to church, celebrated Christian holidays with her, and gave her Christmas gifts the same as they did with their own children. But even though they hid Colette's identity from the Nazis, they never hid the girl's Jewishness from her.Meanwhile, Colette's mother was caught by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp. While imprisoned, Marjam lost contact with her daughter. But she survived the war and was reunited with Colette once the fighting had ended.Colette kept in close contact with the loving family who had sheltered her, cared for her, and saved her life. For these selfless actions, André and Marie-Louise Vallenot were named Righteous Among the Nations in 1996.


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